University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Student Investigated for Facebook.com Comments About School Mascot Debate
In response to calls to eliminate the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign mascot, "Chief Illiniwek," a group of Illinois students started a Facebook group entitled "If They Get Rid of the Chief I'm Becoming a Racist." Comments posted on the group's "wall" included criticism of one of the mascot's most vocal opponents, including the statement, "apparently the leader of this movement is of Sioux descent ... the Sioux are the ones that killed off the Illini indians [sic], so she's just trying to finish what her ancestors started. I say we throw a tomohawk [sic] into her face." A group of the school's American Indian Studies Program faculty publicly asked the university to discipline the student, prompting the Illinois Chancellor Richard Herman to send an e-mail to the university community stating "The University will take all legal and disciplinary actions available in response to the threatening messages." FIRE wrote to Chancellor Herman urging the university to cease its investigation, as the student was engaging in constitutionally protected expression, although the university never responded.
- "University of Illinois Threatens Student with Punishment for Online Speech," February 15, 2007: The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign is threatening to discipline a student for posting a hyperbolic comment on Facebook.com that the university interpreted as a threat. The comment concerned the debate over Illinois’ mascot, “Chief Illiniwek.” FIRE is calling on the public university to respect its constitutional obligations and immediately drop its investigation into what was unquestionably protected expression.
- "FIRE Letter to Illinois Chancellor Richard Herman, January 30, 2007," January 30, 2007
- "E-mail from Illinois Chancellor Richard Herman to University Community, January 9, 2007," January 9, 2007
- "Press Release Issued by Illinois American Indian Studies Program Faculty and Staff at the Native American House, January 8, 2007," January 8, 2007
- "Webpage of Facebook.com Group, 'If They Get Rid of the Chief I'm Becoming a Racist'," November 7, 2006
- "Is Nothing Sacred? Comedy Central Joins Many Universities in Caving to Threats of Violence for Depictions of Mohammed," by Erica Goldberg, April 23, 2010