U of I Academic Senate endorses new mascot


Artwork: Spencer Hulsey

The proposed new mascot for the University of Illinois, the Belted Kingfisher, was endorsed in a landslide vote Sept. 21.

The University of Illinois Academic Senate is urging school officials to adopt a new official mascot, passing a resolution endorsing the Belted Kingfisher — a blue and orange bird native to Illinois — 105-2 on September 21.

After Monday’s vote, U of I spokeswoman Robin Kaler said there was “no process in place to choose a new mascot.” But this Senate vote is a step toward providing the school with a replacement for Chief Illiniwek, arguing for school officials to “immediately commission a plan for the implementation of a new mascot this academic year.

The University has been without a mascot since 2007 when they retired the Chief Illiniwek imagery, following an NCAA ban on “hostile and abusive” mascots. 

The Senate believes that the lack of a replacement has “impeded the development of a fulfilling University experience and hindered the creation and maintenance of traditions that promote enduring bonds with the institution” by permitting “unofficial channels to continue to use and profit from the former mascot.”

The U of I Senate believes that adopting a new mascot for the University is vital in supporting the effort to “create a culture and climate that is welcoming to Native American students, staff, faculty, and community members.” 

The Academic Senate’s proposed replacement –the Belted Kingfisher, a predatory bird known for its high-speed dives– has shown approval among U of I students. In March, a poll of 7,819 University students found that nearly 54% supported the Kingfisher as the school’s new mascot. 

The Senate addressed that the predatory, blue and orange bird is on-brand with the University – “resonating perfectly” with the school colors and “Fighting Illini” moniker. The Senate marked that the distinct advantage of the Belted Kingfisher is its uniqueness: “not yet been used as a mascot by any major American business, notable sports team, or university in America—thus offering a possible mascot that would have strong brand recognition with no chance of confusion with any collegiate competitor.”