Wednesday, June 06, 2007
The 12-count suit by Maloney and Ponce alleged that the trustees violated a 1996 statute enacted by the General Assembly that said Chief Illiniwek "is and may remain the honored symbol" of the UI.The students had portrayed the mascot, and the judge argued they could still do so, just not as officially part of the UI game.
"Had the Legislature intended to remove from the trustees the authority to do anything with the symbol, they could have said so," Jones said, underscoring the use of the word 'may' in the act.
He also agreed with the arguments made by Jim Kearns, the Urbana attorney representing the UI, that the students' rights to free speech, expression and academic freedom had not been violated by either the UI or the NCAA in the retirement of the Chief.
Jones noted that the NCAA has not told Maloney and Ponce individually that they may not portray the Chief but it has made clear to the UI the consequences it faces if it continues to hold the Chief out as its symbol.
"The UI has the right to choose what image it chooses to project," Jones said.
Meanwhile, the suit for the University of North Dakota mascot has cost the plaintiffs $430,000, all paid for by private donations. That case will go to trial in December.
(h/t: Chronicle of Higher Ed news blog.)