Many U of I students, faculty, and community members stressed a common concern tonight, Chief Illiniwek. One woman who drove from Chicago just to speak said "Our students have a particular problem, and that is the symbol of this great University is a racial stereotype, that reduces our entire culture. Another said, "what's the Chief have to deal with me, I realized it has to do with me, because we're all connected, and if it happens to Native Americans, it happens to all of us.
It's not just the symbol, but students' actions on campus. Celina Villanueva told the crowd, "the truth is, we're still fighting for the rights to be heard." She says three students followed her home, after she protested the actions of two student groups.
She said it was all part of the backlash students got when they spoke out against racism.
As the public raised concerns like hers, University Leaders listened, agreeing, the solution is what U of I President Joseph White says is "speaking your mind, turn out, express your passion.
President White agrees, recent actions, specifically online threats over the Chief are unacceptable.
The student group "STOP" organized this forum, and they hope it's a start to ending the high tensions on campus.
Students say, they are working with University leaders to attract more minority professors and students.