This case involves a challenge by faculty and students at the University of Illinois-Champaign to the administration's policy prohibiting them from communicating with prospective student athletes. The faculty and students oppose the school's use of the Chief Illiniwek mascot, and contend, in part, that the mascot creates a hostile learning environment for Native American students and increases the difficulty of recruiting Native American students to the campus. They wish to contact prospective student athletes to make them aware of this controversy. The district court ruled in favor of the faculty and students, finding that the administration's directive violated the First Amendment. Michael Aiken, former chancellor at the University of Illinois, appealed to the Seventh Circuit. In October 2003 the national AAUP and University of Illinois-Champaign AAUP Chapter filed a joint amicus brief in support of the faculty's right to speak to prospective student athletes about the mascot. The brief, which was written by Professor Matthew Finkin (University of Illinois-Champaign, College of Law), focuses on the protections afforded to professors to speak out as citizens under the university's own regulations and the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. In addition, the brief argues that the First Amendment rights of faculty outweigh the administration's interests. A copy of the brief is available (.pdf).
Status: On June 1, 2004 the Seventh Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, ruled that an administrative directive prohibiting faculty and students at the University of Illinois-Champaign from communicating with prospective student athletes violated the First Amendment, because the directive constituted a prior restraint. The majority also concluded that the chancellor's directive was "a broad prohibition on speech on a matter of significant important and public concern," and therefore was protected speech. A copy of the Seventh Circuit decision is available at http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=3656208914475387050&hl=en&as_sdt=2&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr.