Assessing this year's most important events
Daily Illini Editorial Board discusses the most significant local and national issues of the past year:
Supreme Court rulings:
The Supreme Court ruled on two momentous cases this summer: one regarding the Defense of Marriage Act and the other a provision of the Voting Rights Act.
The DOMA case’s ruling removed the provision of the act that a marriage be between only one man and one woman, allowing thousands of couples legally married in states that permit same-sex marriage to receive federal benefits. While it didn’t legalize same-sex marriage nationally, it lit the path to full marriage equality. Illinois, which permits civil unions of same-sex couples, has not legalized marriage for them, and it must do so as soon as possible.
The Voting Rights Act struck down one of its most essential provisions, allowing several states in the South to change their election laws without federal approval. Most states do not need to consult the federal government to change their laws, but because of justified fears of racism and discrimination in the South, the federal government maintained oversight. Now, it will only be a matter of time before the discrimination cases at the polls pick up speed.
Students take to social media to express outrage over Suburban Express:
This past spring, a student-driven social media outcry brought local, and national, attention and change to some of the questionable practices carried out by campus-based transporter Suburban Express. Suburban first drew the ire of campus on Facebook following allegations of discriminatory treatment toward an international student. Further revelations regarding the 126 lawsuits the company filed, many against University of Illinois students, did not sit well with people on or off campus. Suburban’s initially dismal handling of the matter only spurred more outrage. Students, and others, took their concerns online — notably to UIUC’s subreddit, where two threads went viral making the front page of Reddit — lobbying for better treatment and respect from the company. On April 29, facing mounting pressure from students, Suburban filed for a withdrawal of all 126 suits and revamped its terms and conditions, only to later request that 21 of the suits be reinstated without prejudice so they can be reopened in the future. The emergence of the story among local and national news outlets, as well as Suburban’s changes following the outcry, vindicated the ability of concerned students to bring about change and the growing power of digital protest.
Changing campus landscape:
Our campus is no longer representative of the flat lands that engulf central Illinois, it’s growing outward and up, replacing parking lots with skyscrapers and dorms with, well, better ones. Fall 2010 marked the beginning of the Ikenberry Commons, or “Six-Pack,” construction project with the completion of the newly-renovated Ikenberry Dining Hall and first new residence hall in nearly 40 years, Nugent Hall. Forbes Hall was recently demolished, making way for a third new residence hall to be completed Spring 2016. Campustown transformations will make Green Street the skyline for miles around. Near the southwest corner of Sixth and Green streets, Bankier Apartments has a 14-story apartment building in the works. JSM has proposed a 12-story hotel in Parking Lot J near Legends, while HERE Champaign, LLC has plans for a 27-story building with 143 residential units and retail stores where IHOP and Campus Liquors are currently located. Not urban enough for you? Check out Ragstock in the basement of what used to be Follet’s Bookstore, Wendy’s on Sixth and Green streets (and soon in the Union too) or the Urbana KoFusion set to open on Gregory and Oregon streets. Campus will continue to grow, change and expand — perhaps to the benefit of students, businesses and the University.
How the University handled last year's snow day:
If you are a returning student, you will probably remember the snow day fiasco we had in March, as most students were returning to campus from spring break. If you are a new student, here is the long story short: There was a huge snowstorm the day before classes started up again and University administration sent a mass email emphasizing that classes would resume as planned, but to postpone return trips to campus if students hadn’t already left. Nearly 4 hours later, and well into the night, classes were finally cancelled at 1:25 a.m. Keep in mind, there were already reports of numerous accidents and hazardous conditions along Interstate 57, a route many students travel on. Knowing how dangerous conditions were, classes should have been cancelled much earlier that day. Not only did University administrators risk the safety of the students who were already on the road battling icy conditions so they wouldn’t miss class, it also left students noticing a lack of communication between University administrators. If another big snowstorm hits this year, let’s hope the University has a better plan for handling it.
Increase in Champaign gun violence:
The biggest story here happened while most of you were gone. In June, 12 shootings occurred in Champaign, followed by two in July and another in August, which is unusually high for the Champaign–Urbana metropolitan area, especially during the summer. Although only one shooting was reported near the heart of campus — a June 23 incident in the IHOP parking lot near Fourth and Green streets — it’s critical for Champaign and University Police to have a presence near and on campus, taking time to reassure the safety of students and even parents who are helping their sons and daughters move in this week. These series of shootings were some of our most read, retweeted and clicked on stories all summer. Chief Anthony Cobb told us when he accepted the job that he planned to work with all citizens in Champaign. A group of that population is us: the student body. So we’d like to see him work with us — answering our questions — more than his predecessor did.
Urbana Free Library's carelessly weeding out books:
The Champaign-Urbana community was in an uproar in June when Smile Politely reported the Urbana Free Library weeded out vast amounts of books under fairly broad criteria: nonfiction books that were 10 years or older. That left major holes in the shelves of the library, which alarmed patrons. Those who pulled the books simply followed what they understood to be the instructions of library director Debra Lissak, but she says the arbitrary weeding happened because of miscommunications. While weeding may be necessary for a library, the way in which it was done at the Urbana Free Library was careless, and the anger of the community was well-deserved — community members from all over tend to take great ownership in their library. Lissak will be dismissed, but her end date has not been set. We hope the break is swift and clean.