Right now it feels like we live in a news cycle that is one dumpster fire after another. There are terrible atrocities being committed globally and people are suffering. It’s important to witness those moments and do what is in our individual power to speak out against them, to our elected representatives or our friends, neighbors, and family members, or to donate or volunteer time to try to make a difference.
When things are so existentially scary, it can be hard to focus on the seemingly smaller stuff at the local level. These issues might not feel life-or-death, but they have very long lasting and important effects on the community. We’ve put together a short list of local issues that deserve your attention, even peripherally.
Champaign Unit 4 Board of Education and Champaign Federation of Teachers contract negotiations
As of publishing, the Unit 4 Board of Education (BoE) and the Champaign Federation of Teachers (CFT) are still at an impasse in contract negotiations. Teachers have been working without a contract since June 2021. We recently wrote about what has been happening; not much has changed since the publishing of the article. Anecdotally, on social media things have gotten personal and heated in comments sections, which, frankly, is not a great look for anyone. Many aspects of the negotiation process happen behind closed doors and those particular meetings and conversations are not available to the public, but you can check here for updates.
We know everyone is invested; we just hope that all parties are invested in the right outcomes for the right reasons. The lives of the children and the teachers will be impacted most acutely. Teachers are the ones on the ground level, literally doing the work. It’s critical that their perspectives are considered.
Teachers have voted to authorize a strike, but that wouldn't happen until after the March 24th bargaining session.*
With the statewide mask mandate gone and hospitalization rates going down in Champaign County, it seems like we are in a nice, mellow, low transmission lull of this pandemic. As we move into warmer weather, hopefully the numbers will remain low. Only about 67% of eligible Champaign County residents (that’s people 5 and older; remember, children under 5 are still ineligible for vaccines) have been fully vaccinated. The percentage of eligible residents that have received boosters is likely lower. Vaccinations are the best way to ensure limited community spread, so please consider getting vaccinated and boosted if you haven’t already.
There are still plenty of places to get tested when you return from any spring break travel. Refer to this helpful resource from Champaign-Urbana Public Health District. If you haven’t already ordered your free at-home rapid tests from the federal government, do that before you leave for spring break travel so that you can test yourself five to seven days after your return.
Although there isn’t a mask mandate in place, you can still wear a mask. It literally harms no one to be cautious.
As we all know from the news and perhaps even our own experiences, hatefulness seems to be at an all time high. Nationwide, there is a movement to flyer neighborhoods and college campuses with anti-Semitic nonsense. This recently happened on the University of Illinois campus and in parts of Urbana. This is not new.
In early February, a man was charged with a hate crime after an assault on a woman of Asian descent in Hessel Park.
As the U of I men’s basketball team moves through the NCAA tournament, we expect to see and hear more about the racist former mascot. It’s not too late to adopt a new mascot that isn’t racist.
Gun violence continues to plague C-U. The cities of Champaign and Urbana have made efforts to address this; it remains to be seen how successful those efforts will be. This is an issue that has people impassioned and on edge, as evidenced in a Champaign City Council meeting last month. Like the Unit 4/CFT negotiations, it’s worth remembering that everyone believes they are approaching these conversations in good faith, and not intentionally seeking to do harm. However, we know that is not always the real outcome, and that often well-intentioned white people inflict the most harm on non-white communities in their efforts to “fix” things. As a community we can continue to engage in meaningful dialogue, and implore the Council to actually hear what is being said. We can hold our elected representatives accountable for the decisions they make.
Yes, we also let out a long, loud sigh when realizing that 2022 is an election year and coverage begins, like, now.
Agents of chaos never rest, though, and although most of us don’t live in IL-15, it’s worth keeping an eye on the nonsense that will undoubtedly come from the mouths and Twitter feeds of Mary Miller and Rodney Davis. (Take, for instance, this assessment of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.)
The good news, though, is that Davis will no longer represent IL-13. Right now there are a few candidates:
Watch this space for forthcoming election coverage.
The Editorial Board is Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, Patrick Singer, and Mara Thacker.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article indicated that CFT could strike beginning March 21st. This date has been amended to after the March 24th bargaining session. This article reflects the update.