Here at Smile Politely we pride ourselves on being a passionate and trustworthy source of information specific to our beloved community. We tackle complex and sensitive issues like gun control, abortion access, what our elected officials think and how they vote, and what kinds of cuisines we’re missing. We think we’ve done a good job with these topics, but like you, we need to balance the heavy stuff with some lighthearted fun. What are some things that are not particularly troubling, but suck up brain space anyway?
And then it hit us like a Ferrari running into a barbershop: University of Illinois students. We love them. We hate them. We love to hate them. Now that the U of I students are back (thanks to rigorous COVID-19 prevention protocols), we’ve been thinking about the minor inconveniences of having an additional 44,000+ new residents in C-U. It should go without saying, but let us be clear: We love that the students are safely back. The U of I not only provides economic stability in C-U, but the people who make up the U of I community are creative and interesting citizens of our awesome little towns.
Here are ten very minor inconveniences now that the U of I students are back on campus:
- Parking. And by that we mean there suddenly is none in all of Campustown. I hope you like walking because your car is going to be nowhere near wherever you’re going, if you can even get there with all the random road closures.
- Pedestrians. Could they get out of the bike lanes, and maybe use the sidewalks and follow the crosswalk signals?
- Bicyclists. You all need to stay off the sidewalks, and on the road. But we are begging you, please obey the traffic signals. If you are riding alongside cars, then the stop light applies to you and you need to stop. Bicycle lanes should always, always be your first choice though.
- Hoverboards. Please. You look dumb and they’re a firehazard! We thought that issue was a thing of the past when the U of I banned them in 2016, but for some reason they are back in full force this semester.
- Random VeoRide bikes “parked” all over the place. The VeoRide bikes are now back to blocking bike lanes, sidewalks, and buildings all over town. The problem with dumping these rideshare bikes all around town was documented all the way back in 2019 and two years later, they’re still everywhere you don’t want them to be.
- Crowded bars. The bars are packed to the gills with loud students trying to drink away the existential angst of getting a college education in the middle of a global pandemic. The Blind Pig beer garden was a lovely (and COVID-19 friendly) place to grab a drink with friends, but now it’s so full of grad students it takes ages to get a beer and there is nowhere to sit with it afterwards.
- Sports! Are! Back! Now we all have to pay attention to the sports schedule to avoid campus road closures, tailgaters, and fans who have an intense need to watch their team lose in person. ► With sports being back, the Chief is also back. Let’s be clear, this is not a mild inconvenience so much as a major offense. But it’s impossible to ignore the uptick in Chief clothing around town.
- Culture is happening again. Weren’t we all perfectly happy staying home ordering takeout and getting groceries delivered? It’s getting harder and harder to justify staying at home when all of our favorite venues are open again. Krannert Center for Performing Arts and Canopy Club are presenting cool performances, plus there are new businesses opening, and old favorites to support.
- Stores are low on inventory again as increased demand outpaces supply. If you thought having a campustown Target was going to improve conditions at the Champaign Target, you thought wrong. It’s crowded and they’re out of things you didn’t even know you needed. And if you try to circumvent the system by using an online delivery service, you’ll have to deal with more distant delivery windows and the items still won’t be in stock.
- It’s embarrassing knowing that we can’t actually blame the influx of students for our town’s COVID-19 woes. Last year, it appeared to be the other way around — but this semester it seems that it’s the community spreading COVID-19 to the campus due to our lower vaccination rate and mixed enforcement of safety protocols in shops and businesses. Let’s try not to get everyone sick; get vaccinated if you haven't already.
Our biggest complaint, however, is that it’s just really hard to stay aloof with all the infectious enthusiasm and energy the students inject into our towns. One of the reasons we love C-U is because of the distinct seasons and changes brought by the academic year. Champaign-Urbana wouldn’t be nearly as vital and vibrant a place without them, and so we begrudgingly have to admit that even if Illini sports are a constant disappointment, traffic sucks, and everything takes longer to accomplish, we are happy students, faculty, and staff are back on campus safely. And that’s the worst thing of all, to have to admit in writing that you missed them. Welcome back, students. We like you, we guess.
The Editorial Board is Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, Patrick Singer, and Mara Thacker.