For the last two weeks, members of the r/UIUC subreddit actively discussed two main topics: reopening campus in the fall and peaceful protests and looting in Champaign-Urbana.
Regarding the Fall semester, uncertainties about in-person or online instruction were raised by people who were worried about how soon everyone would know about the University reopening.
On the afternoon of June 18, the University of Illinois system announced its plans for the fall semester, which assumes Illinois remains on track for Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan. The Fall plan includes a hybrid of in-person and online instruction, accommodations for vulnerable and at-risk individuals, masks provided to students, and more.
Prior to the announcement, there were lots of predictions and gossips from students and teaching assistants (TA) in many threads. One post was a screenshot of someone’s email saying that on the 16th of June or later administration of the UIUC would announce what is going to happen in Fall.
Some of the other commentators chimed in:
“They’ve already said it’ll depend greatly on phase 4. If you don’t see IL reaching phase 4 by that time just take freebie classes so you don’t stretch yourself thin doing them potentially online.. seems simple to me anyways.”
Some users who claim to be TAs tell that they have already prepared “to be teaching hybrid classes (part online, part in-person) <…> with a contingency plan to take it fully online if we need to.”
Many students were concerned about the payments to the university. Some concerns were about what is fair and what is not, while others were about providing information and jokes about fall charges.
“University Housing will charge you 50% of your total cost of housing and meal plan if you want to cancel your contract for 20/21. No exception for COVID 19.”
Posters, often students, staff, alumni and community members, critique the university for the quality of the online education they get paying the same amount of money they did for the in-person classes. Overall, r/UIUC subreddit members are worried about what they should expect next semester.
“From their review of options in the fall, as long as labs and discussions are in person, they think that the semester isn’t virtual. By literal definition, sure: but we all know that lectures are the bulk of the learning that you’re tested and graded on, dragging people back to campus to pay for what will be full housing and tuition fees.”
There is also a trending topic about testing students for COVID-19 in the fall.
Commentators doubted whether the University would be able to test each student and how it would handle positive results:
“Let’s assume that the university testing all the students. They will be a lot of false negatives based on the current situation. The worst-case scenario is 50% of inaccuracy. Let’s say the double testing and better testing method lower it to 10%, it will still be 600 students & faculties. Even with school only resuming to a 20% – 35% capacity, the 600 would easily pass many more.”
“The point of it is simply that the university (even with the help of local hospitals, but they have their own work to do) would not have enough manpower to trace this amount of cases. Even in the best-case scenario, the app could give that information, what to do with those traced contacts? The number would just be too many.”
According to the fall semester plan, COVID-19 testing will be widely available to the university community and plan to develop testing procedures that will provide same-day results. Additionally, the university will partner with local health departments to mitigate the spread of the virus by using mobile applications and communication with individuals. It is unknown which software will be used, but many smartphone owners may already have contact-tracing technology installed on their devices.
During the past few weeks, the r/UIUC subreddit was flooded with threads about protests and looting in Champaign-Urbana. Among lots of photos from the protests and thanks to the people who participated in peaceful demonstrations, users discussed the reasons for them and whether looting is acceptable.
One psychology student created a thread, where he was trying to get into the psychology of looting. The post was trying to explain the mental problems black people from poor neighborhoods face. He supposed that because of limited mental health resources, black people cannot heal from aggression — the reason for looting. In other discussions, protestors were urged to test for coronavirus since the state offers free testing.
There was also an emotional conversation: “Why does the Illini White Student Association group still exist?”
Some posters were trying to reduce tensions by saying that there is no official RSO at the U of I right now. There is only a group on Facebook.
“It baffles me that they post blatantly racist memes and photos and they associate their name with the university. It also has over 5,000 likes which is an alarming amount for something so prejudiced. Why are we still letting it run and how are we letting it get away with such racist statements in this day and age?”
Among the adorable pictures of squirrels on campus on quarantine, congratulations, and encouragement to the class of 2020, users post their concerns on reopening bars in the CU area, especially Kam’s Bar on Green Street. Long lines to enter the bar are caught in the pictures. Some users wondered:
“Does KAMs have the vaccine to COVID-19? With nobody social distancing there tonight I assume they just beat the pandemic.”
Many guests of the bar do not wear masks. Other users are bothered that their friends are still going out almost every night despite complaining of “chest cold”. To heal themselves they prefer to take Advil instead of doing COVID-19 testing.
People were very concerned about the gunshots around Green Street on June 12. They were asking for any specific information on what has happened, but no one shared any insights. Commentators posted only official Illini alerts and police reports, which were issued soon after the incident.
One of the UIUC Reddit followers created a memorial discussion about the 3rd anniversary of Yingying Zhang, a Chinese graduate student kidnapped and murdered by a graduate teaching assistant, Brendt Christensen.
“Yingying’s death: Still in great pain” with a link to the News-Gazette article. Users say how sorry they are, and send the words of sorrow and grief to the family of the killed scholar from China. People talked about what feelings they have towards the man who murdered the young woman.
Members of U of I subreddit also created several threads urging people to support local businesses in Champaign-Urbana. One thread, for example, was about Jerusalem Restaurant at South Wright Street. Another user asked local citizens to help Espresso Royale. The chain had financial problems that led to the closing of most of the cafes.
However, one poster said some local businessmen bought them out:
“You’re not wrong – they were owned by a chain from MI, but that chain recently went out of business. Someone local has purchased the Champaign stores and will be operating them.”
Other top threads were about green water in the ARC pool. The photo attached to the post shows the green water in it. In the comments, users were laughing about its condition in Fall, and that it would not be safe to swim in such a pool even after cleaning. The ARC pool was called a swamp.
Additionally, some people said not to drink water from the University fountains because they haven’t been used for months during coronavirus lockdown.
The next popular discussion was about the geese problem in Champaign.
“If you are feeding the geese, please stop. Walked by the Second street basin today and got mobbed by them. <…> The grass is dead and the sidewalk is almost more poop than sidewalk.”
One topic criticized Latitude Apartments, “The last housing you should consider at UIUC.” It gathered about 20 comments and became popular during the last two weeks. Students complained in general about dishonest landlords, who allegedly provide misleading information and charge students extra for no reason.
Latitude Apartments said in a phone call with CU-CitizenAccess that its representative had known about the problems and comments made in the Reddit post. The owner and management team changed in March 2020, and is now owned by a company called Student Quarters in Atlanta, Georgia. Since then, the company hired a, “brand new management team that cares about people,” and are trying to improve their services according to a representative. The rep said all the issues discussed in the thread happened with the previous management company and tenants.