DI reviews top five moments this year

Illini+football+players+Delano+Ware%2C+Moses+Okpala%2C+Jartavius+Martin%2C+Owen+Carney+and+Khalan+Tolson+march+down+First+Street+to+protest+police+brutality+in+the+black+community+on+Aug.+31.

Cameron Krasucki

Illini football players Delano Ware, Moses Okpala, Jartavius Martin, Owen Carney and Khalan Tolson march down First Street to protest police brutality in the black community on Aug. 31.

By Amrita Bhattacharyya, News Editor

With this entire school year having taken place in the midst of a pandemic, it was like no other. Here is a look at the top five moments of the 2020-21 school year, in no particular order.

Saliva-based COVID-19 test

The University has become a leader with their saliva-based COVID-19 test, which enables fast and frequent testing on a large scale. On July 8, the University opened on-campus testing sites for students, staff and faculty. By mid-August, the University received Emergency Use Authorization by the Federal Drug Administration for their saliva-based COVID-19 test. The University has worked to develop a comprehensive testing system, from creating a COVID-19 dashboard analyzing trends of infection rates to the creation of the Safer Illinois app, which provides building access passes and exposure notifications. Now, the University has plans to roll out its test to the larger C-U area.

A Covid-19 testing worker hands a student a funnel at the ARC on Feb 1. (Cameron Krasucki)

Big Ten win

On March 14, the Illini won the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Championship. The Illini were awarded No.1 seed in the Midwest region for the first time since 2005 and the fourth time in school history. Students celebrated this historical moment by rushing the Main Quad, rallying around Alma Mater and even lighting fireworks. Festivities lasted well into the evening, with Green Street busier than usual on a Sunday night. Although the Illini’s run was cut short in March Madness, the Big Ten win and following celebrations were memorable moments for Illini fans.

A group of students link arm and arm singing the “Oskee-Wow-Wow” Fight Song after the Illinois basketball team won the Big Ten tournament on March 14.. (Cameron Krasucki)

Strides in social justice

This year saw multiple advances in social justice, such as the Black Lives Matter movement and local activists advocating for change in C-U. Over the summer, protesters engaged in a series of marches in C-U, demanding police reform. The Champaign County Community Coalition also met and began the process of discussing police reform locally.
In late March, 78% of voting students voted to reallocate the University of Illinois Police Department funding. The referendum was to reallocate 25% of the total UIPD budget, which is roughly two million dollars. The reallocation focuses on investing in more community services and less policing. However, it is not set in stone yet. Since students voted to approve the referendum, it now takes the form of an administrative recommendation, which has to pass a review process by the Board of Trustees and the University.
This semester also saw an increase in anti-Asian sentiments nationwide. In April, the C-U community rallied in support of the Asian American Pacific Islander community, holding protests to stand against Asian-targeted violence.

Illini football players Delano Ware, Moses Okpala, Jartavius Martin, Owen Carney, and Khalan Tolson march down First Street to protest police brutality in the black community on Aug. 31. (Cameron Krasucki)

Kingfisher mascot 

On Sept. 22, the kingfisher mascot received majority endorsement from the University senate. With past discussions about possible mascots such as Alma Otter or Champ, a World War I veteran, the kingfisher marks the first successful mascot proposal to pass through the University senate. There is no official precedent for a mascot adoption process, but the next step is convening with Chancellor Robert Jones and the University administration.

Spencer Hulsey updated the design for her belted kingfisher mascot idea. (Photo Courtesy of Spencer Hulsey)

COVID-19 dismissals

This school year saw high-profile dismissals of students, especially relating to COVID-19 testing noncompliance. Ivor Chen, graduate student in Engineering, was dismissed by the University Jan. 29. After his case received international attention and pressure from the Illinois legislature, and with a petition reaching over 40,000 signatures, the University reinstated Chen on Feb. 16. Chen’s case highlighted the lack of clarity regarding COVID-19 discipline policies, according to the Graduate Employees’ Organization. Antonio Ruiz, graduate student in LAS, was also dismissed from the University March 25 for testing noncompliance, after Ruiz failed to utilize the saliva-based test due to disabilities.

Graduate student Antonio Ruiz poses for a photo. Ruiz is the second student dismissed from the University this academic year because of Covid-19 noncompliance. (Photo Courtesy of Graduate Employees’ Organization/Change.org)

 

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