Daily Illini Editorial Board’s semester in review

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

As days are winding down and students are making plans for a month-long break (three weeks was definitely too short last year) — after finals, of course — we reflect back on the past semester. It was filled with somber reminders of how precious life is. We watched our beloved Campustown evolve and transform with the additions of high-rise apartment complexes and numerous new retailers. We — the campus — rooted for an Illini athlete as she became the fastest woman in the world. And looking forward, we await the effects of the soon-to-be smoke-free campus and the State’s controversial pension reform solution — which will continue to be points of discussion among students, faculty and staff on campus. Here’s a rewind of the past semester:

Blow darts

Just your average crime? Think again. Days before school kicked off, a 20-year-old female and a 35-year-old male were struck in the forearm with blow darts, resulting in minor injuries. A public safety advisory was issued and the story gained popularity among campus Reddit users. More than a week later, the Champaign Police Department found the suspect, a 19-year-old male, at Parkland College and subsequently arrested him.

Bousfield Hall

The highly touted Bousfield Residence Hall, on First and Peabody, opened for students this semester. Even before the pomp-and-circumstance ceremony to honor the University’s first African-American alumna, students moved in to the second hall built for the multimillion dollar, multiyear Ikenberry Commons project.

University student murdered

In late September, University graduate student Mengchen Huang, 25, was murdered inside her One South apartment complex. Her ex-boyfriend Yongfei Ci, 29, also a student, was then charged with one count of first degree murder, one count of home invasion and one count of aggravated kidnapping for the heart-sickening crime. He pleaded not guilty in court.

Fatal car accident

Nearly a month later, University student Mimi Liu, junior in ACES, died after being struck by a pickup truck on Lincoln Avenue. Willie Craft, Sr., 58, of Urbana, was behind the wheel. Police say he drove across the sidewalk multiple times while hitting street signs and another vehicle. Earlier this month, he plead not guilty to two counts of aggravated DUI and one count of reckless homicide with a motor vehicle.

Illini athlete of the year

In early November, Illini athlete Tatyana McFadden, senior in ACES, became the first person to achieve the Grand Slam of marathons. She won the Boston, London, Chicago and New York marathons in the women’s wheelchair division all in the same year. Impressive doesn’t even begin to define her accomplishments, which were deservedly praised through coverage by national media outlets. We’re extremely proud that we can say she’s from our University.

Illinois football

Yes, there were shining stars this season — namely quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. But with the losses mounting and the temperatures dipping, the story began to focus on the fans — or the lack there of. The apathetic attitudes toward the football team were on full display on the Twitterverse — and carried over the front-page of Yahoo! — when photos circulated of the nearly empty Block I stands. Even so much so that the halftime card stunt failed miserably. 

Professor dismissal

The University Board of Trustees also made history this semester, because for the first time, it dismissed a University professor. Louis Wozniak, who was a tenured Engineering professor, was dismissed after being employed for more than 40 years at the University. President Robert Easter stood behind the decision, stating that the campus has “clear obligations” to its students.

Pension fix?

So, we have a pension solution, depending on who you ask. Lawmakers came together early this December to pass a bill that is supposed to solve the deeply underfunded pension system that has accumulated a deficit of $100 billion. But the University — and many campus faculty — opposed the legislation, arguing it will put the University at a competitive disadvantage. So what now? Litigation is likely to follow suit, so this will be up to the courts to decide.

Smoking ban

It’s coming up sooner than you think. Starting Jan. 1, smoking will not be allowed on campus property, including indoor and outdoor areas and in private vehicles. For the time being, violators will be warned for first offenses, and after a three-month evaluation period, fines and ticketing will be considered. A massive effort has been ongoing to educate students, faculty and staff about the new policies prior to implementation. But, frankly, it was started too late.

Alma mater

(We have nothing to say because she’s not back. “But what about all the December graduates?” Check again in the spring. We’ve heard that one before.)