Looking back and looking forward

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

New Laws

New Year’s Day marked the start date of many new state laws conceived during the past year. Of major importance, Illinois became the 12th state to silence handheld phone use while driving (HB 1247), the 20th to toke on prescription pot (HB 1), the 37th to accelerate the maximum speed on some roads up to 70 mph (SB 2356) and the final state to shoot down its concealed carry ban (HB 183).

Of particular note to students, your social media passwords are now safe from your school’s prying eyes if without cause (HB 64) and veterans have priority registration at state schools (SB 2245).

Some interesting other laws also went into effect: HB 0188 douses tanning plans for anyone under 18. SB 1639 throws a bone (and refund) to people sold pets with undisclosed serious illnesses. Violent flash mob organizers now face a stiffer penalty for soliciting social media to organize (SB 1005). Seventeen-year-olds got the vote if they will be 18 by election day (HB 0226). And cigarette butts are now litter, because apparently they weren’t before (HB 3243).

 

What to look forward to

Return of Alma

The Alma Mater statue left her pedestal a little over 17 months ago, and, if the projections made in October still stand, she’ll be back in four months. Because it’s still winter break and your mathematical skills are probably depleted (hi, Netflix), here’s a little help: that means she should be back in time for the big hullabaloo that is spring commencement. We haven’t heard any further details about her restoration since October, so we are still hopeful she’ll return. What’s a graduation without a picture with the famous lady and her two men? Well, just ask last year’s graduates. Actually, don’t. It’s still a bitter topic for some.

New businesses throughout Campustown

While you were away, Green Street kept going up. Panda Express at the corner of Wright and Green streets looks to be coming along, construction of the Bankier Apartments building at Sixth Street is as tall as ever, and several other projects continue to chug along. You’ll notice that the Illini Union Bookstore’s first floor is quite a bit different because there will be a new Starbucks (gotta have one on every corner, right?) As a signal of a healthy local economy, it’s nice to see new businesses and buildings on Green Street. Welcome back to campus, where like Chicago, the only seasons are winter and construction. Except, here, we get both.

What you missed in CU

Proposed tuition increase

Incoming freshmen for the 2014-15 academic year should probably start preparing now for how to avoid binging on Grubhub, Netflix and whatever bar will let them in because the University recently proposed a 1.7 percent tuition increase. If the Board of Trustees approves the tuition hike, base tuition for incoming in-state students would climb to $12,036 per year (up $202), while the number hikes to more than $25,000 per year when including housing and fees. Undergraduate room-and-board costs will rise to $10,180 (up 2 percent) and fees excluding health insurance to $2,984 (up 2.3 percent). While it’s understandable that the University finds ways to compensate for reductions in state funding, we hope that rising tuition costs, albeit small, won’t deter prospective students. 

Lincoln Hall LEED Platinum status

In late December, Gov. Pat Quinn announced that the newly renovated Lincoln Hall achieved the LEED Platinum status — the highest status for “green buildings” and the second historic building in the state to receive it. Student Dining and Residential Programs building as well as Nugent and Bousfield halls are already LEED certified. While this is a significant milestone in the University’s strive toward a more environmentally-friendly campus, we also hope that Lincoln Hall’s LEED Platinum status will influence the University to continue stressing the concept of green buildings to come.

Michael Monson DUI

Michael Monson, chief of staff to Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing, was handed 18 months of court supervision for a DUI last year. Monson was arrested by police last March following a car accident he was involved in. He was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, fleeing the scene of an accident and operating an uninsured vehicle. In addition to the court supervision, he is required to pay a $1,250 fine, complete 100 hours of public service, attend a victim impact panel, substance abuse evaluations and refrain from having alcohol or illegal drugs. With Monson having one of the higher positions in the Urbana government, we hope that his sentence will serve as a reminder that illegal actions — regardless of prestige and status — will have consequences.

Employee personal time

While the polar vortex was making a cameo, the University sent out a campus-wide email on Jan. 5 alerting non-essential employees that they should not report to work. It’s great that the University is taking the safety of its employees into consideration with the hazardous weather. However, those employees told not to report to work were also told they must use their personal time or take an excused, unpaid absence. This is normal University policy that these employees follow when they can’t make it to work because of weather-related reasons. But when Gov. Pat Quinn is declaring a state of emergency, these employees aren’t exactly kicking back and enjoying themselves. This policy seems unfair considering the dissonance between the University’s policy and Quinn’s statewide warnings.