The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Opinion | Our quads suck, and here’s why

Jack Larson
Overhead view of a relatively empty Bardeen Quadrangle in Urbana, IL, on the afternoon of Sept. 7. The Grainger Library (bottom), Mechanical Engineering Laboratory (left), Talbot Laboratory (right) surround the quad and hold classes throughout the school day. Columnist Amartya Nalluri voices their opinion of the quads on campus.

We have a lot to be proud of when we look at our quads. They are beautiful places to rest and relax, a classic part of the college experience and even ranked among the best in the country.

They’re also a symbol of waste, and just plain boring.

Take the South Quad, whose iconic bell tower overlooks a very simple lawn of grass. While the sides of the quad get some beds of flowers and large, imposing trees, the center appears unfinished and forgotten. 

The North Quad isn’t much better — forgoing open fields for constricting concrete pathways and surrounding sad patches of grass.

The Main Quad, to be fair, is iconic. The gorgeous view of Foellinger Auditorium and the Illini Union make up for some strangely centered pathways and, yet again, another abundance of grass.

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The Bardeen Quadrangle is terrible. Sure, it has some charms. Boneyard Creek’s murky gray water is surrounded by some fantastic landscaping and unique foliage. But the rest of it is just plain sad. Strangely curved pathways surrounded by even more grass and nothing else.

Quads, or quadrangles, are simply that: a quadrilateral lawn for relaxation and contemplation. While the most well-known reside in Oxford and Cambridge, quads are now synonymous with colleges everywhere.

While we might still think of quads as vital to our college lives, they also represent a quiet environmental battle.

Two percent of the land in the continental United States is just grass. And all of that grass requires tons of water —  almost 3 trillion gallons of it a year.

We spend inordinate amounts of time and money just to keep them uniform. The average American spends 70 hours a year taking care of them. Grass isn’t just a common part of our homes and campuses — they’re a drain on our resources too.

This isn’t to say that grass isn’t all bad. Grasslands absorb a significant amount of carbon from the atmosphere. While trees tend to release carbon in wildfires, grasslands store carbon in roots and soil, which is good for our increasingly volatile climate.

But we don’t have grasslands. We have grass.

That’s why lawns, like our quads, are so much more disappointing than they appear. There’s so much waste and untapped potential within them.

Of course, there are alternatives. Varieties of native plants can both look more aesthetically pleasing and can even invite a multitude of bugs and birds to visit. Champaign County is home to a wide variety of flora that can be used instead of just common grass, which could be a welcoming addition to our campus landscape.

Burrill Hall already benefits from this. A stone’s throw from the Main Quad, its garden of diverse grasses and bushes supports a whole host of unique insects and animals. It also looks great.

Our quads are more than just the grass that makes them up. They’re a meeting place for students and a symbol of the freedom and identity that the University provides — but that doesn’t mean they have to be wasteful and plain too. 

With different species of plants, we could introduce a whole new level of biodiversity to our campus and create a more beautiful space for us to enjoy.

So the next time you walk by the Main Quad on your way to class, think about what you want from a campus quad, and what our current quad could be taking from you.


Amartya is a freshman in LAS.

[email protected]

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Jack Larson
Jack Larson, Audience Director
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