Those still on campus making best of winter staycation

Those still on campus making best of winter staycation

URBANA — The dining halls are closed. Many Campustown buses run less frequently. The doors to the Activities Recreation Center are locked until Jan. 10.

But hey, Campus Recreation Center East is open; Jimmy John's delivers; and they're planning movie nights at the Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Halls.

Just a week ago, about 50,000 students, faculty, staff and visitors were crossing the Quad, walking down Green Street to grab lunch, plugging in laptops in the libraries.

Today, you'll find a handful of students and employees who have remained on campus.

They weren't left behind a la Kevin McCallister. They're here because they chose to stay, or have no choice.

As dairy farm manager Henry Hoene says, "Operations around here continue no matter the holidays or the weather. Cows don't know it's a holiday."

At 3 p.m. Saturday, when thousands of students had to move out of the dorms for break, Jane Pyo stayed.

"The hall is really, really quiet," said the junior exchange student from South Korea. She's studying English and communications at the UI this year.

Most dorms close for the UI's winter break, which runs through Jan. 19, but a few remain open for students. The residence halls designated for graduate students — Sherman and Daniels — as well as UI apartments stay open. Of the undergraduate residence halls, the ones on Illinois Street and Pennsylvania Avenue remain open. But dining service has shut down.

"It's pretty bare bones," said Kirsten Ruby, associate director of housing for communications and marketing.

This winter break, 35 students were staying in the Illinois Street residence halls and 22 were moving into lounges the staff converts into rooms for students, according to Ruby. Over at Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Halls, 74 students were staying and 18 were moving in to the converted lounges there. Winter break housing costs students $30 a night.

Pyo has stayed at the Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Halls (PAR) all fall semester, so she didn't have to move out and relocate to another room.

"It's mostly international students who stay," she said. At 12:30 p.m. Saturday, most were sleeping in; final exams concluded on Friday.

UI senior Michael Allensworth, a residence hall adviser, said even though finals are over, students who stay here can be a little stressed due to missing holidays or family.

"I want to make sure they're having a good time," Allensworth said.

On the agenda: game night (they'll play Monopoly and The Settlers of Catan), movie night and other activities.

"It is a good chance for them to meet other students, because students from other dorms will come stay here" at PAR, he said.

Pyo plans to stay in the dorms for about two weeks and then she'll head to the West Coast for vacation: first Seattle, then Los Angeles, Las Vegas and other destinations.

That's what many exchange and international students do during the extended winter break: travel the U.S., Ruby said.

Some students with jobs on campus stick around in order to pick up extra hours.

"Basically at the dairy farm, nothing changes on break," said manager Henry Hoene, who oversees the care of 500 cows, of which about 200 are milked several times a day.

The farm's staff includes four full-time employees and student workers. Some of Hoene's student workers will leave for break and others use the opportunity to put in more hours.

They feed the cows daily and milk three times a day: at 4 a.m., noon and 8 p.m.

"It gets done no matter what — holiday, weather or anything," Hoene said.

Generally, having fewer people on campus translates to fewer reports of crime, said UI Police Lt. Todd Short. But that doesn't mean burglars and others won't strike. Police are still patrolling campus.

"We still will have a full complement of officers patrolling streets," Short said. "When students are gone, we're providing as much security as we possibly can to apartments and residence halls, fraternities and sorority houses that may or may not be fully occupied."

Officers will be looking for open doors, open windows, something propped open, a place that's dark that shouldn't be or a building that has lights on that shouldn't, Short said.

Short's advice for students who do remain on campus is to keep doors to cars, apartments and houses locked, and to "remain vigilant, regardless of where they may be living, working, studying or traveling."

"If something happens, if someone observes something that raises the hair on the back of their neck, call 911 immediately. ... Don't be hesitant," he said.

With fewer people around, it can be easier for police to track down suspects. A quick, timely report with a good description dramatically increases the police's response times and officers' ability to identify people, Short said.

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