The Illinois State University Parents and Families Facebook page is currently littered with discussion from parents about how to get their students out of their lease and back home.
It’s not clear why. Sure, ISU has ended face-to-face classes for the rest of the semester, and the dorms have been closed, but the community surrounding the university still exists. That means landlords still exist too.
“As a parent of an upperclassman, I am concerned and upset about the financial burden placed with having to pay for rent on an empty apartment,” user Lisa Miller said on the public page.
“Why does it have to be empty?” user Nikki Johnson counters. “Why can’t the kids stay in the apartment that they signed a lease for and do their online classes there? They aren’t told to vacate Bloomington. Just dorms.”
Students and parents fleeing the McLean County area, which currently has no cases of COVID-19, want out of their leases.
However, it bears repeating (apparently over and over again), that off-campus housing IS NOT tied to ISU. ISU has no legal authority over independent leasing companies and landlords in the area. They are business partners, certainly, and this is evident by the Redbirds seen in SAMI marketing, but ISU is not the boss of landlords.
Looking at a map provided by Capitol News Illinois, a great number of COVID-19 cases in Illinois are in the North Eastern, Chicago area of the state. There are some cases in central Illinois, in Woodford, Peoria and Champaign counties, but none in McLean.
And, so far, none in the surrounding counties to the south and west have cases. If a student lives in Chicago, it’s not really correct to say they are safer “at home” than in their apartment.
It is easy to fall into the narrative of “rent-driven landlords want to take money from students,” but landlords are people with mortgages and utilities. Renters signed a legal document back in August, or last April or whenever that shows their promise to pay rent every month for their apartment.
Being a student doesn’t mean someone has special legal privileges. Most students in apartments are legal adults, and there is responsibility to that, like it or not.
Additionally, pulling students out of apartments leaves them with a necessary financial burden of paying for an empty apartment, but it also continues to hurt the already hurting business in McLean County. Local restaurants are feeling the pain of students being gone months early.
Off-campus students joining the exodus only twists the knife in the wound. Medici in Uptown and Pub II have already said they are losing about half of their business. If students love these places, it’s important to support them during this crisis.
As ISU Parents and Family page member Stacy Connolly puts it: “Businesses are not going to change the rules just because you don’t want your kid to be in Bloomington. They are under no obligation to adjust to everyone’s whims.”
And asking for relief from the government is understandable but misses the purpose of legislation. The relief for renters being proposed by others is for those who have lost their jobs and those who cannot afford to make payments to their landlords: Those who have nowhere else to go.
That legislation is not meant to service a student who is choosing to leave without being forced out. To make it serve this purpose would be a cold shoulder to the thousands, if not millions of Americans who truly need the help.