A growing community movement seeks to save Urbana University after last month’s announcement that the campus would close at the end of the spring semester.
Within two days of the news, Keith L. Monroe created the Facebook group, ‘This Place Matters: Urbana University 2020+,’ which at last check has close to 1,200 members. The group --which is comprised of students, professors, alumni and community members -- seeks to not only share memories of the university, but also come up with ideas about how to potentially save the campus.
“We don’t feel that closing the university is the best way forward,” said Monroe.
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He not only graduated from the university, but also met his wife there and had a stepdaughter attending at the time of the closure. He said hundreds of people have shared stories on the group’s page similar to his, but the university also plays a vital role in the local economy -- a previous report estimates close to $60 million a year.
Urbana University is a branch campus of Franklin University, which said in April that the coronavirus pandemic “added a level of stress and uncertainty to Urbana’s prospects that make it impossible to sustain,” the university said.
At the time of the closure, the university said about 75 percent of students were online and there were only about 350 students who took courses on the university’s physical campus.
“(The university has) survived the Civil War, World War I, World War II, The Great Depression,” Monroe said. “And to hear that COVID was the main reason for it to be closing was a whirlwind.”
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Monroe has said some of the options being considered among group members are to purchase the campus back from Franklin University or to enter into talks with the college to see if there is another solution aside from closing the college outright.
In addition to dialogue on the group’s Facebook page, Monroe has also started an online petition that at last check, had more than 2,800 signatures and countless comments and testimonials.
“I’ve been robbed of my first college,” one person wrote. “I now have to find a new college to call home in such a short period of time."
He said the goal is 5,000 signatures. The petition will then be presented to Franklin University.
“Urbana was a part of me, still a deep part of me,” Monroe said. “And if I can do something to save it -- I will.”
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