Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=203809
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Nolan Peterson/MEDILL

More than 65,000 students attend college within the Loop, making Chicago the largest college town in Illinois.


Downtown colleges to play hooky during NATO summit

by Nolan Peterson
April 05, 2012


NATO has new proof of its clout in the post-Soviet world – area college students will concede downtown Chicago to the multinational alliance next month.

Area universities with campuses in the Loop and the South Loop have canceled classes and planned events in anticipation of the summit, citing disruptions to transportation and possible security concerns from protests as the chief concerns.
Roosevelt University has canceled classes on the Friday and Monday of the summit.
Thomas Karow, assistant vice president of public relations at the school, said, “We’re concerned about all of that – transportation problems and the protests. But our No. 1 concern is for the safety of our students and staff.”

Other officials agree.
“We’re hopeful that there will be little effect on our operations, but we want to be prepared,” said Northwestern University Police Chief Bruce Lewis in an announcement posted to the school’s website on March 29.

Northwestern will remain open during the summit, but downtown classes will be modified to avoid potential disruptions. After summit briefings with federal agencies and Chicago Police Department officials, Northwestern officials announced the relocation of classes at the Kellogg School of Management and the School of Continuing Studies to locations less-likely to be affected by the event.

“We want to be proactive,” Lewis said.

Robert Morris University has also announced it will not hold classes in its downtown locations during the summit.
“We are primarily a commuter school, and transportation disruptions are our major concern,” said Nancy Donohoe, director of public relations. “We have several other campus locations we can use, and it was a managerial and administrative decision to not have class downtown on those days.”

According to an economic impact study published in 2009 by a downtown business group, the Chicago Loop Alliance, there are 65,499 students attending college within the 1.75-square-mile Loop and South Loop.
There are 24 higher education institutions in the Loop, making downtown Chicago the largest college town in Illinois.

Downtown college campuses have a significant impact on the economy. With more than 15,000 employees in the Loop and South Loop, higher education is the third-largest employer in this section of Chicago.
The 2009 study estimated that higher education institutions generate a total of $2.1 billion in direct and indirect revenue for the region each year.

Ty Tabing, executive director of the Chicago Loop Alliance, said business owners consider the long-term economic benefits of the NATO summit will outweigh the disruptions to their bottom line.
“This is a long-term marketing opportunity,” Tabing said. “People are buying plywood in case they have to board up windows, but overall the economic impact should be positive.”

Other universities that have confirmed they will cancel classes or events due to summit-related concerns include: DePaul University, the School of Art Institute of Chicago, the John Marshall School of Law, Columbia College and Loyola University.

Thousands of demonstrators are expected to descend on Chicago for the May 20-21 summit, prompting plans for a large-scale deployment of police and resources.
Security measures related to the summit will significantly alter the availability of public transportation during the two-day event.