Student Life at Illinois: 1980-1989


Beckwith Hall residents and rehabilitation staff at the dedication ceremony in 1982.
Beckwith Hall residents and rehabilitation staff at the dedication ceremony in 1982.


  • Student Government Association (SGA) succeeded Champaign-Urbana Student Association.
  • State drinking age was raised from 19 to 21.
  • Black Alumni Association formed.
  • Seventeen dead locust trees were removed from the Quad.


  • Preppie fashion fad swept campus.
  • Beckwith Living Center opened.
  • Fire caused some $300,000 in damages to Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.
  • MTV was launched on August 1st, quickly became a sensation with college students across the country.
Move-in day, 1983
Move-in day, 1981


  • The Chicago Circle and the Medical Center merged to become the University of Illinois at Chicago.
  • Athletic Director Neale Stoner instituted Tailgreat ‘82, a pre-game event to spark enthusiasm for the football team.
  • Fire caused approximately $200,000 in damages to Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity.
  • Students protested elimination of African-American programming from WPGU-FM. In partial response, African-American-operated WBML-FM was launched.
  • First day of the spring semester’s New Student Week saw temperatures of 26 degrees below zero, with wind chills estimated at 81 below zero.
  • Some 500 students protested killings of Palestinians in Beirut.
  • English Building received a major renovation.
  • Rubik’s Cube and the Sony Walkman hit campus.
  • Referee Richard McVay died of heart attack on Memorial Stadium field during game against Michigan State.
  • Illinois played in Liberty Bowl, lost to Alabama 21-15.


  • Board of Trustees passed rule requiring students to live in certified housing for 30 semester hours, instead of the 60 semester hours previously required.
  • The Ms. Kids won the national wheelchair basketball title.
  • Agricultural Engineering Sciences Building and Swanlund Administration Building completed.
  • Illini football team had a record-breaking 9-0 season in the Big Ten.


  • Illinois played in Rose Bowl, lost to UCLA 45-9.
  • On February 28th, snowfall caused afternoon classes to be canceled.
  • NCAA placed UI football team on 2-year probation for recruiting violations.
  • Men’s basketball team was co-champion of the Big Ten.
Quad Day, circa 1982
Quad Day, circa 1982


  • The renamed Foellinger Auditorium re-opened after undergoing extensive renovation.
  • The first supercomputer at the University was installed.
  • Arnold and Mabel Beckman gave the University $40 million to establish an interdisciplinary research institute.
  • The first Farm Aid concert was held at Memorial Stadium.
  • Halloween celebration led to vandalism and injuries. Twenty people were arrested.
  • Fire damaged Acacia fraternity house.
  • Students protested University investment in companies doing business with South Africa.
  • New student ID cards introduced.
  • Hundreds flocked to the University Observatory to obtain glimpse of Comet Halley.
  • Illinois played in Peach Bowl, lost to Army 31-29.


  • Renovation of McKinley Health Center began.
  • “Taste on the South Quad” held.
  • Students erected shantytowns on the Quad in divestiture campaign. Sixty were arrested during a pro-divestiture protest at a Board of Trustees meeting.
  • Installation of telecommunication lines and underground irrigation systems on the Quad created what the Illio called “The Year Without a Quad.”
Student in class, 1987
Student in class, 1987


  • Board of Trustees voted in favor of divestiture.
  • Illini Student Federal Credit Union formed.
  • McKinley Health Center introduced new hours and services.
  • Computer fee instituted.
  • Six buildings were entered on the National Register of Historic Places: the Observatory, Harker Hall, the Natural History Building, Altgeld Hall, Kenney Gym, Kenney Annex, and the Aeronautical Lab B.


  • Ice Arena re-opened after a renovation costing $27 million.
  • University imposed sanctions on Acacia fraternity for incident occurring at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  • Daily Illini offices moved from Illini Hall to building at 57 East Green Street.
  • Mike White resigned as football coach and Neale Stoner quit as athletic director after an NCAA probe into alleged infractions. John Mackovic was named head coach and athletic director.
  • Illinois played in All-American Bowl, lost to Florida 14-10.
Outside a residence hall, 1980s
Outside a residence hall, 1980s


  • The “Flying Illini” men’s basketball team reached the Final Four, lost to Michigan 83-81.
  • The men’s gymnastics team won the national championship.
  • Illinois Quarterly magazine debuted.
  • Renovation of Busey-Evans completed.
  • Interfraternity Council passed rule forbidding fraternities from purchasing kegs.
  • Arson fire destroyed Memorial Stadium turf.
  • Illini students, including graduate student Charlene Teters, began protesting Chief Illiniwek.
  • Fire caused $125,000 in damages to Florida Avenue Residence Hall.

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