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UIUC students express frustration after police disperse crowd outside JSM Living

UIUC students gathered outside of the JSM Living leasing building on the first day of walk-in leasing Oct. 17. Hundreds of people waited hours to sign a lease but were told to leave by campus police before they could do so.

Hundreds of people lined up in front of the JSM Living office Tuesday morning in Champaign’s Campustown, hoping to sign leases for properties near the University of Illinois.

Some students had camped out Monday night with chairs and blankets outside of the building at 616 E. Green St. in an attempt to secure a spot at the front of the line, according to the Daily Illini. 

By the time doors opened to the leasing office at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, a large crowd had already gathered. Within two hours, UIUC police showed up and dispersed the crowd.

The line of students hoping to sign leases started at the JSM Living office at 616 E. Green St. and extended around the block and down an alley connecting Wright St. and Sixth St. Photo Credit: Elissa Eaton/Illinois Student Newsroom

Officers said the gathering of students was a fire hazard. The line spilled into the street and extended around the block from the leasing office to an alley connecting Wright St. and Sixth St.

UIUC sophomore Keith Stewart said he currently lives in a JSM-owned property and that the lines were not this long last year. 

“This is just a whole new level of crazy here,” Stewart said. “I think some people got here last night and that just started a whole chain reaction.”

Many students said they believe social media posts about the line that had formed overnight were partly to blame.

Bailey Witter, another UIUC sophomore, said hearing that others were starting to line up made her think she should probably get in line as well.

“I don’t think this was necessary at all. I came because, if everyone’s doing this, I need to get the apartment that I wanted,” Witter said. 

After police dispersed the crowd, many students expressed frustration. Sam Barbeau, a UIUC sophomore, said he had waited in line for 12 hours and was still unable to secure an apartment for himself.

“I feel pretty frustrated,” he said. “Clearly something went wrong. It’s very, very crowded right now, so I understand it is a public safety issue.”

UIUC junior Apurva Perla also expressed her frustration and said JSM was doing a poor job of communicating how they would resolve the issue. She said JSM workers did not answer students’ questions and instead focused on maintaining order in the lines. 

“We’ve been getting yelled at by people, any time we ask questions we don’t get answers,” Perla said. “It’s just a very frustrating experience for the minimum thing of trying to find a place to live at an affordable price.”

In a statement issued by JSM Living Tuesday night, the company offered its “sincerest apologies” for the events on Tuesday morning. 

“What we envisioned as a streamlined approach, instead generated confusion, competition, and unlimited frustration,” the statement reads. “Most importantly, this also created an environment of compromised safety and well-being. In cooperation with local law enforcement, the decision was made to close the office for the day and immediately begin working on a new solution.”

The company said an electronic open leasing form will be distributed via email on Wednesday to anyone who has expressed interest in open leasing. The form will generate a queue and “replace any line or in-person presence at our Leasing Office, ensuring safety.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to include information about JSM Living’s next steps, provided in a statement.

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Illinois Student Newsroom

At the IPM Student Newsroom, journalism students from the U of I's College of Media work alongside professional journalists -- public radio reporters, editors and producers -- to produce multimedia stories on issues affecting east-central Illinois. Follow us on Instagram: @illinoisstudentnewsroom

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