Students believe that Millikin and Decatur are disconnected.
Millikin senior Leah Fowler lived in Decatur for four years. When asked about the city Fowler currently lives in, she emphasized the disconnection between her and Decatur.
“I would love to be more involved in Decatur,” Fowler said.
Without transportation or information, students are disengaged from the city they are currently inhabiting.
“For me and my friends, I feel like we never have anything to do here,” Christina Borunda, Millikin sophomore said.
When asked if she knew about common places in Decatur such as the zoo or a bookstore, Borunda looked shocked.
“There’s a zoo?” she said, “I did not know that.” This lack of information about Decatur is not only shocking; it’s also dangerous.
Decatur experienced an economic recession. The “urban core” is living through a blight. Shops are closing because of Covid-19.
According to the 2020 census, the city of Decatur lost seven percent of its population. In 2000, Decatur had a population of 81,860. The 2020 census has Decatur listed at 70,522. Biology professor and Decatur City Council member Dr. David Horn emphasized how Decatur is affected by poverty and Covid-19.
“We lost over three-hundred lives to Covid-19,” Horn said. “This was the most number of deaths per capita of any central Illinois County with the midsize cities.”
Decatur is in dire need for community and money, but the disconnection between Millikin and the city stays strong.
Students like Fowler and Borunda discussed the impact of the “Milli-Bubble,” a term that describes the disconnect between the students and Decatur.
“Students lives really focused around their education at Millikin and their activities at Millikin, and therefore, there’s a large amount of activities that are taking place at Millikin.” Horn said, “Because of that, activities that are taking place outside of Millikin may not get as much attention.”
To fix this issue, Horn offers multiple solutions. The first one is for the city of Decatur and Millikin to find ways to help students get more involved in Decatur.
“There is an opportunity for the city to reach out to student life to let the Millikin students know a little more about Decatur,” Horn said.
Another solution is for Millikin to provide more information about main events that are happening in Decatur. Millikin can host events that can make students more involved in Decatur.
The most important solution Horn emphasizes is students’ individual power. Horn encourages students to make their voices heard.
“Grassroots efforts,” he said, “Student driven efforts will be the types of efforts that will be the most successful and the most long lasting.”
When Fowler asked how she can be more involved in Decatur, she never thought she had the power to change her situation. With grassroot efforts from Millikin, Decatur, and students, the disconnect between Millikin and Decatur can disappear in a blink of an eye.