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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Editorial: DeKalb, give us a reason to stay the night

Eleanor Gentry
An open suitcase shows the various additions NIU students would like to see in DeKalb. If NIU wants to minimize its reputation as a “suitcase school,” it needs to give students a good reason to stay. (Eleanor Gentry | Northern Star)

If NIU doesn’t want students to leave on weekends, then it needs to give students a reason to stay.

NIU has a well-known reputation as a “suitcase” or “backpack” school – a university that is comprised of students that come to campus for the school week and go home on weekends. 

Being a “suitcase” school means the city and campus are not attractive enough for students to stay in DeKalb in their free time.

“It’s just dry, not a lot of people go out anymore,” Monica Fernandez, a senior accounting major, told the Northern Star. “Everyone just goes home for the weekend, so there isn’t really anyone here to go out.”

To the city’s defense, it has started to cater more toward college students.

Two new late night dining options, D.P. Dough and Burger Naan, have opened up in downtown DeKalb. Both restaurants are open as late – or early – as 4 a.m. and 11 p.m., respectively, and offer new food options to students who are tired of the typical Taco Bell and 24-hour McDonald’s.

Adding these two restaurants is a step in the right direction, but DeKalb needs to do more if it cares about keeping students at and around campus when class is not in session.

For example, students would appreciate a late night coffee shop for evening cram sessions. A 24-hour diner would complement the coffee shop well, as it provides another spot for students to eat at the end of their long studying hours.

As for recreational activities, DeKalb should invest in mini-golf courses, escape rooms and arcades. Activities like these give students a way to relax after finishing homework, activities that they’d much rather do than go home.

For students 21 and older, DeKalb should consider adding variations of bars and clubs to increase DeKalb’s nightlife. 

“DeKalb’s night life needs some work. The one place this town is missing is somewhere to show off your moves,” Kevin Hanson, a Stanley’s bartender, told the Northern Star.

NIU and DeKalb can take inspiration from other colleges that have a lively nightlife. 

Take the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, for example. U of I has several bars students can visit.

Charlie Simcox, a senior mechanical engineering major at the University of Illinois, doesn’t make a habit of frequenting bars, but he appreciates the options Champaign has to offer.

“U of I has, like, three bars, you know, that you would consider, I don’t know, party bars,” Simcox said. “And then there’s three more mature bar and grills that are on Green St. which is, like, the main strip down campus.” 

However, the bar that Simcox prefers to visit is KAMS.  

“I generally go to KAMS,” Simcox said. “It’s pretty much always packed, it has multiple floors. They generally have pretty good deals on drinks.” 

Having more bar or nightclub options like what students at U of I have could give students the incentive to stay in DeKalb for weekends; and maybe it will attract more students to NIU.

Adding new bars or clubs also provide safe places to party at that are not at the fraternities. Security, police and other first responders can control the environments easier at places with liquor licenses.

Other than Fatty’s and Molly’s, students don’t have many choices for nightlife action. Both bars seem to only be packed on events like Homecoming or graduations. 

For students who prefer a more relaxed nightlife, a dispensary in DeKalb could also help with that. 

If students had easy access to cannabis, it would eliminate the need to drive 30 minutes to North Aurora – away from campus – to the nearest dispensary.

The DeKalb City Council approved a special permit for a dispensary in February that was rumored to open in early August. There have been no further updates on an opening date since.

The city needs to expedite this process if it cares about making DeKalb more attractive to students.

Without these suggested amenities, there just isn’t much to do in DeKalb once weekends come.

What should students do after they finish their coursework, go to the Huskie Den and bowl?

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