Exiting the 73 freeway, I turned left onto University Drive expecting to drive up a wide, smooth street. But with my foot still firmly on the gas, I was suddenly struck by a line of cars, unable to see where it ended. It was only noon, so why was there such bad traffic? I needed to get to chemistry lab, but I was instead anxiously sitting in my car, slowly inching forward, waiting to see a car crash or something that would justify the roadway congestion.
Eventually I made my way far enough along to see the marquee. In big letters it read, “UCI Welcomes the LA Rams!” followed by a disclaimer about traffic.
Something about the Rams sounded familiar. I vaguely remembered they were some sort of sports team, and that they were going to be on campus for part of the summer. I understood that this sounded cool to local football fans, but to me it was frustrating that their presence kept me from getting to class on time at my own university.
Matters only got worse when I tried to park. Typically, I park in the Mesa Court parking structure or the Student Center parking structure, but students were banned from both. They were reserved for the Rams and those coming to watch their practices. Instead, I parked in a structure near Middle Earth and walked half an hour to get to class.
This would continue through the month of August. While the Rams and their fans took over key parts of the campus, students like myself struggled to get through random traffic and find parking spots far off from our classrooms. Their presence on campus was hard to ignore and often distracting. While hosting the Rams brought UCI publicity and profit, the university should have been more considerate toward their students, 8,000 of whom were still on campus through the summer to take classes.
Even on my walk to class, it was hard to ignore the fact that the Rams had taken over. Apparently, the team was using Rowland Hall, where many chemistry lab sessions are held, for their meetings and filming sessions. Entering the building, I saw that the ground was covered in paper and tape, and camera equipment was set up down the halls. Against the walls, there were signs on food and drink carts that read, “For the Rams.” In addition, the team had taken over BC Cavern, where I would normally go to eat before lab, as their designated dining area.
Although I awkwardly tried to avoid the cameras and wires, film crew members for HBO’s “Hard Knocks” would tell me to walk in the frame as they filmed, probably to give the impression that these athletes were “living the college life” like the rest of us.
Player Temarrick Hemingway said in an interview, “It seems like we’re right back at it, so I gotta read my textbooks and, you know, start studying for my chemistry test tomorrow.”
Don’t get me wrong — although I am not a football fan, I can see how, for a lot of people in the OC and LA area, having the Rams within a half hour drive of them must have been an experience of a lifetime. People flooded to Crawford Field, our soccer-turned-football-field, dressed up and hyped as if they were going to the Super Bowl. UCI was not only promised a hefty $10,000,000 for hosting the Rams for the next 3 years, but got to grace the headlines of the LA Times and the OC Register leading up to and during the football team’s stay. It was a win for the local residents and the university as a whole.
Considering all this, an individual student complaining about traffic and camera crews almost sounds unreasonable. Traffic is a part of everyday life and can be avoided, and camera crews filming the LA Rams can sound pretty exciting.
But at the end of the day, a student like myself, who is at UCI to learn and not to watch football (I mean, we voted back in 1965 not to have a football team), has the right to be warned and accommodated when these things come up. Put it on parking and transportation advertisements so I know when and where it is happening, and I can avoid these areas. Give me some place else to eat, or a cool opportunity to mingle with the Rams, if they are going to take over one of the main food courts. Have them meet at buildings where there aren’t class sessions going on, or only allow them to occupy those buildings outside of school hours. These considerations were especially important this summer with the “Pay for 8” deal, which only required students to pay for the first 8 units of classes they signed up for and thus encouraged them to sign up for more courses.
But instead, the university was too busy thinking of the Rams, setting up their king sized beds in Campus Village and cooking their 10,000 calorie meals in BC Cavern.
Just last week I exited the 73 onto University Drive to get on campus, thankful for the lack of noon traffic. I knew the Rams were gone and that I had my school back. At least until until next summer. Hopefully, the university will plan a little better next time.
Michelle Bui is a second year biological sciences major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.