Big squirrel on campus

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This squirrel is ready for college
One thing I'm taking from my time as a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is that college is not only a time and place to learn, explore, and grow as a person, but it's also a time to form a newfound appreciation of squirrels.

A surplus of squirrels is not exclusive to U. of I.—it exists on campuses nationwide. There are thriving squirrel populations at campuses all over the nation, such as Grinnell College, University of Maryland, and Missouri State University. College campuses tend to have large squirrel populations because semi-urban, tree-filled university campuses are an ideal habitat for squirrels, according to Mother Nature Network. Research has even found that college-campus squirrels are more amenable to humans than squirrels that inhabit wooded parks. Conducted by students at Miami University in Ohio, the research project found that the campus squirrels let people approach them "to a point 9.2 feet away on average," while the squirrels in the park let them approach them "to a point 16.9 feet away on average."

Squirrels are such an integral part of college campuses that the site Campus Squirrel Listings believes the quality of a school can be evaluated by its squirrel population. Schools are rated from one to five, with five being the most squirrel-friendly. Schools can now be separated into two camps—prosquirrel and antisquirrel.

Many student bodies embrace squirrels: there have been college-admission videos, clubs, T-shirt slogans, and mascots dedicated to them. Beloit College's humorous 2010 admission video is a montage of happy-go-lucky squirrels giving their take on a plethora of opportunities offered by the school. The University of Michigan Squirrel Club, Cornell Squirrel Club, and the WMU Squirrel Club are just a handful of college clubs honoring the furry creatures. University of Chicago has two T-shirt slogans that claim "University of Chicago: Where the squirrels are cuter than the girls" and "University of Chicago: Where the squirrels are more aggressive than the guys." And then there's Mary Baldwin College, which boasts Gladys the Fighting Squirrel as its school mascot.

But while some student bodies are accepting of squirrels, some are not as keen on wholeheartedly welcoming squirrels onto their campuses. Northwestern students have complained about the aggressive nature of their squirrels, which have no problem with staking claim on students' bike seats. University of Florida students have also voiced their disdain towards these furry fiends, adding to the chatter about squirrels targeting students on bikes. This picture of "ninja squirrels" taken at Seminole State College speaks for itself.

While the bold and aggressive nature of squirrels that inhabit colleges can be off-putting, I side with the prosquirrel camp for the same reasons that students at the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary's College adore their squirrels. They're plump, they're cute, they fill a void when we yearn for our pets from home, and their frequent one-on-one battles can be quite entertaining.

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