Cody Cousino / Photo Editor
Hate crimes on campus, a looming juggernaut of a semester switch, coach Urban Meyer’s modern ways and Jared Sullinger’s departure from Ohio State: President E. Gordon Gee talked about them all in a Monday night meeting with The Lantern editorial staff.
Reflecting on the construction going on across all of his campus, Gee said the project on the South Campus residence halls is progressing, and the rest of the university will soon follow suit.
“Beautiful facilities over there, moving from Motel 6 to the Ritz,” Gee said. “Wonderful facilities.”
Semester switch ‘ready to be flipped’
With the semester conversion set for the start of summer term, Gee said “everything that we could possibly do to plan for it has been done.”
Gee said he is confident the university is fully prepared.
“We could get it up and running tomorrow probably if we just wanted to flip a switch,” he said.
Gee said he expects the transition to be smooth, but said semesters were intentionally planned to start in the summer to allow room for error and time to correct any glitches.
“Do I anticipate that it will go very well? Yes,” Gee said. “Do I anticipate that there will be something that will happen along the line that I’ll shake my head at and you’ll be mad at me about? I think that is possible.”
Gee said he anticipates the switch to the semester system will help the university catch up with the times.
“On June 30, we will be a very solid 1980s university,” Gee said. “Come July 1, we will be one of the most forward-thinking, one of the most progressive, and one of the most 21st century institutions in the country.”
Urban Meyer a ‘young man with a modern view’
Gee reflected on the new perspective that Meyer brings to the football program in light of the NCAA investigations that took place last year.
“He’s a smart man, he’s very able, he’s no nonsense,” Gee said of Meyer. “A young man with a modern view.”
Gee noted Meyer has been working to form a relationship with the student body and Buckeye community, demonstrated by the excitement surrounding his recent open practice and high attendance at the Spring Game Saturday.
“There were 81,000 people on one of the most dreary days I’ve ever seen in the life. I would tell you this, I’m the president of the university, I wouldn’t have sat out in that stuff,” said Gee. “The fact that people show up, shows the passion that the university generates for folks, and the passion he’s generating.”
Gee said he believes coaching at OSU is Meyer’s dream job, and that “he’s generally interested in getting the spirit of the university involved in the spirit of his football program.”
Aside from his recruitment streak, Gee said that Meyer’s accessibility will be “one of his greatest assets in terms of turning his football program into the premier football program in the country.”
Hate crimes on campus
Gee said he didn’t want to be president of a university where anyone feels uncomfortable, and that the vandalism and hate crimes around campus affect everyone.
“When these incidents occur, it’s a blemish on all of us, it’s also an opportunity for all of us all to recommit ourselves,” Gee said. “Clearly I think that’s what we’re doing.”
The string of hate crimes began April 5 when “Long Live Zimmerman” was spray-painted on the west wall of Hall Hale, home to Frank W. Hale Jr. Black Cultural Center.
Police said the vandalism referred to George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch leader who on Feb. 26 killed 17-year-old African-American Trayvon Martin, telling police it was an act of self-defense.
Zimmerman was arrested for the murder of Martin April 12 and has since posted bail and awaits trial.
Two acts of vandalism also took place April 16. On a door in Baker Hall East, “n—-r” and a swastika were written in permanent marker on message board, said OSU Deputy Police Chief Richard Morman.
The same day, “Hang n—–s” was painted in red spray paint on a dumpster located behind Formaggio Pizza at 20 E. 13th Ave.
Two hate crime alerts were issued following each of the alleged hate crimes. Gee said he does not want the hate crimes to hinder the way he runs the university.
“I don’t want to be president of a university in which anyone feels uncomfortable, in which they feel unsafe,” he said.
Gee said more than 200 students came to a Board of Trustees meeting the day after the April 5 hate crime to express their demands in addressing the issue. Gee said he respected how all students have come together.
“I have been enormously impressed with our minority students in how they have been proactive not reactive, and how they have really rallied to find an opportunity about how we can make this better,” Gee said. “I’ve been very impressed by our majority students. It’s not us and them, it’s us together.”
Gee also expressed his support for a task force headed by Javaune Adams-Gaston, vice president of Student Life, and Valerie Lee, vice provost of Diversity and Inclusion. He said the task force has been making progress in addressing the hate crimes.
Jared Sullinger’s draft decision
Gee said he hates when student-athletes leave universities to play professionally, forfeiting a completed degree. Former OSU forward Jared Sullinger announced at an April 6 press conference that he decided to enter the 2012 NBA draft. In doing so, Sullinger forgoes two years of NCAA eligibility.
“I hate it,” Gee said. “I think everyone should get a degree. He’s a good kid and has been a wonderful citizen of the university and just a great joy to have around.”
During his two seasons at OSU, Sullinger started in 73 of the 74 games he played. He scored 1,282 points in his career, had 717 rebounds, made 59 blocks and had 89 assists. The OSU men’s basketball team earned the No. 1-overall seed and a No. 2 seed in the 2011 and 2012 NCAA tournaments, respectively.
Gee said Sullinger’s decision to forgo his last two years at OSU shows the temptation for young basketball players to play in the NBA.
“It’s hard for a kid who is dangled $40 or $50 million to say ‘No,'” Gee said. “I think what that shows is the relevance of power and money in sports that I think is out of hand.”