Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor
President E. Gordon Gee said semesters gave Ohio State “a much different rhythm,” and he’s still trying to figure out when classes change. During a meeting with The Lantern editorial staff, he also spoke about campus safety, hate speech at the university, new football coach Urban Meyer, tuition costs and parking privatization.
Safety concerns plague start of semester
Gee said the university has a responsibility to keep its students safe, but that responsibility is two-fold.
“We just need to encourage our kids to be more safe,” Gee said. “Students are walking along wearing hoodies, earbuds and sitting there texting all the time. The university has a responsibility to keep students safe. We have to create awareness.”
Last Wednesday a student was hit by a dump truck near a construction site on Woodruff Avenue while biking to class.
Gee and the OSU administration created a task force aimed to increase traffic safety.
Heading this group are Jay Kasey, senior vice president for Administration and Planning and Javaune Adams-Gaston, vice president for Student Life.
“We’re going to try to start raising awareness,” Gee said. “So that’s a sad note at the beginning of a great year.”
The recent robbery outside Hitchcock Hall has raised questions from the student group Buckeyes for Concealed Carry, which opposes OSU’s strict anti-gun policy.
Gee however, stood firm behind the policy, and said he can’t foresee a time when the university would change it.
“Not as long as I’m president,” Gee said. “I’m unequivocally opposed. I think that is a horrible idea on a university campus to be carrying guns. Period.”
Hate at Ohio State continues, despite task force
Hate speech has resurfaced on social media via some Tumblr and Twitter accounts aimed at exposing racial language at OSU online. The OSU Haters group gained university-wide attention last week by exposing racial social media posts from OSU students, while the authors of the accounts remained anonymous.
Gee reiterated that hateful speech will not be tolerated at the university.
“We can’t control every level of speech,” Gee said. “Offensive speech is something we have to talk a lot about. The best way to control it is to recognize it for what it is.”
Last April, “Long Live Zimmerman” was spray-painted on the outside of Hale Hall, the home of the Frank W. Hale Jr. Black Cultural Center.
The reference, officials said, was most likely to George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch leader who allegedly killed Trayvon Martin in self-defense Feb. 26 in Florida.
“We all have a responsibility to believe that our university is better than that,” Gee said. “I think that we’ve made that very clear.”
Reminiscing Tressel, pleased with Meyer
After the infamous “tattoo-gate” scandal that led to the resignation of former OSU football coach Jim Tressel, the university has embraced new football coach Urban Meyer.
Gee told The Lantern that the situation involving Tressel was a “sad moment in my life,” but said he liked the direction of the program under Meyer.
“I think Meyer is an excellent coach,” Gee said. “When we hired him as coach, he made it very clear that we are going to hold students to very high standards.”
Gee said he believes Meyer has exceeded expectations on setting a standard of excellence both on and off the field.
“Fabulous coach, even better person,” Gee said.
Gee aspires to make ‘low cost’ education attainable
Gee said he is fighting to keep tuition down for students. In the five years that he’s been at OSU, two of those years showed no tuition increase. And although tuition has increased in the past three years, Gee has every intention on maintaining his goal to have OSU known as a “public university being very high quality and very low cost,” and he wants to work with the state to make that more attainable.
A new higher education funding process is scheduled to be presented this week, according to a Monday press release.
Gov. John Kasich has teamed up with Gee to present this plan on Tuesday.
Gee said this new funding process is “unusually brave for a governor to turn over to those who are spending the money the opportunity to figure out how to spend it.”
The goal is for it to be in place by Thanksgiving.
“The longer the time frame, the more mischief can occur,” Gee said.
Private parking transition
In a deal finalized last June, all OSU parking assets have been leased for 50 years to QIC Global Infrastructure, an Australia-based investment company, which placed a $483 million bid on university parking assets last year.
QIC partnered with LAZ Parking to take over all operations of permit sales, parking lots and parking garages. LAZ will take over operations before the start of the 2013-2014 academic year.
“We’re going to work hand-in-hand with OSU staff. Our goal is that students see this is a very seamless transition,” chairman and CEO of LAZ Parking Alan Lazowski told The Lantern in June.
Gee is confident that this privatization of parking is beneficial to OSU, giving the university more money to focus on the academic core.
“We’ll receive a check for a half billion dollars and we’ll still own the parking,” Gee said. “This would not work at any other institution. We have 36,000 parking places.”