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Letter to the Editor: Privatization isn’t always the answer

Tuttle Park Place Garage is located at 2050 Tuttle Park Place, Columbus, Ohio. Credit: Muyao Shen / Assistant Photo Editor

Tuttle Park Place Garage is located at 2050 Tuttle Park Place, Columbus, Ohio. Credit: Muyao Shen / Assistant Photo Editor

Many Lantern readers might not know — and older ones might only vaguely recall — that in 2012, Ohio State privatized Columbus campus parking operations via a 50-year lease to QIC/CampusParc. At the time, I was a faculty representative in the University Senate and one of many faculty members who vehemently opposed privatization. There were several reasons for opposition, not the least of which was that our analysis showed it would be a bad financial deal for OSU. Fortunately, the University Senate unanimously approved a resolution in early 2013 asking the OSU administration to present an annual parking privatization accountability and transparency report to the campus community so everyone can see how the deal actually plays out.

There is a big problem with the A&T reports so far, however. The financial analysis has been notable not for its transparency, but rather for inappropriately treating the up-front lease payment OSU received in 2012 as if it were a $483 million gift to the OSU endowment fund. No mention has been made of the opportunity cost to OSU of having privatized parking operations: OSU used to accrue millions in net annual earnings from parking that are now going to QIC/CampusParc. The A&T reports have completely ignored this fact even though the terms of the lease require QIC/CampusParc to provide its financial statements to OSU.

So, last year I worked with someone in the OSU Business and Finance Office who graciously provided me with one critical earnings number from the QIC/CampusParc financials. The A&T report said that in fiscal year 2014 OSU distributed $22.7 million from parking privatization funds to various good causes around campus (such as student scholarships). My analysis showed that when opportunity costs are included, this was about $3.1 million less than would have been available to these causes if OSU had not privatized parking.

When I recently asked OSU B&F for the critical QIC/CampusParc earnings figure for fiscal year 2015 so I could prepare a similar comparison with this year’s A&T report, I was stymied. I therefore made a public-records request. Six weeks later, I finally got a reply: “The information that you requested is considered (a) trade secret of QIC/CampusParc, and thus exempt from disclosure under the Ohio Public Records Act.”

In other words, we the public will never know — indeed, according to the administration we have no right to know — whether parking privatization was a good financial deal for OSU. We face 47 more years of not knowing.

The good news is that one can estimate the figure OSU refuses to provide. I’ve done that and will continue to do so and let you know what I find via annual letters to the editor of The Lantern.

I predict the official A&T report this year will say that just over $22 million was distributed to good causes around campus. My analysis shows that when opportunity costs are included, this is about $6.3 million less than would have been available to these causes if OSU had not privatized parking.

As OSU prepares to privatize operation of more OSU physical facilities, please keep this experience in mind. Not only will you not see from the administration a substantive analysis of the actual financial implications of privatization before it happens, you will never see an honest accounting of the actual financial outcome that was realized (unless, of course, it is truly positive).

But you are sure to be deluged with vague, incomplete and glowing reports about how clever the administration was to have made the deal. History shows that faculty members are basically powerless to make a difference in this regard. Unless there is some sort of student uproar over continual obfuscation of the truth, I cannot imagine why the administration would change its ways.


Bruce W. Weide

Professor Emeritus


  1. Ahh yes, and so it begins. This deal was shady from the beginning and only truly benefitted those players who orchestrated it. If the numbers are considered “secret” then of course they are hiding something. Such a shame the students are the ones who suffer. OSU is a big, cold corporation now and leaving after 20 years was the best thing I ever could have done!

  2. Another ex-employee

    Thank you for writing what many of us had long suspected, Professor Weide.

  3. One point Prof. Weide could have made is that the public records laws do not prohibit disclosure, but just provide an exemption from required disclosures. Nothing in the statute prevents OSU from coming clean on this transaction. OSU’s Compliance Office makes the decisions on public records and the decision was to keep things covered up. The OSU community deserves better.

  4. Follow the money. Ostensibly, the sale of parking–we say privatization, OSU administrators say “monetization”–was to fund, in large part, the so-called Discovery Themes. While many areas of the university–most notably the Arts and Sciences–desperately need university support, the money supports the failing Themes. After years, they remain undefined, distant from faculty expertise and involvement, and underdeveloped. Few appointments have been made. One of many elements of dishonesty and failures.

  5. I was with you right up until you claimed that the faculty are powerless and put the burden on students. What, pray tell, is tenure for if not for issues like this? The faculty were plenty happy to vote for privatization in Senate when they thought it would get them raises, but Senate barely has quorum month to month because faculty Senators don’t even bother to show up. When they do, the two constant issues they whine about are parking issues and wanting raises. If I was the administration, I wouldn’t take them seriously either. They’re spineless as a constituency and lead by faculty that are primarily concerned with securing their own administrative positions.

    • Opponent of privatization

      Interesting but ultimately misguided comments from “Tenure, anyone?”. You’re right that distressingly many faculty don’t participate in university governance (but not because they want to become administrators). And you’re right that those without tenure, or not yet promoted to full professor, had plenty of reason to sit on the sidelines during the privatization discussion. Yet in fact many of those had the courage to speak out anyway. Somehow you seem to think that the administration would have paid attention to the faculty if … what? You’re delusional if you think a “university is just a business” administration like OSU has had for years now will ever pay any attention to faculty input on issues like this. The parking privatization decision had already been made and sanctioned by the Board of Trustees before anyone on the faculty even heard about the idea.

      • Typical defeatist response from a pro faculty supporter (or faculty member themselves?). Oh, the poor old powerless faculty. Nobody ever listens to us, but give us our raises now, please and thank you. Cry me a river.
        Go educate yourself on the shared governance model.
        Then recognize that your colleagues are horrible at it.
        If yours is the attitude of the faculty of this University, then we are surely doomed to mediocrity.
        At least students at Missouri seem to have more guts than anyone at OSU and know how to use it.

        • Opponent of privatization

          Wow, you seem really angry. Fail a class? Anyway, you’re right about one thing: the Missouri students were the ones who ultimately had to stand up to the administration in order to bring change. Where are the OSU students willing to stand up to the OSU administration and shed light on their lies about things like parking privatization? If you’re a student, maybe you could lead the charge instead of just whining about faculty not being able to tame the administration’s misdeeds.

  6. Students in large part do not have interest in things of this nature. Their minds are in either getting education, socializing, enjoying themselves, working out. Not about how faculty of this university feels about their ability to affect change. In general university student body of millennial generation has not exercised any of its influence. What comes to mind is how little action was taken during our recent wars. I recently watched PBS program “The Day the 60s Died” and was astounded by amount of student activity. None of this is happening now. And you want OSU student body to protest privatization of parking?

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