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Ohio State Community takes a hard look into the Mirror Lake tradition

After a medical emergency during the Mirror Lake jump, security officers blocked off access to Mirror Lake with bikes and metal barricades on Nov. 25. Credit: Robert Scarpinito | Copy Chief

After a medical emergency during the Mirror Lake jump, security officers blocked off access to Mirror Lake with bikes and metal barricades on Nov. 25. Credit: Robert Scarpinito | Copy Chief

After 25 years, the annual Mirror Lake jump tradition may finally come to a close after an Ohio State student died from jump-related injuries on Wednesday.

Austin Singletary, a third-year in human nutrition, died on Wednesday morning after jumping into the lake early that morning. The Franklin County coroner has tentatively determined that Singletary died of a broken neck. The final coroner’s report is expected in about five weeks.

“We are heartbroken over this horrible tragedy,” said University President Michael Drake in a statement released mid-day on Wednesday.

Drake added in the statement that OSU leadership was in strong agreement that they would work with the campus community to end the tradition.

In spite of significant efforts taken to make this event a safer one, this tragedy has occurred,” Drake said. “We must come together and acknowledge that while this is a student-led tradition that has been passed down through the years, we cannot risk another tragedy.”

Undergraduate Student Government President Abby Grossman and USG Vice President Abby Waidelich echoed Drake’s message of discontent with the tradition in a joint statement released the day of Singletary’s death.

“Tradition is rooted deep into our Buckeye spirit, however, some traditions put our community at risk,” the statement said. “As student leaders, our main priority has always been the safety of each and every Buckeye. We cannot support an event that puts lives at risk. We will work with university leadership and put an end to the Mirror Lake annual jump.”

The statement asked the OSU community to come together in support of Singletary’s family and friends before stating they were dedicated to working with the OSU community to create “a new tradition to unite all Buckeyes during the Beat Michigan Week.”

USG General Assembly is scheduled to meet this Wednesday, where resolution 48-R-21: A Resolution to Advocate for Student Safety by Ending the Mirror Lake Jump is expected to be proposed.

Two students jump into Mirror Lake on Nov. 25 during the Mirror Lake jump. Credit: Robert Scarpinito | Copy Chief

Two students jump into Mirror Lake on Nov. 25 during the Mirror Lake jump. Credit: Robert Scarpinito | Copy Chief

This year, students who planned to jump or spectate from inside the fencing picked up wristbands at the Ohio Union and RPAC. Wristbands were required to be worn, and only one could be issued per student.

Brooke Siesel, a fourth-year in human development and family sciences, told The Lantern on Nov. 23 that she would be making the jump. Siesel said she arrived at 11:30 p.m. and walked through the gate and into the crowd after displaying her wristband. She jumped, wrapped a blanket around herself and headed home. Later, she heard the news about Singletary.

“The next day when I heard about the loss of a classmate, that was sad. That’s tragic to hear that this tradition I’ve participated in for four years and people have participated in before could lead to the death of a student,” she said on Monday. “The student happened to be in my college, which was also hard to hear. I thought, ‘Did I have any classes with him?’ It made me realize that could’ve been anyone. That could’ve been a friend, another classmate.”

Siesel said that college students think that nothing bad can happen to them, especially because the Mirror Lake jump is a tradition that has been going on for years.

“But with this loss, there needs to be a change,” she said. “I agree with Ohio State officials and the talk that we’re going to stop the Mirror Lake jump because it did end in a loss.”

University efforts to regulate the event included the distribution of wristbands to make the jump for the third consecutive year, the release of safety guidelines, the fencing off of the lake and the University Police presence.

Present safety personnel could remove anyone from Mirror Lake who posed a threat to student safety, which could include being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or dangerous behavior like flipping, pushing or diving, according to the university’s guidelines and safety tips.

Though the event is regulated, the jump is not university-sponsored. In the past, representatives from the College of Optometry and Student Health Services have warned those considering the jump of the risks, which include hypothermia, frostbite, broken bones, as well as various types of infection.

Past Mirror Lake-related tragedies include the death of 28-year-old Tushar Shriram Kabre, whose cause of death was near drowning a month after being pulled from the lake in 2013, and the head injury that left graduate Kristyn Elliot paralyzed after falling into the lake in 1985. Neither tragedy was directly linked to the Mirror Lake jump tradition itself.

Although some students have expressed discontent with the possible cancellation of the Mirror Lake jump, Siesel said their feelings are misplaced.

“People who are against (the jump) ending aren’t putting it into perspective that on Wednesday they woke up and they could go home and do whatever they were doing — spending time with friends and family for Thanksgiving,” she said. “They had the opportunity to spend that with their families, but Austin didn’t.”


  1. While the death of a student is a tragedy, if we all stopped doing anything that ever killed or injured someone even our beds would not be safe. As you get older you realize that events in life cannot be controlled and accidents, whether they be on the highway, street, or in your living room, are bound to happen. One of the big concerns I have for the future is that there is this tendency to believe we can legislate and control life to the point of total safety. Using the logic that one death in 25 years and hundreds of thousands of participants is reason to stop something then I guess all autos, buses, walking, running, swimming, every sport, and all medicines need to be banned. Instead one would like to think Buckeyes are smart enough to take this as a warning and be a bit more careful in the future.

    • Well put, George. Children are taught at a young age not to dive into the shallow end of the pool or you could break your neck.

      • have you looked around you at the event?..how many do you think are 100% sober? just because we may be taught certain things does not mean we do them when our intellect is compromised.this was an accident 25 years in the making ..every year there are injuries… who cares? i care.

        • So are you suggesting that all cars be eliminated, since they are one of the leading causes of death in the United States? All amusement parks, all nature parks, all skateboards and bicycles….etc. etc. ad nausium. Do you get my point? There is nothing wrong with caring, but eliminating activities because dumb, drunk, and irresponsible people hurt themselves doing them will eliminate a large number of fun, exciting, and reasonably safe activities. We already have eliminated things like high dives and merry-go-rounds which were (and really are still) a reasonably safe, and very fun activity, because of a few accidents that were, for the most part, not the fault of the establishments where they occurred. Nothing wrong with caring; but there is something wrong from denying most people activities because a few people are not smart enough to do them safely…

  2. Amen, George Williams.

  3. Wondering if Austin had been wearing a wristband. At the time that I jumped (about midnight), many students weren’t, and the wristband requirement wasn’t enforced- they just let people in.
    Just weird to think that, if wristbands were enforced, his death possibly could’ve been prevented.

  4. To safely maintain the tradition the university could dredge part of Mirror Lake to a depth that would permit diving. The Greek community could make raising the funds a pretty decent goal.

  5. Might as well cancel higher education altogether. You see, occasionally young adults make poor decisions that impact their future at university. We cannot afford that, so terminate it.

  6. Sad for Austin & his family, but, George is right. Life is full of risks. A life lived with a focus on avoiding risks isn’t much of a life.

    Also, seems to me that the problems at the Mirror Lake Jump started when regulation of it started.

  7. Thousands of students have been jumping in this lake for decades. It’s an old old tradition and memories that I will cherish from each of my four years at school. It’s a shame one person has to ruin this for everyone. Austin Singletary is not the victim this article is making him out to be. He’s a fool that dove head first into a waist deep pond. Accidents happen but if students are smart, they won’t be meeting their end at Mirror Lake. How is this any different than some idiot racing down a country road and dying on his own hand and then having to shut down that road because what he did was dangerous?

  8. at first i was shocked at the responses…so a kid was killed..people get killed all the time. just because this is a tradition it does not mean it is sacred or MUST happen. every year students are injured. so who cares right..? they will heal with time..who cares if it costs money and mom and dad concern, or the university may be liable for millions in damages ..what matter is what i selfishly want. i am the me kid..i am entitled to get what i want when i want it and when i dont get it i do it anyway because i want it. why this inane tradition started is beyond my comprehension. why does jumping not a concrete pond make for a tradition..what does it mean other than it happens? i have seen videos of this event and wonder how this has not happened before..many of the jumpers seemed drunk or high and we all know how that makes judgement waver.
    no doubt the university will ban this event but students will try anyway and folks will be arrested and jailed and when they go to court they will argue TRADITION and FOOTBALL and feel justified in their selfishness and immaturity

    OSU class of 74

  9. Stupid to end this tradition. Stupid to run our lives around unrealistic expectations of “safety”. Stupid and irresponsible kids breaking their neck in mirror lake is sad, but not as sad as shutting down the tradition because stupid and irresponsible people die doing things that are essentially safe for most people. A good parallel is eliminating all driving because some people get drunk, crash and die. Obviously, driving cars is the problem, not stupid and irresponsible people driving them….(yeah, heavy dose of sarcasm there)

  10. The wristbands and fences were never about safety. They were about control. They were about creating an impression of a nanny state. If safety was a concern, the administration would’ve addressed the one and only real danger assiciated with the jump: diving – as opposed to jumping. They’ve couldve put up a few signs warning of broken necks from diving and stationed a few safety personnel about to reiterate in a helpful way.

    Now they are achieving the ultimate comtrol: they’re shutting it down.

  11. Hopefully the university administration has learned their lesson as a result of this. They put themselves in an awkward position by regulating the jump and now they have blood on their hands. Next year I fully expect them to stay away from mirror lake and the jump will go on like normal.

    On a side note, all of these students calling for the end of the jump are crazy! Don’t be an idiot and you wont get hurt. Period. I will be jumping next year and expect the jump will be just as good as ever if not better.

    • Sick of the insensitive ignorance

      To all of u “future jumpers” u wish! And How insensitive u all are, a Jumper, Dan, Steve, Renaldi, etc.. U obviously have never had a tragedy due to an accident occur in ur lives so close to u as losing a child or brother. I have not either. How dare u call his actions stupid. Were u not all under the influence when u jumped in? U most likely were right? Do u know for a fact that Austin was? Are u the Coroner? Did u see him dive? The answer is “NO” to The last few questions, right? could he have slipped & fallen backwards? Possibly. No one knows for sure the correct details of this tragedy. It’s disgusting how judgemental some of the comments are. If u are all so stupid as to not understand why the event will be permanently ending, you are pathetic. OSU should have control over student activities & their safety of them. The world can’t control stupid people who chose to drink & drive, text & drive etc. but there’s repercussions for all of these bad choices made. Not saying at all that Austin made a bad choice from the little we do know about his death, but OSU is saying safety of students is top priority, & now there’s possibly repercussions.. No more jump. Oh BTW, my freshman son jumped last week, & thankfully is alive . My heart aches for Austins parents.

  12. Last summer the young man who just hurt many people said that he felt afraid and didn’t have a place to pray. That was him asking for help. Why didn’t the faculty then set up a meeting for all the students who felt the same.And then educate the other students. There are others and now they will really be afraid to pray or show outward signs that they are muslims. I feel like perhaps, although we may never know, that this incident may have never had happened if “We had seen the warning sign of a struggling unhappy young man looking for someone to help him.

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