Gee talks politics, Sodexo, Big 10 football
Published: Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012 00:06
Update: After publication of this article, Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee corrected himself about a comment stating that the university would not increase the number of freshmen accepted to its Columbus campus in coming years. In an e-mail to The Lantern, he said the number of freshmen and overall students would "grow modestly over the next five years" at the Columbus campus.
As many students were catching up on homework, working or watching the latest episode of "Glee," Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee was poring over a shipment of free bowties delivered to his house Tuesday night.
"I have over a thousand," Gee said. "I have OCD, I love bowties. I try not to wear the same one more than once in a year."
The president visited The Lantern newsroom Wednesday evening to answer questions from the newspaper's editorial board. Though Gee wasn't always as animated as he was discussing his bowties, he gave commentary on some of the most important university issues.
STUDENTS ON CAMPUS
Despite a plan announced by university officials early this quarter to draw more students — and especially freshmen — to OSU's Columbus and regional campuses, Gee told The Lantern that the university would not enroll more first-year students at the main campus.
"The first-year (population) will not grow," Gee said.
A press release from officials in September stated that OSU plans "to increase the new freshman class size on the Columbus campus by approximately 100 students during each year of the plan."
Molly Ranz Calhoun, assistant vice president of Student Life, said she didn't know whether that plan had been changed but confirmed that Gee "clearly said he was going to increase enrollment on this campus."
Other officials were not immediately available Wednesday evening to comment on the apparent contradiction.
Gee also said it would take more time than expected to enforce a plan to require all freshmen and sophomores to live on campus. Now, only freshmen face that requirement.
He said he originally planned to implement that rule by 2012, when the university will switch to semesters. The university won't likely have the resources to reach that goal, he said, but he is not backing off from the plan.
"When we have sufficient housing to make that happen, we will make that happen," Gee said.
The university — not the candidates — is the most important issue as the election nears, Gee said.
"We're not Republican or Democrat — we're Scarlet and Gray," he said.
Besides meeting with both gubernatorial candidates, Gee said OSU alumni have helped in the campaign to prove that OSU is the state's most important "asset."
"I think we have to make a case to the state of how important we are," Gee said. "The university is making sure our message is delivered to all sides."
Gee, who called Gov. Ted Strickland "a friend" and said he knows John Kasich from Kasich's "days in Congress," did not endorse either candidate.
Nonetheless, he encourages all students to vote in November.
"I think every student should vote," Gee said. "I think everyone in this country should vote. And if you don't, that's not an exercise of your Constitutional responsibility."
Facing a potential strike by some workers contracted by OSU, Gee said the university would not get mixed up in the dispute between Sodexo and its employees.
Some of the company's workers said they want to unionize but have been stifled by the company. Gee said there are 24 full-time Sodexo workers at OSU who help run concession stands and clean up after some OSU events.
"This is not our fight," Gee said. "It's between Sodexo and the union."
Still, Gee said unionizing would "squeeze out" volunteers who work alongside Sodexo workers and raise money for groups in their communities. He said he wouldn't support a plan that removed those volunteers from university events.
Gee said he expects more schools to join the Big Ten — eventually — but doesn't plan to launch a search for the conference's next team.
"We don't have to — everyone's knocking on our door," Gee said. "We are in the driver's seat."
He said he hoped conference expansion, including the recent addition of Nebraska, would generate excitement for all sports, not just football.
One sport in need of a fan-base pick-me-up is basketball, which doesn't draw the same student support as football. In a move to motivate more students to attend basketball games, the university announced it will open up more student seats around the court, creating what Gee said will be "a ring of fire."