Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
Thousands of Ohio State fans watched the men’s basketball team defeat Iowa State to clinch a Sweet 16 spot, but the president of the university wasn’t one of them – he gets “too nervous” to watch OSU games on television. During a meeting with The Lantern editorial staff on Monday evening, President E. Gordon Gee spoke about the NCAA, the Steubenville rape case, the tuition freeze, university health and wellness and student loan debt.
Gee called himself a “nervous guy,” and that he often has to get up and walk around during a close game.
“I am such an avid Ohio State fan that I can’t stand to watch it,” Gee said. “I joke about it with our football program, I joke about the fact that for most people it’s a football game, but for me it’s my budget running up and down the field.”
Gee called March Madness “arguably one of the greatest sporting events in the country,” however he said he didn’t fill out a bracket.
“That’s gambling with my heart,” Gee said. “So I don’t want to do that.”
Gee said he will not be attending the basketball game in Los Angeles on Thursday because he can’t “miss class.”
Steubenville rape case
Gee said that the Steubenville incident was a “horrible thing.”
“Obviously, (people at OSU) were brought into it in a peripheral way because one young man was wearing our shirt and talking about these kinds of issues,” Gee said.
The young man was Michael Nodianos, a former OSU student who was pictured wearing an OSU T-shirt in a YouTube video laughing and joking about a rape victim. The case surrounding the rape of a high school student by two high school football players gained national attention after photos of the victim and accounts of the rape appeared online.
Gee said he believes that the university’s response to the incident was “appropriate.”
“We really did try to make sure that we were supportive of the young lady and her family and we want to make sure that justice was done, and I think that we have been very consistent with that,” Gee said.
Seventeen-year-old Trent Mays and 16-year-old Ma’Lik Richmond were tried in court earlier this month and were both sentenced to time in a juvenile correctional facility. The teenagers have potential to be in detention until they are 21.
Gee said rapes and sexual assaults reported on campus this year are being monitored very carefully.
“We as an institution are protective of our students and protective of each other … we have policies that not only go to the issue itself but also that we create a culture in which those kinds of things are reported, not tolerated.”
Although Gee said state financial support is not at the level of other universities, OSU will enact an in-state tuition freeze for the 2013-2014 academic year.
“If you take a look at the data around the country, the rise in our tuition is one of the lowest in the nation, period,” Gee said.
Despite the tuition freeze only being for in-state students, he said the university is still raising a lot of money for student scholarship and support for all students.
“About 25 percent of our students, undergraduates, are now out-of-state students,” Gee said. “Even comparatively, we are one of the great educational bargains in the country.”
According to the OSU Undergraduate Admissions website, about 16 percent of the Fall 2012 freshman class was domestic, out-of-state students.
Gee said one of the challenges for the university in coming years is “how do we lose weight and gain muscle?”
“How do we de-bureaucratize ourselves and make ourselves less expensive and at the same time how do we do that so we don’t also lose momentum?”
OSU tuition for in-state residents will remain at $10,036.80 next year. For the 2012-2013 school year, OSU instructional fees rose 3.5 percent, however a freeze on mandatory fees made the overall rate increase for students 3.2 percent, according to an OSU Board of Trustees document.
A March 15 email announced that campus will be 100 percent tobacco free by August 1 as a way to make the university more healthy.
“We have a tobacco-free medical center and now we want a tobacco-free campus,” Gee said.
Gee acknowledged not everyone agrees with the new policy.
“I think anyone will have the freedom of choice to smoke, but just not when they are dealing with other people in a public setting,” Gee said.
Gee said this new policy will be consistent with OSU’s goal to be the healthiest university in the country as quickly as possible.
He also said he has goals for the university to be carbon neutral and environmentally conscious, which is a reason why the university is digging geothermal wells, expected to be completed in the fall.
“I do believe the South Oval will recover one of these days,” Gee said. “It has been so long I can’t even remember what it looks like.”
Construction began in November 2010 and was delayed in November 2011 when OSU released Chesapeake Geosystems, Inc., from its contractual obligations with the university because of ineffective drilling methods, pushing the date of completion back more than a year from September 2012 to October 2013.
Gee also said the university is actively seeking out wind power as an alternative energy source.
“Now about 25 to 30 percent of our electricity is provided by wind power, so we are moving very quickly to be healthy and environmentally strong and we think that’s important,” Gee said.
Student loan debt
Gee said student loan debt is a national issue, with more than $1 trillion in student debt facing higher education.
“If students start defaulting on their debt, we’ll have yet another economic cycle which will not be pretty,” Gee said.
OSU alumni repay their debts at a very high rate, Gee said, with less than a 1 percent default rate.
“There are a number of institutions where the default rates have gotten up into the teens or even the 20s, and that is very unhealthy for our economy,” Gee said.
He said Ohio Gov. John Kasich asked him to chair a committee of college and university presidents to look at ways to fund higher education, and that only 8 percent of OSU’s $6 billion budget comes from state funding.
“We belong to the people of the state,” Gee said. “They love us but they don’t fund us.”
Gee said the committee came up with a proposal in which universities and colleges should be funded based upon graduation rates rather than enrollment.
“We are in a brave new world right now, and I think we will great support out of the legislature,” Gee said.