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Ohio State uses Huntington scholarship money to fund signage

A directory sign located on 18th Avenue. OSU was required to install “way-finding” signs as part of its agreement with Huntington Bank. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

A directory sign located on 18th Avenue. OSU was required to install “way-finding” signs as part of its agreement with Huntington Bank.
Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

When Huntington Bank gave Ohio State an additional $1 million for the first anniversary of their partnership, it was intended to be used for academic programming and scholarships. Of that money, though, OSU used $75,000 to pay for signs it had agreed to install a year earlier.

OSU signed its 15-year contract with Columbus-based Huntington Feb. 12, 2012. Huntington paid an initial $25 million to OSU — to go toward “scholarships, education and alumni giving,” according to its website — and promised to supply an additional $100 million for OSU to work on improving the university district area. Of that, the bank agreed to make $75 million available in loans and to invest $25 million for OSU’s work on revitalizing the university area.

In February, marking the end of the partnership’s first year, the bank gave an additional $1 million to OSU for “academic programming and scholarships,” OSU assistant vice president of media and public relations Gayle Saunders said in an email Dec. 7.

David Schamer, director of not-for-profit banking at Huntington, said the additional money was provided “based on the success of our first year of the partnership,” in a statement emailed to The Lantern Dec. 6 from Maureen Brown, the senior vice president and director of public relations for Huntington.

The entirety of that additional money, though, didn’t go straight into scholarships or programming.

Based on the 2012 contract, OSU agreed to install a “‘way-finding/directory’ signage” system around each OSU campus to “assist visitors in locating the individual branch locations.” OSU installed 17 exterior signs for pedestrians, as well as about 50 other signs of varying size and prominence, on its Columbus campus, Saunders said.

Those signs cost $96,000, OSU spokesman Gary Lewis said in an email Dec. 18. Of that, $75,000 was paid out of the $1 million Huntington gave OSU in February, while the remaining $21,000 was paid for “from a university departmental reserve fund in Administration and Planning” funded from the Wexner Medical Center, Lewis said.

He added that no tuition or taxpayer dollars were used in paying for the signs.

Lewis provided an additional statement reiterating information about the signs, but did not comment on why the money intended for academic programming and scholarships was used to pay for signage OSU had agreed to install a year earlier.

“The terms of the contract were agreed upon by both parties to include signage. Subsequently, 16 wayfinding signs were posted across campus to increase visibility in high traffic areas highlighting important information,” Lewis said in an email Monday.

Saunders said in an email Dec. 13 OSU was already thinking of installing signs before the contract.

“The university was moving forward with a larger, campus-wide way-finding signage initiative at about the same time as the signage for the Huntington agreement needed to be put in place. We combined the Huntington pedestrian way-finding signage with the university’s desire to install pedestrian way-finding signage, so the project provided the overall benefit of completing the university’s pedestrian way-finding initiative as well,” Saunders said.

Undergraduate Student Government President Taylor Stepp said while he was unaware the additional funds had in part gone toward the signs, he believes the money should have gone to students.

“At the end of the day, my continual message to the university has and will continue to be, our No. 1 priority as a (college) at this time has to be lowering (costs) for students,” Stepp said. “So when we do get scholarship money, let’s use it for scholarships.”

Stepp added that there have “certainly been some positive things to come from the Huntington partnership,” but said to keep the university “functioning at such a high level,” OSU needs to figure out how to keep tuition for students as low as possible.

“Let’s get our priorities straight here,” Stepp said. “That’s my initial thought when I hear something like this (OSU using some of the funds for signs).”

Huntington is just one of several private contracts OSU holds that are worth a total of more than $660 million.

In 1998, OSU and Coca-Cola agreed to a more than $32 million, 10-year contract that made the company the university’s exclusive beverage vendor. The contract was renewed in 2008 for an additional 10 years with the purpose being to increase revenue to the university to enhance the student experience, Lewis said.

Roughly a decade after renewing with Coca-Cola, OSU and Nike signed three separate seven-year contracts that went into effect Aug. 1, 2007. Recently, Nike exercised a contract option to extend all three agreements until July 31, 2018. Over 11 years, the contract is expected to yield $46 million for OSU, much of which is set to go to the Department of Athletics, Lewis said.

In 2012, the university agreed to a 50-year lease on its parking assets for the upfront price of $483 million. QIC Global Infrastructure, an Australian investment firm, placed the bid and created CampusParc to operate the parking facilities. The deal was finalized and approved by the Board of Trustees in June 2012. The money from the contract was put into OSU’s endowment fund, which is being used for student scholarships, increased staff grants, adding tenure-track faculty and to support the Campus Area Bus Service.

It was announced in November 2012 that OSU had entered a 10-year, $97 million agreement with two apparel and retail businesses, J. America Sportswear and Fanatics Inc., to exclusively produce and sell university apparel. According to a Dec. 31 email from Lewis, however, “no agreement has been finalized” with Fanatics Inc.

Lewis also said “over the past six months, other vendors have been considered to fill this role and it remains pending.” The names of the considered vendors however, were not disclosed. Lewis said, though, a separate license agreement was signed with J. America in December that had an effective date of Jan. 1.

Saunders said the Huntington directory signs are “filling the university’s overall pedestrian way-finding needs.”

The signs are located across campus, including near the RPAC, near William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library, on 18th Avenue and on the South Oval.

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