Current students aren’t the only ones worried about recent changes to the beloved Mirror Lake jump. Some alumni are chiming in with concerns as well.
“It was one of my favorite traditions at Ohio State,” said Austin Hutchison, who graduated in 2013 with a marketing degree.
After OSU’s Undergraduate Student Government held the first of three forums last month to discuss possible changes to the jump, a USG email was sent out to the campus community on Sept. 18.
The email, which included information about USG initiatives, included a link to a document summarizing specifics of the Mirror Lake discussion.
“Many voiced the opinion that better communication between university administrators and the student body regarding changes to the event was necessary to facilitate a safer, more organized jump.” the document said.
Students usually take to the lake the Tuesday before the annual OSU-Michigan game.
Although the university traditionally does not promote the jump, last year it introduced a new safety protocol. Students were required to show their BuckIDs at the Ohio Union to get a wristband. They were supposed to present their wristbands before being allowed into the Mirror Lake area, which was fenced off to the general public on the night of the jump. As a form of protest on the night before the scheduled jump, some students pushed down the fences and jumped in anyway.
During the Sept. 18 USG forum, one OSU official said although he still think fences are a good idea, he thought last year’s jump could have been organized better.
“We didn’t do a good job last year, I’ll admit,” said Jay Kasey, senior vice president for Administration and Planning. “The wristbands were an idea that came at the end of the process. What I would recommend is that once again we put the fences up, but we will probably need more entrances that can be accessed easier.”
This year, the jump could be threatened by various unconfirmed plans to change the water source to the lake and re-landscape the surrounding area.
The lake was drained after last year’s jump to allow for work on a roughly $28,000 sustainability study aiming to prevent water loss because of leaks in the lake’s structure. The study was also set to address maintenance issues related to deterioration of the lake’s walls. The study, which concluded in July, ultimately determined that groundwater is a viable option for sustaining the lake, officials have said.
Mirror Lake was refilled in early August with water from a recently-dug well that cost an additional $30,000, but a final design for Mirror Lake is set to be chosen in early November. In the meantime, officials have said the lake could be drained again.
OSU alumna Gretchen Schacht-Hollingsworth, who graduated in 1984 with a degree in industrial systems engineering, said that administration involvement isn’t the only thing that has changed about the tradition since her time at OSU.
“Actually, there was a Mirror Lake jump for a lot of the things on campus. People would jump into Mirror Lake for fraternity and sorority initiations and things like that, as well as for football games,” Schacht-Hollingsworth said.
She said when she participated in the jump, it was in groups of about 15 to 20 students at a time, and expressed surprise when she was told that approximately 1,500 OSU fans participated on an unplanned Monday night jump last year.
“I didn’t realize it was that many students. That’s pretty crazy,” Schacht-Hollingsworth said.
The number of students who attend the Mirror Lake jump seems to be one of the main concerns for the OSU administration. The Sept. 18 email from USG shed light on a new idea to help disperse the number of students jumping at one time.
“Some students in attendance believed dividing the jump into ‘shifts’ where students would arrive at a predetermined time based on identifiers such as area or class rank may allow for a safer and less congested jumping environment,” the release said.
But some alumni were doubtful that these potential plans would be effective if put into action.
“In theory it sounds like it would be a good idea to keep it from getting so crazy, but I think everyone would probably end up going whenever they wanted to,” said Kelsie Neely, a 2012 graduate with a degree in political science.
Erica Shertz, who also graduated in 2012 with a degree in sport and leisure studies, agreed that the new safety protocols might not be the best idea, as she thought even the wristbands used for last year’s jump were unnecessary.
“During my four years there, I never felt unsafe or thought it was unsafe. So, I think the protocol is a little over the top,” she said. “I think you’re around a bunch of college kids who are just trying to have fun and support their school and I think everyone can make good decisions.”
Although some don’t agree with the precautions, others believe the university is being reasonable and realistic in their approach.
Christopher Lowenkamp, a 1993 graduate with a degree in sociology, said he understands the logic behind the rules. Lowenkamp’s daughter, Mikayla Lowenkamp, is a third-year in biomedical engineering at OSU.
“To me, it makes sense as a parent of a student that they would have some safety precautions employed,” Lowenkamp said.
Although alumni had varied opinions on the new safety rules being put in place by OSU’s administration, it seems many agreed the Mirror Lake jump is something that they’d like to see stick around for years to come.
“It’s kind of sad to see all these traditions kind of going away just because there are so many students,” Schacht-Hollingsworth said.
“I like any sort of goofy tradition that bonds people together,” said Kelly Wood, who graduated in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in English. “If people are making smart choices, then I think it’s a great thing to have around.”