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Student safety, college costs highlighted at USG presidential debate

Vice presidential candidate Abby Waidelich (left), a third-year in biological engineering, speaks to a crowd of OSU students with presidential candidate Abby Grossman, a third-year in education, during to the USG candidate debate March 2 at The Ohio Union. Credit: AJ King / Lantern photographer

Vice presidential candidate Abby Waidelich (left), a third-year in biological engineering, speaks to a crowd of OSU students with presidential candidate Abby Grossman, a third-year in education, during to the USG candidate debate March 2 at the Ohio Union. Credit: AJ King / Lantern photographer

The two Undergraduate Student Government presidential slates debated policy initiatives Monday night at the U.S Bank Conference Theater at the Ohio Union.

Michelle Bennett, a third-year in public affairs and chief of staff for USG, is running for president alongside vice-presidential candidate Noel Fisher, a third-year in political science and geography and off-campus senator and member of the health and safety committee at USG.

Bennett and Fisher will be running against presidential candidate Abby Grossman, a third-year in education and organizational outreach director for USG, and Abby Waidelich, a third-year in biological engineering and senior director of public relations for USG, who is running for vice president.

After a year that’s seen multiple robberies, sexual assaults and, most recently, a homicide, safety both on and off-campus was among the topics debated.

Team Abby discussed a four-point safety plan that includes mandatory safety training for incoming freshmen, enacting a Good Samaritan Law, increased lighting on Pearl Street and working to lower wait times at the Student Safety Service.

“We want to make sure we can relate to and connect to the average OSU student,” Grossman said. “We hope to bring not only alcohol education and ways to stay safe on the weekends, but also issues of sexual assault. We want to bring in survivors to these mandatory training classes in an attempt to show students what these crimes look like.”

Fisher said his team’s proposed safety model would not only eliminate wait times for Student Safety Service rides that can sometimes be up to three hours, but it will also create jobs.

Noel Fisher (left), a third-year geography major, speaks to a crowd of OSU students with his running mate Michelle Bennett, a third-year public affairs major, during the USG candidate debate March 2 at The Ohio Union. Credit: AJ King / Lantern photographer

Noel Fisher (left), a third-year in geography and political science, speaks to a crowd of OSU students with his running mate Michelle Bennett, a third-year public affairs major, during the USG candidate debate March 2 at the Ohio Union. Credit: AJ King / Lantern photographer

“Walking alone on and off campus poses many dangers,” Bennett said. “We see a need for increased rides from Student Safety Service. We are proposing a rideshare model similar to Uber where student drivers will be hired to use their private vehicles.”

Another issue raised was tuition affordability, specifically that of out-of-state students and international students.

“As an out-of-state student, I know firsthand the pains of those additional costs,” Fisher, who is from Kansas, said. “In-state students received a tuition freeze a couple years ago which is fantastic for in-state students, but out-of-state and international students now hold an added burden. We plan to work with officials to get tuition frozen for all students here at OSU.”

Waidelich said even though OSU has the lowest tuition in the Big Ten Conference, she thinks there is still room for improvement in regards to education costs.

“Students not only pay for tuition, but room and board, books, fees, involvement, travel and the overall cost of simply living in Columbus,” she said. “We need to not focus on one or two of these issues, but how to cut cost in all of these areas.”

One way to start this would be to implement a change to the current meal plan that would allow students to roll over unused blocks, which Waidelich said was a “no brainer” for both students and officials.

Another way to make attending OSU more affordable would be a partnership with an airline, which then could be used to give students discounted airfare, Grossman said.

“One area we want to make more affordable is travel,” Grossman said. “My roommate is unable to travel home for Thanksgiving due to the high cost of flights. That’s unacceptable, and we as a university need to do better.”

During her rebuttal, Bennett said she doesn’t think the airline partnership is feasible.

“We don’t have a huge metropolitan area and we don’t have any airlines that we could probably partner with,” Bennett said. “The only way this could possibly happen would be to increase student fees similar to that of the COTA fee that students would have to pay. An increased fee is just not going to fly.”

One member of the audience agreed about the importance of addressing affordability.

“The biggest thing, which I think both teams touched on, is that it’s not just tuition,” said Josh Ahart, a fifth-year in public affairs and former USG vice-president and 2014 presidential candidate. “It’s fees, it’s meal plans and I think both teams did a great job of emphasizing that tonight.”

One thing that was agreed on during the debate was the importance of each slate and team moving forward.

“On our slate, we have 40 unbelievable senators who would all do a fantastic job,” Waidelich said. “This university would be so blessed to have them elected into the general assembly. Just as they do with all the hard work they put into this campaign, they realize if elected, they will be responsible representatives and voice throughout the entire year.”

Fisher echoed those sentiments when speaking of his slate.

“We have an incredibly diverse and hardworking slate of senators and general members on our team,” Fisher said. “We are genuinely interested in hearing what everyone has to say and how they want our organization to run.”

After hearing comments from Bennett and Fisher regarding increased staffing for the Counseling and Consultation Service center and Team Abby discuss the importance of addressing eating disorders, Ahart said he was pleased.

“One thing that I was very proud to hear discussed was mental health awareness and reducing the stigma of mental health,” Ahart said. “It was really cool to hear that is something that is important to both platforms, as it was something we worked really hard on last year as well.”

USG voting will begin at noon on March 9 and conclude at 11:59 p.m. March 11. The ballot will be available at https://usg.osu.edu.


  1. Michelle and Noel’s plan for a rideshare concept at OSU is irresponsible and poor platform. OSU would open themselves up to liability issues. Why not work on getting more vehicles and staff for Student Safety Services?

  2. How about an increase in POLICE officers at OSU. Students shouldnt be responsible for protecting students thats why we have a POLICE force. Give them the appropriate numbers they need.

  3. If OSU Police were not patrolling outside their jurisdiction in the city of Columbus, maybe their staffing would be more adequate. Tuition costs are already high enough as it is.

  4. But tuition can only cover certain costs…only related to instruction. I think you’re mixing money the taxpayers give to OSU.

  5. Concerned student

    As a student highly concerned with safety, I appreciated all of the different elements of the safety plan proposed by Abby and Abby, as it was thorough and extremely realistic at the same time

  6. That one girl looks so angry in that picture.

  7. That one girl just looks so angry in that picture.

  8. The airline would waste money for me. I’m from Columbus! Other than that, both teams seem like they have good ideas. Could we actually have a safety class for freshmen though? Doesn’t seem reasonable.

  9. Hanging On Much?

    How come the Lantern chose to interview Josh Ahart as their member of the audience? Does anyone think that Josh hasn’t inserted himself into a campaign and has remained unbiased? Better yet, why is he still here?

  10. Leah M, I agree with you. However, the OSU hierarchy doesn’t seem to think much of going out of their way to publicize “crime prevention.” I had to force OSU to offer “men’s self-defense” via a Title IX challenge through the DOE Civil Rights Office. That’s the only reason we have that course (and I’d rather have a co-ed course but that’s out of the question with OSU).

    One of my ideas is an “English 110 Crime Prevention” (don’t know what the semester number is offhand; that’s the old quarter version number) iteration. I’ve not persued that yet, but if you or any other students think a general campus safety type course would work, feel free to email me and let’s get a group started to explore the idea.


  11. OSU has the fewest number of police officers than any big 10 or equally sized campus. As far as off campus crime, OSU officers do not routinely patrol off campus. The jurisdiction agreement simply gives OSU Police officers the ability to respond and take action to protect students when they observe a crime outside of their area.

  12. The airline idea is interesting, but

  13. The airline idea is interesting, but if it raises our student fees even more, then I’d have to say no thank you.

  14. Michelle said Columbus doesn’t have a “huge metropolitan area.” I would think from being an OL that she’d have heard over and over again about how big the central Ohio region is and how fast it is growing.

  15. A Friendly Student

    @Another Student

    I’m sure Michelle did hear that form her job experience, yet I have to agree with Michelle when I say that Columbus doesn’t currently have a “huge metropolitan area.” It is growing, but not exponentially by next year or the next few. Airline is a waste of funds and time.

    Sorry Team Abby, it was an interesting thought but not something you should be running on. That’s a trick to the average student, in my opinion.

  16. Abby claimed OSU had the lowest tuition in the Big Ten, when did that happen? Did I miss that? OSU NEVER had the lowest tuition in the B1G! Check your facts!

  17. the only university that successfully partnered with an airline is northwestern. Located in a huge city with a major airport (that hosts more than two airlines), northwestern is a private university with a majority out of state student population. It’s not at all feasible here.

  18. @concerned
    Joint jurisdiction requires OSUPD officers to be trained and certified for off campus. Only one officer is. It’s not only a matter of hiring more but also training those we have, which is a part of Michelle and Noel’s platform

  19. @uber bad idea
    First off, platform is made up of several policy points, this is only one point, not the entire platform.

    Hiring more drivers and buying more cars would be great except that SSS is a service not directly paid for or offered by OSU. The university offered more funding last year but they turned it down. This is another approach.

    Students are already paying for uber and lyft, so why not implement a similar program that puts dollars into student workers and costs students less to use? Liability issues can be worked out.

  20. Liability issues can’t be worked out. Does the university want to be responsible for these “student uber” drivers?

    You also forget Uber and Lyft are getting tons of bad press.

    Also SSS is a part of the University. I mean it says “a unit of the OSUPD” on their website. That sounds like it is a part of OSU to me.


  21. @Airplanes “more than two airlines”
    Airlines servicing Port Columbus airport:
    American Airlines
    U.S. Airways
    Air Canada

    And @Anonymous,
    Liability issues would be worked out only after an incident, causing legal issues for both the students and the university

  22. Last years debate was better…

  23. Can we bring back Andrew Warnecke?

  24. Did someone mention puppy room?

  25. My faith in the buckeye nation will be compromised if AA wins. These girls sure are pulling out every magic trick to successfully hoodwink our student body. It would be quite the coup if they pulled off a victory, considering their lack of experience and weak platform points. Smoke and mirrors fade away, and I would hate to see USG left in an even worse place than in the past.

    Vote for Michelle and Noel if you have a brain in your head.

  26. I think you should vote for me Turd Ferguson as a write in candidate. I have a big hat. It’s funny because it’s bigger than a normal hat.

  27. Hi Burt Ferguson here vote for me as a write in candidate. I have a really big hat…..it’s funny because it’s bigger than a normal hat.

  28. Hey guys, my poli sci class told me that elections are won in the comment section of newspapers with little readership.

  29. My poli sci class told me that magic man is not very magical in certain areas 😉

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