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Ohio State students rally against racism, stage sit-in at the Ohio Union

Ohio State students and protesters marched from the Oval to the Ohio Union on Friday, during the "#OSU2MIZZOU: Racism Lives Here" event. Credit: Michael Huson / Campus Editor

Ohio State students and protesters marched from the Oval to the Ohio Union on Friday, during the “#OSU2MIZZOU: Racism Lives Here” event. Credit: Michael Huson / Campus Editor

Several hundred students gathered on Friday evening to march from Hale Hall to the Oval to protest against racial discrimination in solidarity with the protesters at the University of Missouri and other campuses. However, at the end of the rally, more than 150 students staged a sit-in at the Ohio Union that continued past midnight.

The sit-in started on the first floor of the Union at 6 p.m. After several hours, the students drafted a letter demanding that Ohio State’s administration issue a public letter of solidarity with Concerned Student 1950, an activist group known for its protests at the University of Missouri. They presented the letter to the university administration to sign and release.

A compromise was reached between university administration and protest organizers, and the university will publish details about the agreement on Saturday, said Sarah Mamo, a third-year in African-American and African studies and political science and a lead organizer of the protest. The sit-in concluded at 1:30 a.m. on Saturday.

The rally was held to “unearth the presence of racism on OSU’s campus,” according to the Facebook event page “#OSU2MIZZOU: Racism Lives Here.” The event was slated to only have students march to the Oval, where the protesters rallied against racial discrimination.

“Today we are here for action; our siblings in struggle at Mizzou and universities throughout the country have called upon us to demand justice within the confines of the ivory tower. We are answering that call today,” Mamo said just before the step off of the march toward the Oval.

At about 4 p.m. on Friday, students and protesters marched toward Thompson Library, chanting, “We’re with you, Mizzou,” and, “OH-IO. Racism has got to go,” before the crowd stopped to encircle the Thompson statue.

There, black students shared personal stories of moments when they had experienced racial discrimination as members of the OSU community. The stories were oftentimes emotional and met with applause from an empathetic audience.

Following the rally, the students marched on North High Street toward the Ohio Union. University President Michael Drake as well as Vice President for Student Life Javaune Adams-Gaston joined the students and listened to a list of tentative demands before the sit-in.

Rooney Hassan, a third-year in public health and another organizer of the nonviolent protest, said that other organizers participated in negotiations during the sit-in with OSU officials, including Assistant Vice President for Media and Public Relations Chris Davey and Adams-Gaston.

The series of events has been extensively coordinated via social media, especially Twitter and Facebook. Organizers created the hashtag #OSU2MIZZOU for the demonstrations, which was used at every stage for participants and students to communicate and share their message.

President Drake released a statement before the rally on Friday regarding the recent events at the University of Missouri and at other colleges.

“The recent events at the University of Missouri, Yale and other campuses reinforce the vitally important role that universities play in confronting the issues of racism, intolerance and insensitivity in American society,” the release stated. “This moment is an opportunity for us to reflect and learn.”

Mamo, speaking about Drake’s release, said, “Statements are one thing and action is another. Without action we have no liberation; without liberation we have no justice.”

Inaki DeGuzman contributed to this article.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Sarah Mamo is a third-year in African-American studies, when in fact she is a third-year in African-American and African studies.


  1. I agree that your needs have not been met.
    I also doubt that there will be little real work done by the University through this kind of protest model because there will be little impetus for them to do so, long term.

    The University runs on a shared governance model.
    The Fraternity and Sorority system has had total control over Undergraduate Student Government (USG) for many, many years now. USG is the body that has made, or ignored, the majority of policy for students on campus. It works well for Student Life, because the Greek system love to pad their resumes, but rarely puts up any real fights with the administration.

    If you want real change on campus, you have to create a coalition that takes on the Greek system for governmental control of the student body.
    If you want to question why undergrads haven’t gotten what they’ve needed in terms of real support, look to your mostly affluent, white peers that have been pulling the strings for themselves for at least the past decade.

    Good luck to you.

  2. Dear 'Dear organizers'

    I am a non-white student who attends The Ohio State University. I am also part of the Undergraduate Student Government, yet am not a sorority or fraternity member. I agree that sorority and fraternity members make up a large percentage of the Undergraduate Student Government, but that does not discount the value of the research and work all USG-ers do. The Office of Student Life does play a large part in our work, as many of the policies we would like to edit, revise, or abolish are headed by Student Life. If you’d like to observe a hopeful soon-to-be “real” fight with administration, please read up on the new changes in the University Dining plans and policies.

    Rather than propose an overthrow of the current system, perhaps we should find a way to all work together. Getting students involved with other student groups to join USG to try to affect change on their end may also be a good idea. I realize this may be a daunting task, but I have been trying to do my part by reaching out to myriad student groups with varying perspectives on how the University can better meet their needs. There are over 1,000 organizations on campus, and a great number more of undergraduate students whose needs are not met. I believe that it’s my duty as a USG-er and a fellow peer to positively impact my campus community, and that is what I will continue to do.

  3. Sorry friend, but your post speaks for itself.

    You are still on the outside and you have a position only at the grace of those that run USG, who you readily admit are from the Greek system, by a wide majority. The fact that you are using something like the dining plan policy in comparison with the much more serious issue of racism on campus that is at hand also shows just how out of touch you are with your constituency, and the history of USG. (Arguing to change the dining plan has basically been in the exact same holding pattern for the past four years solid, fyi. USG has accomplished nearly nothing of substance on the topic, either.)

    An overthrow? Its interesting you’d use that language specifically, actually. But thats what independent students on campus are up against if they want to run for Pres and VP of USG isn’t it? Basically, war against the Greek system.

    So, what does it say when there are 35,000 undergraduates on this campus and yet these powerful, influential positions fall into the hands of greeks year after year, who only compromise a tiny minority of that 35K? Yes, there are thousands of student orgs on campus, but only one has the access to power and carries the ability to negotiate for the entire student body. All the rest are essentially social groups. A small group of privileged students run the student government administration and that is a major cause of the dysfunction on this campus.

    And, if you want to know why nothing ever gets done in Student Life that the USG regulars like, take a look at how many members of Student Life are former greeks and also former USG officers…

    This level of naive lack of understanding of how the system actually works on campus is actually symptomatic of the issue with undergrads and the general apathy towards USG elections year after year. If the student body really knew how much their day to day lives were being effected by a small, exclusive minority of their peers, then maybe they’d be more invested. And, with all due respect, THOSE are the students my comment is addressed towards, not current USG members. We need someone from the outside to run for office next year, and they need to start planning NOW.

    I like what these protestors are trying to do, but rather than a mass sit in outside an administrative meeting, I’d prefer to have THOSE students have a representative on every administrative committee that matters. Its better for them to be on the OTHER side of that door making demands face to face, than waiting outside and letting a vastly white and privileged greek system be the voice of this campus for them.

  4. The national organiser of the Million Student March says that their demands (debt forgiveness, free tuition, $15 minimum wage) should be paid by taxing the rich at 90%:
    Stupidity has become the norm on college campuses.
    Don’t listen to these jealous thieves.

  5. Thank you for standing up, being counted, and demanding action beyond the trajectory of an embarrassing and shameful status quo.

    In thinking about who’s experienced discrimination on campus, please include in your consideration and advocacy all of the ex-janitors, ex-blue collar workers, and other university employees who were able to scratch out a middle-class living for themselves before being downsized and outsourced. They will not be marching with you because they’ve been dismissed over the years. Please, also, include in your consideration and activism those persons who replaced them — too vulnerable to dare speak up, violently underpaid and under constant threat of layoff.

    Take a look a the person who picks up your trash and cleans your toilets. That job used to be done by someone who was paid better, could take classes for free, had employer-provided health care, and wasn’t having to prepare, daily, for losing their job because the university could find a contractor who’d take a nickel per hour less. The genuine discrimination, including being rendered invisible to us, that these people experience is equally deplorable, but underpaid, vulnerable employees cannot represent themselves.

    Recent events are a valuable reminder that STUDENTS ARE POWERFUL. To embrace and integrate those equally valuable, and largely more voiceless, persons would be a significant acknowledgment that class disparities, too, are endemic to the university — not the “vitally important role that universities play in confronting the issues of racism, intolerance and insensitivity in American society,” but rather the vital role that universities play in reproducing and reinforcing those problems. To embrace and integrate those persons in your struggle is to demonstrate that your moral “umbrella” is not limited to the student experience but to the total spectrum of those who are getting screwed, daily, to keep our house in order so that we can turn our minds to other matters.

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