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Letter to the Editor: Privatizing the profit, socializing the harm


Credit: Lantern file photo

Through a process laden with secrecy, the administration at the Ohio State University is negotiating the sell out of our school’s energy systems. This deal includes all of the power plants on campus, as well as the responsibility of procuring energy and delivering it to the university.

Let’s get one thing straight: No corporation would bid on our energy systems unless it intended to make a profit off our public school. When asked point blank at the Undergraduate Student Government Town Hall meeting on Jan. 28 whether fossil fuel corporations were bidding on the contract, administrators told the room, “We are not disclosing the names of the corporations and companies that are bidding at this time.” Some students astutely pointed out that administrators are likely to wait until it is too late to let us know who is taking over our school.

Furthermore, administration behind this deal told members of United Students Against Sweatshops that the measures to hold the potential buyer accountable to our sustainable demands were “classified.” Environmentalists’ dreams of seeing the university source from 100 percent renewable energy can go out the window.

But those who will suffer the most from this decision are people whose voices are already silenced at our university. The easiest way for a company to increase their profit margins is to cut what they call “operation” costs. This is often achieved through cutting wages of workers. Our campus workers keep our heat running, our water flowing, our sidewalks clear and our university functioning. Their work is vital, but often goes unrecognized. Continued corporate assaults mean that there is no job security for any of our campus workers, thus posing a threat not only to power plant workers but all campus employees.

Indeed, since 2006 the amount of civil service employees working at the university decreased by 10.77 percent.  And workers are not the only ones whose livelihoods are on the line. Data collected by Institutional Research and Planning tells us that also since 2006, the number of tenure-track faculty was reduced by 9.6 percent, enrollment of African-American students has decreased 1 percent and tuition has increased 30 percent.

What, if not supporting student diversity, tenure-track faculty hires or campus workers, does our drastic increase in tuition support? Hiring more administration, whose numbers have risen 26.3 percent since 2006. In light of this data, I seriously doubt that a corporate takeover will benefit the Buckeye community.  

We as students cannot stand idly by as our administration guts the dignified jobs of our fellow Buckeyes and sells off control of our energy sources. Our administration has been lying to us. It is corporatizing our school under false pretenses of sustainability, but we cannot dare risk privatizing the profit while socializing the harm. Professor Emeritus Bruce Weide stated previously, “Unless there is some sort of student uproar over continual obfuscation of the truth, I cannot imagine why the administration would change its ways.”

As people who pay a tremendous amount of money to go here, we have so much more power than we know to influence the university. I am not OK with going into debt so that our university administrators and corporate CEOs can profit off the people who are treated the most unfairly. We need a truly democratic university, one that doesn’t treat student voice as rubber stamps, but actually values our ideas and initiatives.  

We are always taught in our classes about ways to make a difference once we graduate, but we can make that difference right here, right now.


Lainie Rini

Ohio State University, Class of ‘15



  1. These are powerful arguments, and very true. I remember how OSU’s parking was privatized back when I was a student – it turned out to be a disaster. And let’s not forget how Ohio State’s CFO, Geoff Chatas, almost went to work for CampusParc’s parent company a few years later! If students don’t do something to stop the energy privatization, I suspect that the results will be the same.

    • What exactly is a disaster about it? Please provide evidence of something that has changed for the worse since when OSU handled parking. CampusParc is doing virtually nothing different than when OSU handled it.

  2. I still fail to see why this doesn’t make sense for the University, other than your explicit hate for the corporate world, of course.

    • Well, they sold Campusparc as a great opportunity for students too, and they’re pretty much universally reviled.

      For that reason, I can understand why one would want to ensure that we won’t get shot in the foot again.

      • The parking department was reviled when people were getting tickets from OSU before it was privatized. People just can’t look past their scarlet and gray-tinted glasses to see that.

  3. An interesting argument. If those claims are true, I wonder how the CWA union will act to protect our jobs. My guess, they will do nothing. I guess we need to start looking for new employment. Thanks for the headsup!

  4. previous student

    Its called business…. many times bureaucratic organizations cannot run efficiently and private organizations can operate with less waste and resources. Everyone keeps complaining about tuition increases, and yet when something like this happens that will likely save money there’s going to be people that are upset… you can’t always have your cake and eat it too.

    So…. Walgreen’s among other big names (walmart, dollar general, many fast food franchises, etc) lease the buildings from the developers/builder owners. Generally they structure the contract over x amount of years and for the most part make money from leasing the buildings. From your point of view Walgreen’s must be dumb for doing this.

    However, now the company has increased flexibility, can also write off the leasing expenses, is not now on the hook for a property for the duration of its life. If the dynamics of business change they have the option to not renew the lease. This could potentially free up billions of dollars that over wise would be required to tend to the vacant properties

    A large organization like OSU probably has 20-30% more costs associated with running this kind of operation compared to a for profit. Thus it likely would be cheaper to either lease out or sell off all the assets and re-purchase the energy.

    You have to understand business and accounting… many of which students do not learn coming out… they learn the traditional become an employee approach and do not see the big picture.

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