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Letter to the Editor: Efforts to democratize campus extend to energy privatization

Ohio State students join together in front of President Michael Drake’s office during in a sit-in at Bricker Hall on April 6. Credit: Mitch Hooper / For The Lantern

Ohio State students join together in front of President Michael Drake’s office during in a sit-in at Bricker Hall on April 6. Credit: Mitch Hooper / For The Lantern

During the April 6 protest and occupation of Bricker Hall by the #ReclaimOSU movement, Ohio State’s Senior Vice President for Administration and Planning Jay Kasey addressed the student leaders: “We simply tell you the truth, and you live with your actions.”

Consider this a one-line summary as to why students, teachers, workers and other members of the OSU community are assembling and taking direct action against the university administration.

We want a more democratic university administration, one that is responsive to and acts with the best regard to the interests of the OSU community. The reason we are taking action is because we do not feel that these concerns are currently being addressed.

This movement did not come from nowhere. Students, teachers and workers at this university are fed up with how this university is being run, and we are tired of being ignored. Last week, The Lantern reported a faculty survey showing extreme dissatisfaction with the goals and direction of the university administration.  Among the results, more than three out of four (76.4 percent) of surveyed faculty “disagreed” or “strongly disagreed” with this statement: “The idea of ‘monetizing’ OSU’s assets (e.g., the recent 50-year lease of the parking facilities, and the planned sale of OSU’s power plants and power grid) is a good one,” while less than one in 10 (7.8 percent) agreed or strongly agreed.

United Students Against Sweatshops has been leading a campaign against the administration’s efforts to privatize OSU’s energy supply. This process has been neither transparent nor conducted with the best interests of the OSU community at heart. The administration has consistently refused that the OSU community has a right to know which companies are currently bidding on our university’s assets or how they intend to make their money. The university has not even conducted its own internal audit, so we are literally in the dark when it comes to knowing a baseline for current energy efficiency and usage.

Not only do we lack clear information about how the university can already better manage its current energy usage, but the administration is refusing to consider whether or not the university is capable of leading on its own commitment to sustainable resource management. Rather than following the lead of universities like the California Institute of Technology and Kalamazoo College, which have developed in-house and on-campus sustainable energy programs, the administration would prefer to delegate this authority to a private corporation. This would take the responsibility out of OSU’s own hands, thereby denying us the opportunity to lead the university’s own commitment to sustainability.

Privatizing OSU’s energy supply would further remove the capacity for accountability and oversight from the university community. We are speaking and acting out because we already believe that we are not being represented and our interests denied. Why would this be any better if greater control of university resources is taken from us and given to private corporations? The university insists it must inhibit transparency so as to protect the interests of the private corporations. But what about our interests? How can we as students, teachers and workers ensure our interests if we cannot know how the private corporations will make their money?

This movement to democratize OSU’s campus, to fight for greater accountability, transparency and university control by the OSU community ourselves, is not going away. On April 21, students, teachers, workers and others in the community will be assembling on the South Oval to take further action against privatization. We encourage those who are concerned about this matter to please join us.


Reed Kurtz

Doctoral candidate, Department of Political Science


Editor’s note: An earlier version of this letter was revised after consultation with leaders of United Students Against Sweatshops. 


  1. Stay with it. Say NO to privatization. Say NO to secrecy. OSU is a public institution. OSU should remain public and serve the faculty and students, and NOT private self serving interests!

  2. Changing OSU Administration policies and practices will require recruiting and electing true conservative Governors [Kasich is a big government, lawless, “Progressive”] long enough to replace all the Trustees with like-minded true conservatives, who may then replace the administration with more true conservatives. Hard work requiring constancy over time.

  3. Thank you to the Lantern for publishing my letter. A couple of additional points I would like to acknowledge: first and foremost, one of the most striking and inspiring aspects of these student-led movements is to be found in the diversity of their leadership, particularly the extent to which the leadership is predominantly female, and especially women of color (something I first took note of at the ‪#‎OSU2Mizzou‬ rally last year). On a flagship campus whose student population as a whole does not actually reflect the racial and socio-economic diversity of the state of Ohio, I think the diversity and inclusiveness of these movements – working to bring together not only students from different backgrounds, but faculty, workers, and other members of the broader OSU community – speaks volumes about both the character of the movement’s leadership and the quality of their goals. I am so proud that we are standing together and taking action here at Ohio State. Second, another point that I did not adequately address in my letter is the extent to which #ReclaimOSU represents not only the rich tapestry of the OSU ‘body,’ but it also encompasses a wide variety of organizations (at least 11 different ones) with a variety of goals and objectives. Without intending to homogenize the movement or gloss over the various positions and debates in the struggle, I do want to emphasize the extent to which we do see our struggle as collectively oriented towards democratizing the university and reclaiming OSU from its corporate bureaucrats. I don’t see this as being about a singular movement, or a particular organization’s goals or desires, but rather a collective effort to ensure that our diverse and heterogenous interests are being represented and acted upon. To me, that is what it means to “reclaim,” or democratize, OSU. Last but not least, I do not claim to be speaking on anybody else’s behalf but my own; that is, not as a ‘representative’ of the movements per se, but rather as a fellow participant and comrade. Hence it is my intention that this letter be interpreted as part of the ongoing dialogue and actions – whose roots go much deeper than my particular intervention and are more complex than I could possibly adequately represent in my own words – to make this university work better for the OSU community.

    • Missed opportunity

      Reed, you should have run for CGS President.
      Please consider running for University Senate immediately.
      We need as student like you in a position that has the backing of the graduate strident body to be a real activist on behalf of graduate students.

  4. The editor of the Lantern should have spent less time reading letters more time editing as the date for this edition was printed wrong on the front page….journalism people.

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