When University President Michael Drake sat down with The Lantern on Monday afternoon, his main message was one of communication. In addition, he looked to the future of traditions and diversity at Ohio State.
Communication during student protest
In April, student protesters staged a sit-in at Bricker Hall, where President Drake’s office is located. The coalition of student organizations involved included Real Food OSU, United Students Against Sweatshops, Still We Rise, OSU Coalition for Black Lives and the Committee for Justice in Palestine. One of the coalition’s main causes was transparency between students and the administration.
“In one of the communications there was a particular statement that was made that students were subject to expulsion,” Drake said. “And that wasn’t true. It never would happen. It won’t happen. There are things students can do that would result in them being expelled. But you have to do something that makes you not able to be part of the community. Participating in a demonstration is not one of those things.”
Drake said he found out about the comment — which was made by Jay Kasey, senior vice president for administration and planning — after the fact. Drake also described the threats of arrest made during the sit-in as “a poor choice of words.”
“We don’t want to arrest people,” Drake said. “We do it rarely and almost always it’s a bad day for everyone. If someone says a student was arrested, that’s always the beginning of a difficult sentence for me.”
Drake said there have been discussions with some of the involved groups, to hear what they have to say, throughout the spring and summer, as well as meetings that have occurred as recently as the past couple of days.
“We try to be good listeners,” Drake said. “We really try. We try to be great listeners, actually. The particular outcome was one we would avoid at all costs.”
The Lantern reached out to several students involved in the protest, but did not immediately receive comment.
Mirror Lake jump and university traditions
After Ohio State student Austin Singletary died during the Mirror Lake jump last November, Undergraduate Student Government passed legislation supporting the cessation of the tradition.
“We care about tradition,” Drake said. “We like tradition. We believe in wearing traditions like an old suit of clothes rather than a suit of armor. We don’t want to be bound by things that aren’t working for us.”
Drake added USG is currently working on a new tradition and way to enforce a ban on the jump, but said he couldn’t speak on any details.
When asked about diversity on campus, Drake answered immediately.
“It needs to get better,” he said. “In our university there’s a couple of things that we need to get better at and one is making sure we provide opportunity for people across the distribution that makes our country great to be able to take advantage of the real benefits that you and I have being affiliated with such an incredible institution.”
Drake referred to his student job in medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, which involved outreach and diversity recruitment. He won an award for his work and it is displayed in his office. He said increasing diversity in higher education is “not a new quest” for him.
“We can’t fix it overnight, but we can continue to try to be better,” Drake said.