Home » Campus » Alumni » Those close to Austin Singletary speak out on significance of Mirror Lake’s closing

Those close to Austin Singletary speak out on significance of Mirror Lake’s closing

A student walks by Mirror Lake on Oct. 12. Ohio State started draining the lake on Oct. 11. Credit: Nick Roll | Campus Editor

A student walks by Mirror Lake on Oct. 12. Ohio State started draining the lake on Oct. 11. Credit: Nick Roll | Campus Editor

Construction on Mirror Lake is now underway, and with less than a month until the annual jump was expected to occur, friends of Austin Singletary are speaking out about the end of the tradition.

Singletary was a third-year in human nutrition when he died after sustaining injuries he received while jumping into the lake last November as part of an unofficial tradition that took place before the OSU-Michigan football game.

Ohio State began an 18-month construction project on Oct. 11 which is set to include a redesign of the area. The result is set to include a design of the lake with a sloping entry lined with wetland marsh, making it nearly impossible for students to jump into the lake.

The design’s focus, Ohio State has said, is to create a more sustainable and historically accurate depiction of the lake.

Kyle McKinney, a second-year in business, was close with Singletary, and referred to him as his cousin, though they are not related. He said Singletary’s tragic death is now being viewed by some students as the reason the jump is ending, creating a negative attitude surrounding the incident.

“I don’t think that one person can be a scapegoat for a tradition being ended,” McKinney said. “I don’t think that one person should be blamed or one person should receive a negative portrayal of themselves because of one event.”

OSU has said that ending the jump, while a university priority, is a byproduct of the construction and redesign, but not its intent.

“The jump ending is a consequence of the construction, but not the driving factor in restoring the grounds,” OSU spokesman Chris Davey said when the renovations were announced. “This is the culmination of years of planning and discussion that involved the student body.”

Steph Bitto, a third-year in accounting who met Singletary through mutual friends, said she thinks students who are upset about the jump ending didn’t know Singletary, so they only see him as “a kid who jumped in a lake and died.”

She said she thinks this misrepresentation of Singletary and his death is why students have reacted to the construction and ending of the jump in a critical way.

“I’m sure that if I was on the outside looking in and did not know him as person, I would feel the same way. But if you really think about it — it’s the smart move to do,” Bitto said. “(Students) have to remember that it’s someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s friend that went through this and they have to deal with that for the rest of their lives.”

AJ King, a spring 2016 graduate who was Singletary’s mentor through a program run through OSU’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, said he understands the frustrations that students feel about the loss of a tradition. However, he also said he doesn’t believe the jump is worth the risk.

“We can still get drunk … but we don’t need to jump in the lake,” King said. “After the loss of Austin’s life — someone who would have done amazing things at OSU and beyond — it’s time to shut that down.”

Bitto said the tradition was an accident waiting to happen, which is why she feels relieved that the lake is no longer being an accessible area for students to jump into.

“It’s not safe, and it’s awesome that there can be new alternatives,” she said. “To have something else and to block it off and drain it is better off for everybody so no one else gets hurt.”

King argued that the Mirror Lake itself carries more significance than the relatively new tradition of jumping in it.

“Before the ’90s, people weren’t jumping in the lake like that and we got along just fine,” King said. “I see the lake as a huge part of the culture of Ohio State. I completely understand that and I support that notion. However, the jump itself clearly is extremely dangerous.”

Nick Roll contributed to this story


  1. when i attend TOSU the mirror lake jump did not exist.
    when i heard of this” new” tradition, frankly i missed the point and thought it was dangerous and not good for the lake or the health of students. now that a tragic death has occurred the tradition seems to be over. this is no ones fault and to put blame on anyone is pathetically immature.

    time to grow up and move on ..make a new tradition and be sane.please.

    steve. class of 1974

  2. Please, stop believing everything the administration tells you. They have known for years the jump was dangerous, and have wanted to shut it down for a long time. Student pressure – and the threat of moving the jump to the even more dangerous Olentangy River – kept them from acting to stop it. The tragic death of Singletary provided the window needed by OSU’s leaders to make a move. They always were going to do so; it was just a matter of when.

  3. You should probably provide opinions from people who don’t support this happening as well. One sided=bad journalism.

  4. Such a fine piece by these student writers… I was a freshman at OSU in 1961 [ we were ‘freshmen’ – only a few years before male first year students were made to wear beanies women students were still called coeds ]. Some students went into Mirror Lake when the weather broke in the Spring but it was not on the list of official customs, honor society rituals etc. There was a kind of working hard at OSU traditions – I think its because about 55,000 students were crammed onto this one campus in Columbus back then. Mirror Lake was very smelly come about May – it was explained by University grounds and structures staff that Mirror lake was a closed pond and had to be drained every year else the alge and other crud would build up to a toxic level. So we students were given this very good reason to stay out of the pond – but like I say – a few went in anyway and got ear infections 🙂
    Roger Barriteau class of 1965

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