We write this letter to express the widespread outrage over the university’s recent decision to allow a group of primarily non-student individuals to carry assault rifles on our campus last week. The event required no special permission from the university — a significant issue on its own. Even more egregious, however, the decision not to prevent this march came on the heels of one of the most frightening and traumatic weeks in the history of Ohio State.
As educators, we do not believe the administration has shown it supports our stated university mission “to advance the well-being of the people of Ohio and the global community through the creation and dissemination of knowledge.” Everyone on campus Nov. 28 recalls that there was reason to panic and reason to be disturbed, and that subsequently special counseling services were put in place, classes were canceled and campus regularity was disrupted. Such a fissure in the everyday climate at the university as a result of fear of violent threat has, rightfully, required time for discussion and recovery. All students and faculty are at this point stretched thin and working to beat deadlines and complete finals. Bringing visible, violent machinery onto campus this week is absolutely not in accordance with the University’s mission to promote learning first and foremost. This incident created yet one more urgent concern that we had to take time to discuss and process with our students. If these radical demonstrators truly care about educating and facilitating dialogue, they can table on the Oval or hold an open forum without guns present.
The University uses their safety alerts as infrequently as possible so as not to induce panic when unnecessary; it was certainly shocking for all of OSU to receive messages that said “Run Hide Fight” especially when the attack was also termed a “shooting” in the same communications. The attack was not a shooting. However, the OSU administration still thinks it is appropriate to 1) allow these large guns on campus in broad daylight and 2) not warn the OSU community at large that they would be right outside academic buildings. Moreover, the administration allowed this to occur just a week after members of this community thought a shooter was attacking the campus. At best, the message that OSU is sending about the use of guns on campus is confusing.
Following the attack, University President Drake concluded his message to OSU by saying, “Our top priority remains the safety and security of our campus community.” As many know, in practice, the right to carry a weapon openly is only selectively granted by law enforcement in the state of Ohio. Too many people of color, including children, have been killed by police for the possession of weapons, often weapons that turned out to not even be deadly, as in the cases of Tamir Rice, John Crawford III, and, most recently, Tyre King. It is an affront to the students and staff of color on this campus for the university to so brazenly highlight the racial double standard at play in this state, by not only welcoming a group of white activists with deadly weapons to our campus, but providing them University Police security, while. elsewhere in the state, people of different races are killed for the possession of weapons in places where such possession is not even banned, as it is on this campus.
Even given the historically sensitive campus climate, we are appalled that the university chose to negotiate the rules of the University Registrar, which state that use of university property must not, in any form, disrupt University business. In addition, the OSU student code of conduct states in item (B) that “threatening action that endangers the safety, physical or mental health, or life of any person, or creates a reasonable fear of such action” is prohibited. It is safe to say that the action of the open-carry demonstration very well could endanger the mental health of all OSU community members and certainly could create reasonable fear. When the OSU administration allows demonstrators to display threatening weapons on campus and thereby violate the student code of conduct, we no longer understand whom this campus is ultimately serving.
Shannon Winnubst, Chair, Department of Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies
Barry Shank, Chair, Department of Comparative Studies
Karen Hutzel, Chair, Department of Arts Administration, Education & Policy
Robyn Warhol, Chair, Department of English
Valerie Lee, Chair, Department of African American and African Studies
Yana Hashamova, Chair, Department of Slavic and Eastern European Languages & Cultures
Lisa Florman, Chair, Department of History of Art
Eugenia R. Romero, Chair, Department of Spanish & Portuguese
Robert C. Holub, Chair, Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures
Shari Speer, Chair, Department of Linguistics
Susan Hadley, Chair, Department of Dance
Nate Rosenstein, Chair, Department of History