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Drake says energy privatization won’t happen unless standards are met

University President Michael Drake speaks at the William B. Saxbe Law Auditorium on Jan. 21, 2016. Credit: Lantern File Photo

University President Michael Drake appeared on WOSU’s “All Sides with Ann Fisher” on Thursday, March 8. While on-air, he discussed the university’s push for energy privatization, allegations of research fraud placed against OSU researcher Carlo Croce, the trademarking of The Oval and the potential effects the newest travel ban could have on students.

OSU is in the process of narrowing down applicants working for a deal with the university to control the heating and cooling of class buildings for 50 years. Addressing those skeptical of the length of the deal, and loss of transparency once a private partner takes the reigns, Drake said that the privatization is necessary to reduce the campus’s carbon emissions and energy footprint.

“We need to have a partner we can work with to help us do a better job of that over time so a big part of this plan, a big part of what we will be evaluating over the next couple of months is whether or not working with a partner will help us achieve our sustainability goals,” he said. “That’s a very important part of this. We would want to achieve our sustainability goals, period.”

“I think we can just do a better job at managing our energy.” — Michael Drake

He added that the university isn’t locked into a deal, and wouldn’t enter one that it didn’t find beneficial. Drake also said that he hopes the university becomes more efficient in the way it uses energy through the privatized arrangement.

“We have certain buildings now that are too hot in the winter and too cold in the summer … I think we can just do a better job at managing our energy,” he said.

OSU is requiring that whomever they choose to partner with must keep up with and provide maintenance to buildings, as well as heating and cooling systems. Some students have expressed concerns over job and benefits security for those currently working in those positions at OSU.

The companies currently in the running for this contract are not available for the public to see, because that would hinder their efforts in putting together an offer with the appropriate protections, Drake said. No proposals have been viewed, but when they are under consideration Drake said he is looking for three to four points of interest in the plans: improved sustainability on campus, maintenance management and reasonable financial considerations.

Any financial gains as a result of the deal would be invested in students, faculty and staff, Drake said.

Conversation on-air then turned to allegations detailed in a New York Times article this week that OSU researcher and chair of the College of Medicine’s Department of Cancer Biology and Genetics, Carlo Croce, falsified research data.

An OSU spokesman told The Lantern and The Times that OSU has outspent the amount of money that Croce has brought in through grants — $86 million over 12 years — in its facilitation of his research, and decried any implication that the university tolerated falsified research for monetary purposes.

Drake said that the allegations of research misconduct resulted in an investigation in January from three outside experts who looked into university processes on handling misconduct.

“They found that our policies met national standards. We wrote a letter back to the New York Times questioning some of their conclusions,” Drake said.  “They’re not quite finished with the review on if we followed all of them — they’re nearly done a day or two from now — and all the things they’ve found show that our policies were appropriate and that we followed them appropriately.”

Additionally, the topic of President Trump’s updated travel ban that temporarily suspends immigration from six Muslim majority countries — Iran, Libya, Syria, Sudan and Yemen — that could potentially affect 93 students at Ohio State.

“Knowledge is something that circulates around the world and good ideas come from people all around the world and one of the best things about universities is that we bring people together from all over Ohio but also all over the country and from all around the world,” Drake said. “We want to make sure that we can continue doing that.”

He said that the U.S. Constitution and higher-education system draws people from all corners of the globe to Ohio State.

“So we as The Ohio State University as a world prominent university have connections to people from all over the world and want to make sure that the ability to people to travel appropriately is something we maintain,” Drake said.

Drake also gave insight into the pending trademarking of The Oval. He said the efforts are not so much about potential monetary gains, but more so on protecting Ohio State’s brand.

“We have iconic places or iconic things that really represent us we in some cases feel that it’s important that we’re the ones who use those symbols,” he said.

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