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Drake talks admission standards, free speech on campus

Ohio State President Michael Drake speaks to Lantern staff during a filmed interview Wednesday evening. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

Ohio State President Michael Drake said he is still looking to take the university from the “A” level where it currently stands to the “A+” level it hopes to achieve when he sat down for a wide-ranging interview Wednesday with The Lantern.

Drake spoke in depth about the rising admission standards at Ohio State as a record number of applicants seek an Ohio State education, as well as his thoughts on the construction taking place on campus.

Admission Standards

As the median standardized test scores continue to rise for Ohio State’s incoming students and admission rates increase from year to year, Drake assured there would always be room for those wishing to attend, although some students might have to take a different route.

Drake said as the value of an Ohio State degree goes up, naturally there will be more people applying for what he called “a limited number of spots.”

The average ACT score for incoming students in 2016 was a record high of just over 29, out of a possible 36.

“It doesn’t mean that there is more competition for a place in Columbus or that we can’t accommodate everyone that might be qualified,” Drake said.

Actually, there is more competition. 2017 was a record year for applicants at Ohio State, seeing 52,349 apply. Compared to 2011, when 29,247 prospective students applied, it’s clear the growth and interest in Ohio State is profound.

Drake pointed toward other options for students wanting to eventually land at Ohio State.

“We have our regional campuses, we have a great partnership with Columbus State and so every year in [Ohio Stadium], when we’re granting degrees to the thousands and thousands of students, thousands of them began their education, their collegiate education, someplace else,” Drake said.

Construction on Campus

While acknowledging the construction currently going on across High Street, Drake said construction is inevitable and to focus on the parts of campus that aren’t under construction and pointed to recently finished projects like the new North Campus dorms and the James Cancer Hospital.

When I drive streets that are closed I think, ‘My goodness, who is doing this?’ And say, ‘Oh, maybe I am, oops.’ – Ohio State President Michael Drake

“There are some places in central campus and on 15th and High that are under construction actively now,” Drake said. “They’ll be done soon, and they’ll be better than they were, and that’s great. I’d love it that all of it were done before now and paid for and finished, but it’s a continual process of being the best in the world that we’re always changing.”

It remains to be seen if the projects, such as 15th and High, will be done soon. Erin Prosser, director of community development for Campus Partners, the nonprofit extension of Ohio State overseeing the project, recently told The Lantern in an interview to expect a completion date sometime in 2020 for the entire project.

Drake added that even he hits dead ends when driving around campus amid the construction.

“We know we’re all inconvenienced in a variety of ways and it’s a part of creating the university of the future and I think we’re always going to be that way,” he said. “When I drive streets that are closed I think, ‘My goodness, who is doing this?’ And say, ‘Oh, maybe I am, oops.’”

Free Speech on Campus

Drake said there was no specific instance or conversation that led to Ohio State changing its policy and banning window art of messages.

“I just want to make sure we’re consistent, and be straightforward about that,” Drake said when talking about why the policy was changed this year.

Undergraduate Student Government is scheduled to vote on a resolution opposing the ban. If the resolution is passed it would be taken to university administration as a recommendation, holding no official mandate.

Drake said this topic is “a big issue” in reference to the role that colleges play in protecting freedom of speech.

He said the university looks to other colleges to form its policies and continues to take the First Amendment into account when considering free speech and expression on college campuses.

“So, universities are a place where [free speech] is practiced every second of every day, around the clock, 365 days a year,” Drake said.

When asked about the recent bill introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives aimed at protecting the freedom of expression on college campuses and if the bill was necessary, he again pointed to the First Amendment, saying it “has done pretty well thus far.”

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