Courtesy of Molly Shack
While President Barack Obama was inside the Schottenstein Center Saturday rallying supporters for his re-election campaign, a student group was outside trying to get people fired up about its own cause.
About a dozen students stood outside passing out fliers and urging students and other attendees to re-imagine a university without corporate greed.
A flier read: “Imagine if you found out that your tuition has doubled in a decade, and will only continue to rise. Imagine if the cost of parking went up, and the OSU workers that maintained them were replaced by complete outsiders to Ohio State. Imagine if you had no say over any of these decisions. It’s not just your imagination.”
Andrew Lin, a third-year in sociology, was among the group outside the Schottenstein Center. He said corporate greed is a problem because a majority of the members serving on OSU’s Board of Trustees have ties to corporations, and they make the decisions that affect the university, with one of those decisions being parking privatization.
President E. Gordon Gee sent an email to students, faculty and staff on April 23 to announce that the administration had issued a Request for Proposals from companies interested in leasing parking operations. The deadline for bids is May 30, when the administration will recommend a decision for the board to vote on at its June meeting, Gee said in the email.
The minimum bid is $375 million for a 50-year lease, but Gee told The Lantern he expects to receive a higher bid.
“My expectation is that if we’ve done the right things, that we will get a substantially higher bid, so I’m just betting that we’re going to get the $400 million,” Gee said.
Lin said Gee’s proposal to privatize parking is an example of the administration ignoring dissenting voices.
“What (Gee) said was a lie,” Lin said. “Something like 85 percent of faculty are against the deal. He’s only pretending to listen to the community.”
Some students and community members from the group Don’t Sell Our University responded to Gee’s email with a protest of parking privatization on High Street in front of the Union May 1.
Cruz Bonlarron, a second-year in political science, said that while the group outside the Schottenstein Center Saturday supports groups like Don’t Sell Our University and Stand Your Ground, it is not affiliated with them. He said the group Saturday is comprised of “independent student activists.”
Lin and others said the student body should also have a say in decisions concerning rising tuition and student loan debt, the number of years spent living on campus and the proposed Dallas Cowboys’ Silver Star Merchandising deal. The proposed deal with Silver Star would give the company exclusive rights to OSU apparel, ending 124 existing apparel contracts the university has with other companies. OSU’s United Students Against Sweatshops has been protesting the possible contract due to Silver Star’s use of overseas sweatshops since Autumn Quarter, and OSU has been in talks with Silver Star regarding the contract since spring 2010.
The group on Saturday has organized a two-day event May 16 and 17 on the South Oval where some faculty members are to bring their students for the day to engage them in discussions about what would happen if students, faculty and staff had a say in how the university is run, Bonlarron said.
“We want open discussion, and we want all of the campus community involved in the discussion,” he said. “If students and faculty get together, they can get (board members) to change their mind. … We want students to be so on board that they push the administration to listen.”
Lin said with more than 20 faculty members who have committed to bringing their classes to the South Oval, about 1,000 people are expected to attend.
While Obama’s rally might have been an opportunity for the group to raise awareness for its events on the South Oval, Bonlarron said the rally and upcoming election also show the power of students’ voices.
“That’s part of the reason why we’re here today,” Bonlarron said. “(Obama) uses rhetoric about student loan forgiveness but he hasn’t shown initiative to make education more affordable. … He may have been elected by youth, but if he’s not following through with his promises, he’s not going to get re-elected by youth.”
Some students at the rally shared Bonlarron’s concerns.
“I’ve lost faith in politics. It’s a lot of rhetoric and little action,” said Ron Jewsikow, a graduate student in finance.
Other students like Tatiana Ashkar, a first-year in political science, disagreed. She called Obama’s and first lady Michelle Obama’s speeches, for about 14,000 people who attended their “Ready To Go” Rally, “flawless” and said Michelle Obama’s speech particularly resonated with her.
“We’re just like her, struggling for fair tuition,” Ashkar said. “Everyone deserves a college education.”
Just as students have input and voting power in the next presidential election, Bonlarron said, students should have power in the everyday decisions made at the university level.
“We’re one of the largest universities in the nation,” he said. “We need to set the standard for other universities.”