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Some Ohio State students inconvenienced by closed Oval during Obama visit

Andrew Collins / For The Lantern

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Some students faced an unexpected obstacle on their way to classes and work Tuesday afternoon when the Oval was entirely closed off from public access for President Barack Obama’s visit to campus.
“I don’t understand why the whole Oval should be closed. I mean, you can leave a circle, you can use the core area of the Oval maybe, but still leave some surrounding areas open to people who do not want to see the Oval closed,” said Lili Wang, a Ph.D. student in geography who was trying to get into the William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library at about 1:45 Tuesday to “do some reading.”
Patrick Feeney, a third-year in zoology, felt similarly when he was late to his statistics class.
“I don’t think they had to close the whole (Oval) down. They could’ve left some kind of path through,” Feeney said.
Obama visited the Oval Tuesday, where he spoke to a crowd of about 15,000 for roughly 20 minutes. Rapper will.i.am performed before his arrival on Ohio State’s campus. It was Obama’s fifth visit to OSU since 2010. At the rally, Obama encouraged young people to register to vote, and his visit coincided with the last day of voter registration in Ohio.
The west side of the Oval was blocked off by fences. On the east side, Franklin County and Ohio State Police officers prevented students and visitors from walking into or even toward the Oval.
OSU buses and police mobile command posts operated by the OSU Department of Public Safety also blocked off the roads to prevent cars from coming through.
“We also did try to communicate with students … to better understand the best, any road closures or pedestrian closures that would be temporary just for the presidential event,” said university spokesman Jim Lynch.
University Police was involved in making the security plans for the event, but it did not make the final calls on what security measures would be taken.
“It wasn’t our decision (to block off the whole Oval),” said OSU Deputy Chief Richard Morman. “It was at the request of the Secret Service and the (Obama) campaign.”
He added that for high-security events such as the Tuesday rally, there are two perimeters created: inner and outer. The inner perimeter is the area where the actual event takes place and where there are people, while the outer perimeter is a large area surrounding the event where no one is allowed to be so that security can keep a better eye on the inner area.
University Police declined to release the number of officers on duty at the event, Morman said, but they were assisted by the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and the OSU Student Safety Services within the OSU Department of Public Safety.
Some students admitted if they had paid more attention to the notifications OSU sent out before Tuesday, they would have been better prepared for the altered route.
“I didn’t really pay attention to the emails that were sent because I thought they pertained more to road traffic than pedestrians or bicyclists so I didn’t really read them,” said Celia Wright, a second-year in exploration. “If I had read them, I would’ve been more prepared for this, but I didn’t, so it’s kind of my fault.”
Other students disagreed and thought that there was no good way to prepare.
“You can plan a little bit, but you really don’t know the layouts. Obviously they’re not gonna tell you that ahead of time, so that doesn’t interfere with the president any, but it’s just a matter of safety, so I guess it’s just kind of the state of mind we’re in today after 9/11,” said Andrew Metzger, a fifth-year in agricultural engineering.
But despite the inconvenience, most students agreed that it was worth it to have Obama on campus.
“It’s inconvenient, it would’ve been nice if they could’ve done something else, but I don’t know what they could’ve done,” Wright said.

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