Ohio State students will likely suit up for the Mirror Lake jump as they do every year: a variety of swim trunks, T-shirts, duct-taped flip flops and body paint.
But this year all students attending in any capacity will have to sport the same accessory – a red wristband. And instead of running to the lake from any and all directions, students will have to file in through one opening in a wall of chain-link fences.
OSU officials announced Sunday there would be increased safety and security efforts for the Mirror Lake jump Tuesday night. That enforcement will play out in the form of chain-link fences around the Mirror Lake area and a requirement for students to wear a wristband for admission to the event.
Jumping in Mirror Lake before the OSU football game against the University of Michigan is a university tradition. Tuesday’s weather forecast for the jump predicts a high of 36 degrees and a low of 24, with a 30 percent chance of snow, according to the Weather Channel.
The event has never been sanctioned by the university, something OSU Student Life Vice President Javaune Adams-Gaston said isn’t going to change.
“It’s not a university-sanctioned event,” she told The Lantern in a Sunday interview. “We really aren’t focused on the sanctioning versus the not sanctioning, it’s really about how can we help our students be safe as possible.”
Adams-Gaston’s weekly message from Student Life Sunday detailed the measures OSU will be taking to implement the changes, including limiting the area to one entrance point with multiple exits and requiring students who are participating or just watching to wear wristbands.
The wristbands are being given out at the Ohio Union through Tuesday at midnight, and students must present a BuckID to receive one. There are as many wristbands as there are students, Adams-Gaston said.
There are 57,466 people enrolled at the OSU-Columbus campus for Fall Semester 2013, according to the OSU Statistical Summary.
The wristbands can also give students access to free food at the Beat Michigan festival Tuesday on the South Oval, which is set to have activities including a zip line, pumpkin smashing and an interactive graffiti mural. Adams-Gaston’s message said while free food will be available to the first 4,000 attendees, students will need wristbands to get the food.
She said students were consulted during the process of deciding how to handle this year’s jump.
“We have students generally and we have student leaders and we consult with them and they give us their input and we appreciate it,” she said, adding that she is unconcerned about negative student reactions. “I have great faith in our students, I know that change is difficult and people have the right to have views about that change, but I also know that our student population is one that is spirited and not disruptive.”
OSU Undergraduate Student Government President Taylor Stepp said Sunday he does not support the new plan.
“Personally, I think that as a result of the precautions they’re taking, this could in fact create a more unsafe environment for the night,” said Stepp, a fourth-year in public affairs. “(The event is) chaos. People are jumping into a freezing cold lake for goodness sake, but there have not been widespread injuries … We have the potential for more heinous injuries and more widespread injuries.”
He said as of Sunday afternoon, the feedback had largely been negative.
“I haven’t seen a single positive comment about the changes,” said Stepp, who has jumped in Mirror Lake and plans to do so again this year. “I can tell you that this (change) is not something (USG members) support, we made that very clear to the administration.”
University Police Chief Paul Denton said the wristbands are intended to provide an extra safety measure.
“The wristband is a method to make sure that our students, who are our priority, have access to this event, a safety method so to speak,” Denton told The Lantern Sunday. “This is a student-centered event.”
Adams-Gaston said it will largely be Student Life employees checking wristbands for admittance.
The death of a former OSU student earlier this semester had prompted conversation about how to handle the annual event.
Tushar Shriram Kabre, age 28, died Sept. 19 at the Wexner Medical Center after being pulled from Mirror Lake Aug. 18 and placed in the Intensive Care Unit in critical condition. His cause of death was near drowning, but his manner of death is undetermined, Franklin County Coroner Jan Gorniak said.
Kabre “received a master’s of science in chemistry degree in Autumn 2011” but he was not currently enrolled at the university, an OSU spokeswoman confirmed.
Some OSU alumni said the death might have prompted the restrictions.
“I’m sure that’s the motivation behind it, but I just think that takes a lot away from the experience,” said Dave Gaglione, who graduated in 1998 with a bachelor’s in education and majored in sports and leisure studies. “I only jumped in once but all the five years I was a student at Ohio State, I went down there and kind of watched it … It was just fun to be with a bunch of other people who cared about Ohio State football as much as I did and cared about the university as much as I did and hated that team up north as much as I did.”
He said while the regulations might not make the jump more dangerous, he does think they open up a window for new problems.
“There’s more chance of things going wrong with the (fences). I can see people standing in line trying to push their way through … If it’s not a police officer, then regulating that entrance is going to be a risk,” Gaglione said, adding that people could try to climb the fences. “They’re creating problems where there weren’t ones before.”
There is typically an increased police presence in the area and lights are set up to illuminate the lake. University Police, Columbus Division of Police, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Columbus Division of Fire, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and MedCorp Mobile Medical Services were present at the Nov. 20, 2012 jump.
Some students said they aren’t taking the measures seriously.
“I definitely see why they are trying to do it — prevent all sorts of risky behavior, it’s just going to be a little bit hilarious seeing how they’re going to implement it,” said Chandni Pawar, a fourth-year in chemistry. “They should be investing a lot more in safety but I don’t know how well this wristband and more organized action is going to work trying to regulate something that is meant to be so chaotic.”
Others said they think the fences and wristbands will magnify students’ emotions in a negative way.
“I don’t think it’s going to go over well for the university, it’s going to cause more anger,” said Jenny Westendorf, a second-year in speech and hearing science. “A selected few are going to get a little out of hand and climb the fences and tear them down.”
Some OSU athletes spoke about the event Sunday as well and said they’re waiting to see what happens with the new regulations.
“I don’t know the details of it, I’ve just heard that it will be kind of fenced off. There will only be one entrance and that you’ll need a wristband,” said Sam Thompson, a junior forward on the OSU men’s basketball team, at a media availability. “I’m kind of curious just to see how it will all work out because in my experience, I’ve always remembered people coming from all directions and stuff like that. I don’t know, I trust the university officials to get it done.”
Aaron Craft, a senior guard on the team, was unconcerned with the new measures.
“It’s going to be interesting. I think, like Sam was saying, it gets pretty crazy that night anyways,” Craft said Sunday. “Maybe it makes it worse, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it makes it better. I’m sure we have a lot of students out there trying to find a way around it right now so it’ll be fun to see what happens but you gotta roll with it and we’ll see what happens.”
Eric Seger and Daniel Rogers contributed to this article.
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