Mirror Lake was the topic of discussion as members of the Ohio State community gathered for a forum at the Ohio Union Wednesday night.
People voiced opinions about uncertainty surrounding this year’s Mirror Lake jump during the first of a three-part forum hosted by Undergraduate Student Government.
The tradition where OSU fans jump in Mirror Lake the week before the OSU-Michigan football game could be threatened by various unconfirmed plans to change the water source to the lake and re-landscape the surrounding area.
Wednesday night’s forum, which took place at the Ohio Union, served as an opportunity for students to weigh in on the recent changes.
“Maybe for the first time we can establish a solution that more students will be happy with,” said Celia Wright, USG president and fourth-year in public health. “Trying to change a tradition that is so popular because it is spontaneous and rebellious is difficult to do as we try to implement measures to make it safer. The only way to accomplish that is to heavily involve student opinions.”
Jay Kasey, senior vice president for Administration and Planning, was in attendance Wednesday evening and said the university is not trying to keep the lake from students.
“Our belief is the lake is there for our student body,” he said. “And we are not going to try to fence it off, or restrain you from enjoying the beauty of it.”
The lake was drained after last year’s jump to allow for work on a roughly $28,000 sustainability study aiming to prevent water loss because of leaks in the lake’s structure. The study was also set to address maintenance issues related to deterioration of the lake’s walls. The study, which concluded in July, ultimately determined that groundwater is a viable option for sustaining the lake, officials have said.
Mirror Lake was refilled in early August with water from a recently-dug well that cost an additional $30,000, but a final design for Mirror Lake is set to be chosen in early November. In the meantime, officials have said, the lake could be drained again.
Last year, OSU installed fences around Mirror Lake and required students to get a wristband for entry. In protest, some students jumped in the lake the night before the planned jump.
Members of the OSU community discussed different solutions at the forum, and also talked about what the jump meant to them and shared past memories during the gathering.
While those in attendance differed greatly on solutions for the event, the overwhelming theme was communication. Multiple people said lack of communication between the university and the student body regarding the fences made things worse.
“We need to make sure we have a great dialogue with the administration,” said Daniel Zimmerman, a third-year in microbiology. “We can’t keep having things sprung on us like we did in previous years. Transparency is crucial.”
Other students were concerned with illnesses and infection that sometimes follow the jump.
“There is a large number of students getting illnesses after the jump due to the cold,” said Erik Leiden, a fourth-year in world politics, who serves as the senior counselor to the USG president. “If towels and a place for people to keep belongings were provided, I think that would help.”
Alcohol was another topic of conversation.
“There are thousands of students and a lot of them are intoxicated, and that’s a problem,” said Abigail Grossman, a third-year in math education. “If we could get safety booths around the lake and off-campus areas that would help. Some students don’t even know they’re cold. That could help with some of the health issues.”
Afterward, some students in attendance said they thought the discussion was proactive.
“I believe the jump will happen this year,” said John Kaczmarek, a second-year in economics and political science. “Whether it will be a university-sanctioned event and to what degree the university will be involved is speculation. I believe that in November there will be thousands of Buckeyes jumping in Mirror Lake.”
Danielle Di Scala, a second-year in political science, left the event with optimism as well.
“Students know that precautions must be taken to make the event sustainable,” she said. “They expressed the sentiment that they’re willing to compromise, but we need greater transparency from university administrators.”
Experts in logistics and safety are expected to weigh in during the next two phases of the discussion on Sept. 17 and Sept. 24 at the Ohio Union.
Khalid Moalim contributed to this story.