The safety protocols Ohio State will implement during this year’s Mirror Lake jump might do more harm than good, some OSU alumni said.
This year, access to Mirror Lake will be granted through two primary entry points to students with wristbands. The OSU Department of Public Safety plans to make sure every person attempting to jump into the lake is checked for a wristband. Wristbands can only be distributed to currently enrolled students.
In addition to the requirement of wristbands, fences have been erected by the university to filter students through the two primary entry points.
“I don’t think having a wristband will do much. I just think it will slow down the process and kind of ruin the tradition,” said Bridget Makar, a 2013 graduate in financial services.
Munib Lohrasbi, a 2013 graduate in political science and international studies, agreed.
“I think, if anything, that just increases the risk of danger,” Lohrasbi said.
Makar said that she does not think wristbands are a feasible way to control the thousands of students who participate in the jump.
“I think the whole point was to be quick. You jump in, get out and go back home,” she said. “It kind of seems like it’s delaying and making the process longer and leaves more room for problems.”
Other alumni said fences could be more helpful than wristbands.
“I have a feeling the fencing part will help in terms of directing the traffic of students better, but the wristband checking will never last through the night. People will be shoving through those entrances, with no regard for law or order,” Les Crawford, a 2012 graduate in microbiology, said in an email.
The requirement of wristbands at last year’s Mirror Lake jump, as well as the other safety protocols like fencing and increased staff, cost the university an estimated $100,000 last year.
Some people protested last year’s efforts and took to social media to plan a separate jump the night before the actual one was supposed to happen. About 1,500 people followed through and knocked down the fences to enter the lake on the Monday night before the scheduled jump.
The next night, approximately 10,000 to 12,000 people participated in the scheduled Mirror Lake jump.
This year, Department of Public Safety security personnel are set to check wristbands at the two entrance points while Student Life employees are to be stationed in the wider perimeter, University Police Chief Paul Denton told The Lantern on Nov. 17.
The increased staff and police expected to be at the lake might be beneficial if their presence does not impose on the tradition, Crawford said.
“I, for one, remember jumping into the deep end one year, not knowing such existed, and nearly drowning in such frigid water. I also know of several people who have landed on rocks or other objects in the water and injured themselves. Having extra safety officials around will be great for the safety and well-being of the students, as long as they are not too strict and ruin the tradition,” Crawford said.
Lohrasbi said, however, that the implementation of fencing around the perimeter of the lake in particular might actually put participants at an increased risk of danger.
“I think you want kids to be able to come and go as they need to. Everyone’s all hammered and running around,” Lohrasbi said. “Fencing and everything like that puts everyone in a bubble and makes everything that much more dangerous.”
Yet, Pariss Coleman, a 1995 law graduate, said that the protocols are an attempt to achieve a balance of preserving both student safety and tradition.
“Ohio State is doing a nice job of striking a balance among protecting the students, protecting the university and allowing traditions to continue, albeit more safely and responsibly,” Coleman said in an email. “The wristbands may preserve the tradition for OSU students.”
But, Lohrasbi said that when he participated in the Mirror Lake jump last year, the protocols weren’t effective.
“I think that the problem is A: it increases danger and B: doesn’t serve the purpose that they want because they’re not, you know, checking wristbands.” Lohrasbi said. “They weren’t checking them, let’s put it that way.”
“I think that the safety protocols will only get so far. Whenever they have tried to keep the jump more organized in the past, the sheer volume of students is just too much for the police to handle,” Crawford said.
Lohrasbi said that his experience participating in the Mirror Lake jump was the highlight of his Fall Semester, but the implementation of university safety protocols imposed on that experience.
“Every year it kind of got progressively worse. The last year with them putting the fences up and putting the flood lights up, trying to regulate it … the point of the night is not to be structured like that,” Lohrasbi said.
Jumping in Mirror Lake before the OSU football game against the University of Michigan is a fairly new but established university tradition. It began in 1990, OSU spokesman Gary Lewis said.
“The annual Mirror Lake jump occurring in the present form is a relatively recent phenomenon. In 1990, after a pep rally with members of the marching band before the Ohio State v. Michigan football game, 20 to 30 students jumped into the lake,” Lewis said in an email.
Crawford said that being a part of the tradition first-hand is a great experience.
“It is absurd to see thousands of students gather together for such a miserably cold experience just to show their support and dedication,” Crawford said. “It is breathtaking. Literally, the cold water ejects the air from your lungs, and your body instantaneously yells to your brain, ‘retreat!’ Being able to share that moment with your fellow Buckeye friends makes it all worth it.”
The jump is a tradition that must continue, Crawford said.
“Without the Mirror Lake jump, the legacy Ohio State University leaves behind is forgotten. It must go on, so we may continue to dominate that team up north for years to come,” Crawford said.
Coleman said that the implementation of new safety protocols might actually help to preserve the Mirror Lake tradition.
“The Mirror Lake tradition is a key component to the OSU tradition. It is a unique precursor to the building swell of emotion that will climax at the kickoff and lead to the next Buckeye victory against that team up north,” Coleman said. “OSU is allowing the practice to continue but with a premium on safety for all involved.”
This year’s jump is scheduled to occur Nov. 25. As of Monday evening, about 3,600 people had responded to a Facebook event saying they plan to attend.
Wristbands are set to be available to current students through Tuesday at the Ohio Union and the RPAC Welcome Center.