Ohio State University President Michael Drake was interrupted Thursday afternoon while delivering his State of the University Address in the Moritz Law School.
More than 20 members of the OSU chapter of the United Students Against Sweatshops filed into the William B. Saxbe Law Auditorium and delivered a speech voicing their views on the impending energy plan.
The university is currently considering proposals from private groups that might meet OSU’s sustainability goals and energy operation standards, as part of an energy management plan.
The winning partner will be tasked with maintenance, upkeep and operation of the campus’ energy systems, including electricity, natural gas, chilled-water cooling systems and steam-generated heating systems.
“We the students of Ohio State University are calling upon our president to hear our voices. Administrators are putting corporate profit over education, selling off energy systems to fossil fuel corporations through a secret process that lacks transparency,” the group said in unison.
The protesters continued to express their opposition to the potential environmental threats and the possibility of jobs leaving Columbus.
“It will not save the environment. Ohio State will burn more fossil fuel,” the group said during the protest. “It is a threat to the budgets of departments, and faculty might be charged an energy bill. And it is an attack on campus workers who will lose decent jobs and benefits.”
Lainie Rini, a recent graduate of OSU, was involved in USAS last semester and remains active in its planning and execution of events, including this protest during Drake’s address.
“Not only are we upset because we would no longer have any control over where Ohio State gets its sources from, or that we don’t have control over whether its renewable resources,” Rini said. “We are also very upset about the possibility of Ohio State, when they do sell out, firing all of their workers who make decent wages, get good benefits, and are long-time residents of Columbus who would now be put out of a job.”
The organization planned various protests and demonstrations around campus during Autumn Semester concerning its dissatisfaction with the talks of the comprehensive energy plan.
Drake acknowledged the group during the question-and-answer session after finishing his address.
“I must say there is no plan,” he said. “We are still in the phase of talking with potential partners about things that might happen, but we don’t know what that is.”
Drake also commented on the notions made in the speech regarding the environmental implications, praising OSU’s efforts to remain an environmentally friendly school and stating that the university is committed to decreasing its carbon footprint.
Chris Davey, an OSU spokesman, told The Lantern that the students who interrupted the State of the University Address had been given ample opportunities to voice their disagreement.
“To suggest that students do not have a voice in this process is not supported by the facts. It is unclear with all of this opportunity to meaningfully participate why these students would find the need to shout,” he said. “The comprehensive energy management project team has met with them already and listened to their concerns and answered their questions. One of their leaders asked questions at the recent University Staff Advisory Committee Town Hall … They asked to be on the University Senate agenda and are scheduled to speak at the Steering Committee.”
Rini said there are many more events in store for the upcoming semester.
“From our point of view, the democratic process never worked in our favor,” Rini said. “The democratic process doesn’t listen to our voice, and if it does, it only gives us a small bit of representation before (the process) decides to go along with what everyone wants to do anyways.”