Through a process laden with secrecy, the administration at the Ohio State University is negotiating the sell out of our school’s energy systems. This deal includes all of the power plants on campus, as well as the responsibility of procuring energy and delivering it to the university.
Let’s get one thing straight: No corporation would bid on our energy systems unless it intended to make a profit off our public school. When asked point blank at the Undergraduate Student Government Town Hall meeting on Jan. 28 whether fossil fuel corporations were bidding on the contract, administrators told the room, “We are not disclosing the names of the corporations and companies that are bidding at this time.” Some students astutely pointed out that administrators are likely to wait until it is too late to let us know who is taking over our school.
Furthermore, administration behind this deal told members of United Students Against Sweatshops that the measures to hold the potential buyer accountable to our sustainable demands were “classified.” Environmentalists’ dreams of seeing the university source from 100 percent renewable energy can go out the window.
But those who will suffer the most from this decision are people whose voices are already silenced at our university. The easiest way for a company to increase their profit margins is to cut what they call “operation” costs. This is often achieved through cutting wages of workers. Our campus workers keep our heat running, our water flowing, our sidewalks clear and our university functioning. Their work is vital, but often goes unrecognized. Continued corporate assaults mean that there is no job security for any of our campus workers, thus posing a threat not only to power plant workers but all campus employees.
Indeed, since 2006 the amount of civil service employees working at the university decreased by 10.77 percent. And workers are not the only ones whose livelihoods are on the line. Data collected by Institutional Research and Planning tells us that also since 2006, the number of tenure-track faculty was reduced by 9.6 percent, enrollment of African-American students has decreased 1 percent and tuition has increased 30 percent.
What, if not supporting student diversity, tenure-track faculty hires or campus workers, does our drastic increase in tuition support? Hiring more administration, whose numbers have risen 26.3 percent since 2006. In light of this data, I seriously doubt that a corporate takeover will benefit the Buckeye community.
We as students cannot stand idly by as our administration guts the dignified jobs of our fellow Buckeyes and sells off control of our energy sources. Our administration has been lying to us. It is corporatizing our school under false pretenses of sustainability, but we cannot dare risk privatizing the profit while socializing the harm. Professor Emeritus Bruce Weide stated previously, “Unless there is some sort of student uproar over continual obfuscation of the truth, I cannot imagine why the administration would change its ways.”
As people who pay a tremendous amount of money to go here, we have so much more power than we know to influence the university. I am not OK with going into debt so that our university administrators and corporate CEOs can profit off the people who are treated the most unfairly. We need a truly democratic university, one that doesn’t treat student voice as rubber stamps, but actually values our ideas and initiatives.
We are always taught in our classes about ways to make a difference once we graduate, but we can make that difference right here, right now.
Ohio State University, Class of ‘15