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USG University Address talks affordability, energy privatization

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USG President Abby Grossman speaks during the 2016 State of the University Address at the Union on Feb. 9. Credit: Michael Ittu | For The Lantern

USG President Abby Grossman speaks during the 2016 State of the University Address at the Union on Feb. 9. Credit: Michael Ittu | For The Lantern

From welcoming the vice president of the United States to campus for an “It’s On Us” campaign event to launching a new student safety mobile app, Undergraduate Student Government president Abby Grossman and vice president Abby Waidelich have had a busy first semester. The duo touched upon these highlights and many more Tuesday night during USG’s State of the University Address, but both student leaders ultimately emphasized one common theme: Neither has plans to slow down anytime soon.

“Although Abby (Grossman) and I may be facing our final hurdle, we are far from finished,” said Waidelich, a fourth-year in biological engineering, to a crowd assembled in the Great Hall of the Ohio Union. “There are many projects and initiatives we still have to execute and we won’t stop working for Ohio State students until our time is done.”

Waidelich began her speech with a summary of topics that have been at the forefront of USG discussions throughout the academic year, including reformation of meal plans, evaluation of the Campus Area Bus System and support of House Bill 201, a proposed underage alcohol consumption-immunity law.  

Worth special mention was the General Assembly’s Dec. 3 vote to end the Mirror Lake jump following the death of Austin Singletary, a third-year in human nutrition, who died from injuries sustained during the 2015 jump.

“Many remarked that this was the most effective General Assembly meeting students, staff, administrators and members of the community ever attended,” Waidelich said. “This was definitely the most contentious piece of legislation this year, and it was a proud moment for me to watch the respect and maturity of the student senators.”

The resolution passed with 35 aye, 6 nay and 6 abstained votes.

Waidelich also shared her passion for college affordability.

“Affordability, as you have heard, comes in all shapes and sizes, and there is not only one answer to solve it,” she said. “As students, we have taken it upon ourselves to be critical in every single meeting of shared governance that student dollars are being used and reviewed.”

Waidelich called upon her peers to adopt this critical attitude, especially as the university discusses the topic of privatizing energy.

“As students, we must have an active voice in these processes. Just as we have been critical as students, every decision-making position at this university must be just as critical,” she said. “This balance is not just for the students in this room, but also for the future Buckeyes that will be attending Ohio State for generations to come.”

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.

Grossman, a fourth-year in math education, also mentioned the university’s Comprehensive Energy Management Plan, which she called an “extremely divisive issue on campus,” in her speech.

“It was clear that climate change would need to be a priority for USG this year and for years to come … While USG has had a part in the current advisory groups and we do believe that we should progress to the (request for proposal) stage, we can only support its further progress if more comprehensive information is disseminated to the advisory groups and that there is an avid commitment to carbon neutrality,” Grossman said, adding that programs like the campus bike-share system have allowed OSU students to “work towards a more sustainable campus.”

Members of USG said they were pleased with the range of topics included in the speeches.

“I’m just extremely happy that they mentioned the carbon neutrality. I think that’s probably the first time that’s ever been discussed in the State of the University, so I don’t think there’s anything that I’m disappointed by,” said Samuel Reed, a third-year in environmental science who serves as the USG sustainability director.

Samer Abusway, a second-year in computer science and engineering, said he is looking forward to what Grossman and Waidelich plan to do during the remainder of their time in office.

“I really (liked) what the Abbys had to say. It gave a good reflection on the progress USG has made this year,” said Abusway, who serves as USG deputy director of academic affairs. “It also highlighted what work is yet to be done, which is good to see that they still have goals. Their time isn’t over.”

Michael Ittu contributed to this story.

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