Home » Opinion » Letters to Editor » Letter to the Editor: Energy privatization attempt lacks transparency, community involvement

Letter to the Editor: Energy privatization attempt lacks transparency, community involvement

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McCracken Power Plant located on OSU’s campus at 304 Annie & John Glenn Ave. Credit: Michael Huson | Campus Editor

McCracken Power Plant located on OSU’s campus at 304 Annie & John Glenn Ave. Credit: Michael Huson | Campus Editor

Transparent means “honest and open,” according to Merriam-Webster, “not secretive,” “easy to notice or understand” and “able to be seen through.” Up to this date, the Comprehensive Energy Management Project and the facilitators behind it have been anything but.

At a series of campus community meetings that I attended regarding the CEMP, numerous objections were raised by a diverse group of people who will be personally affected by this deal. Professors, students, community members and workers at Ohio State are confused and unhappy with the proceeding of the CEMP.

At a Jan. 28 Undergraduate Student Government town hall on the CEMP, despite requests from audience members, the panel refused to even name potential partners. They cited that doing so would reveal “trade secrets.” The last time I checked, the name of a corporation is not a “trade secret.”

In this same meeting, the panelists shared that current employees will only be offered an interview for their jobs with the potential partners. This is a complete lack of job security. Why can’t the university guarantee their jobs? Facilitators of these meetings continue to stress that the university is writing the terms of the contract, therefore it is ridiculous that the future for these workers and their families is uncertain. The university will not disclose why they refuse to offer these hardworking individuals their current jobs, but you can believe that it is because they are union-busting the Communication Workers of America, Local 4501.

My jaw hit the floor when I received an email on Feb. 22 stating that the university has decided to move into the third phase of the CEMP, the Request for Proposals. This is in response to the three meetings held less than one month prior, in which I only heard concern after concern. We simply do not know enough about this deal to move forward.

So many questions are left unanswered. How will a private corporation profit from this deal? How will this affect faculty research and teaching budgets or the already sky-high costs for freshmen and sophomores living on campus? How will affinity research affect the academic freedom of world-class researchers on campus? Why do we think a private corporation can better determine the research agenda than people who have dedicated their lives to knowledge production? What will the administration privatize next and how many jobs will the university sacrifice for that lump-sum check? These meetings were held simply to pacify the public. Despite the pushback, administrators have no problem pushing the issue further along.

I am troubled that the university did not consider involving the rest of the Buckeye community until the plan had reached its second phase. Everyone connected to the university will be impacted by the sell-out of our energy systems. Every voice needs to be a part of the decision-making process considering that this project is projected to be a 50-year lease. Fifty years. Everyone involved with this project will be long dead. Can we afford to lose control over our university and our energy for 50 years?

I do have this piece of information to offer: The university has said that in the terms of the potential contract, the selected contractor would have to pay a fine every time that it fails to meet the sustainability goals of OSU. This means that it could be beneficial for OSU to choose a fossil fuel corporation, because it could use dirty energy and have the school turn a profit every time that occurs.

This is infuriating, but if we make our voices loud enough, the university will listen. Students have the power to make the difference we want to see. United Students Against Sweatshops is a student-worker solidarity organization — join our campaign to Stop the Sell Out! Go to our website, sign our petition, read our report explaining our concerns in more detail. Come to our meetings on Thursdays at 7:15 p.m. in the 18th Avenue Library Room 070. Join our rally on the South Oval at 3:30 p.m. on April 21. Tell President Michael Drake why you don’t want this deal to go through: email him, call him. Your voice matters, make sure it’s heard.

 

Jed DeBruin

Third-year in geography

United Students Against Sweatshops Local 42

9 comments

  1. This is nothing new for a university that believes it is an exception.

    – They fail miserably at public records request.

    – They rewrote the policies of the Board of Trustees so it is no longer possible for the public to ask a question or request in advance through their secretary in writing to address the Trustees in the public meetings – those are just giant back patting sessions where each committee head reads a report and then says the committee met in executive session. Meetings are now a farsical consent agenda aside from the early portion when honors are conveyed to students, etc.

    – tOSU has had the whistle blown many times at how they conduct personnel searches. Bravado convening a search panel who get completely disregarded for their input when a decision is made behind closed doors often to someone who ranked low on the search committee’s list…

    – Faculty used to be held in high regard. They were promoted from within because of their deep understanding of academia. Now we see fewer and fewer tenured faculty with the option now to hire lower paid, less experienced lecturers and adjunct faculty who are at will and can be tossed easily. It’s a travesty.

    But welcome to a new, but definitely not better The Ohio State University where it’s leaders are more and more corporatized. Hiring corporate cronies – many who were marginally successful in the corporate ivory towers – to take fabricated vice presidencies that seem will outnumber tenured faculty in number. These are folks who don’t have a vested passion for tOSU or have any legitimate experience in academe.

    Transparency? I think not unfortunately. I miss the old, better tOSU where campus campaigns engaged all bottoms up versus the new tops down model that alienates.

  2. I too, a staff member, was surprised to see it was going into Phase III. I was at Moritz when Drake spoke and saw the students interrupt his “speech” (which was nothing to hear, as it told us absolutely NOTHING about the “state of the university” and just a bunch of hogwash about how he loves this university (BULL)). I really started following this when I saw the students protest. But, it boils down to the usual. This will be just like the parking lease. No one is going to change their mind. It was made up in Phase I. If it gets them a lump sum of cash, then they’ll go for it no matter what anyone says. And instead of it going towards something meaningful (like real student scholarships, not $1,500 in help and raises for staff that are completely UNDERPAID), it will go towards more administrative positions that aren’t even around right now (as Sad Alumni said, fabricated vice presidencies and other administrative positions that will be created with the “new” money).

  3. Must Be Anonymous

    Read the RFP. The university maintains significant controls and sets very ambitious goals for efficiency increases and reliability of service delivery.

  4. Asleep at the wheel

    Faculty leadership is asleep at the wheel.
    They’ll past anything for a 3% raise for themselves.
    Thats all they care about… not the students rising debt, not the overworked/way underpaid/and constantly disappearing staff, not the health of the University.
    Just getting as much cash as they can out of this institution so they can continue to do nothing in the Senate afterwards is the ONLY thing they’ve complained about on a consistent basis for years.
    The parking concession got passed cause they were promised a payoff from the windfall of cash.

    Its almost hard to blame them based on the salaries their colleagues that made the move to administration are making… no wonder they are jealous.
    Ultimately, though, their complete lack of activism and leadership in University governance is a huge factor in what the Board is able to get away with.
    But they’ll sure constantly complain in the classroom and to students how bad the University is run… they just won’t lift a finger of their precious tenure to do anything about it.

  5. What shared governance

    The BoT’s decision-making authority ought to reside with the Faculty Senate. With delegates from the other stakeholding groups. If it did, you bet the priorities of the university would shift toward something more sustainable for everyone. This is a land-grant institution that’s supposed to be a place for learning and research. So who better to steer it but the people who actually do this work, people who would carefully deliberate the far-reaching impact of a decision like whether or not to sell off public infrastructure to multinational corporations, whether or not to trade good-paying jobs with union protections for part-time poverty jobs without union protections, whether or not to trash shared governance in the process, whether or not to ignore informed student and community voices.

    What, does university now mean “trove of lucrative short-term profits served up to the executive class”?

    • Asleep at the wheel

      I completely agree with you… but the problem is the faculty are either bullied into submission by the administration or apathetic. In reality, you give them too much credit. The state of academia is more about “whats in it for me” anymore than any notion of public service.

      The Senate can barely maintain a quorum on a regular basis because the majority of its members, the faculty, don’t even show up for meetings. Couple this with the fact that the best faculty are discouraged from being involved in governance due to their numerous academic commitments and/or their dept chairs, and you then have a majority of the faculty senators that are either absent, uniformed, lack the courage to take a stand, or are quietly awaiting their call to the administrative ranks.

      Tenure is meaningless anymore except in the occasions that faculty check out completely or are abusive in any way… in that case they sure do become aware of their tenure protections all of a sudden.

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