Thousands of Ohio State Students Defy Police Orders, Storm Barricades

Citing frustration with
overzealous safety rules, thousands of Ohio State University
students defied police orders and stormed through barricades to
participate in an annual school tradition on Monday.

Once a year, Ohio State students show their mettle by jumping
into the frigid waters of a pond called Mirror Lake. This raucous
custom, which last year drew 15,000 people, had gone largely
undisturbed for two decades. This year, however, university
officials decided a major overhaul was needed after one student
died following an unrelated, isolated drowning incident in

The university’s newspaper, The Lantern,
the extent to which administrators went to deprive the
event of any spontaneity or danger and make it more like Soviet
breadline than a night of collegiate camaraderie:

OSU officials had announced there would be increased safety and
security efforts for the Mirror Lake jump… Fences were installed
surrounding Mirror Lake with one designated entrance spot and
multiple exits. Students, whether jumping or watching, were set to
be required to wear a wristband issued to those with [student
identification] only for admission to the area.

University police also used their squad cars to act as
additional barricades around the perimeter.

School officials overestimated the students’ complacency. Campus
Police Chief Paul Denton told the school paper over the weekend
that he didn’t anticipate students resisting the planned protocol,
but said the police were prepared to handle it if they did. Vice
President for Student Life Javaune Adams-Gaston said, “I know that
change is difficult and people have the right to have views about
that change, but I also know that our student population is one
that is spirited and not disruptive,”

The Columbus Dispatch
that despite the presence of several dozen officers
guarding the area, the collegians knocked down the six-foot fences
and jumped in defiance of the restrictions. Reports vary on how
many students participated in the protest last night, but the
newspaper ballparks it in the thousands. Once the students
began flooding in, the police declined to stop them.

One student told the Dispatch that defying the
administrators was her “way of protesting the university telling me
when, where and how I should jump.”

“We wanted a night that is unregulated and something the
students can own and can continue a really fun and really great
tradition,” another student told the school paper.

Ironically, the attempt to micromanage the situation could have
backfired for the school, the Dispatch notes:

And there’s an odd angle to Ohio State trying to control the
jump, said at least one lawyer. The university could be increasing
its liability if a student were to get hurt once wristbands are
required, said Gerry Leeseberg, a Columbus lawyer who specializes
in wrongful-death and personal-injury cases. “The more control they
exert, the further the risk they take,” he said.

from Hit & Run

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