This past Spring, the Ohio University Board of Trustees decided to purchase a $1.2 million dollar property (plus furnishings) for Ohio University President Roderick McDavis (and Deborah McDavis). This would have been a gross misspending of University funds, a clear indication of the OU administration and Board’s self-serving priorities at a time when students everywhere are drowning in debt by the time they receive an undergraduate degree. Not only that, but the $1.2 million property is owned by John Wharton – a landlord of many properties in the Athens area who apparently had also offered donations to OU’s athletic program around the same time this deal was being planned. This is not unprecedented behavior on the part of those pulling strings at the top of corporate ladders, and now elitist, wealthy businesspeople are securing their grip on higher education through positions on Boards. These people make decisions that affect entire Universities, from students to faculty to the surrounding community – and they often receive no input from the people who should be wholly and solely involved in every aspect of the educational process: students and teachers. (It’s also not uncommon for Universities to seek out donations for athletics while neglecting the needs of other programs.)
When students and faculty heard about the OU Board’s plan to buy this new house for the president, they raised their voices. Many faculty co-wrote and signed a letter condemning the decision, and students and community members spread the word in the local newspapers and through rallies. Stories of the students and faculty’s efforts were partially told by new outlets such as the New York Times. Eventually, the Board announced their plan to back out of the deal, and while they responded as though they had no idea they could have been acting with “impropriety”, we knew their real sentiments were more like the tagline of the villains from Scooby Doo: “And we would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!!” (replace kids with students, faculty, and Athens community)
I’m fucking sick of this. I’m sick of people with a ton of privilege and money being handed all of the resources and decision-making power over things that have widespread impact on other people’s lives. Not only have the administration and Board at OU abused their power and funds against the desires of students, they have made construction decisions which are dangerous to the community Ohio University is a part of. In order to reach an upcoming EPA deadline to reduce their use of coal as an energy source, the Board decided to build a natural gas pipeline to pump fracked natural gas under the Hocking River and to a designated facility on campus. The fracking process has already been widely protested due to dangerous wastes produced during the process, but the natural gas industry is doing everything they can to convince people that natural gas is a safe and superior alternative to coal. It’s still a non-renewable energy source, and it still produces at least as much waste as coal-burning – just at different points in the process. And natural gas pipelines have been known to rupture, leading to explosions and contamination of nearby areas. So, rather than investing in renewable energy alternatives – which they should have been doing for a long time now – OU’s Board has decided to put off this switch for as long as possible, and now they’re scurrying to guzzle up just enough natural gas to make the EPA’s coal reduction deadline. This further invests them in the fossil fuel industry. Other renewable energy options are available. They don’t care. They don’t give a shit about any of this. They care about their pockets.
Now, they’re trying to find some kind of loophole so they don’t have to release their communications and information on business deals to the public. Conor Morris (who also published emails and a timeline of events involved in the $1.2 million housing deal) wrote about it in this article: http://www.athensnews.com/news/campus/ou-trustees-vote-to-establish-affiliated-entities-policy/article_42f24084-1db6-11e5-baee-ff3f3a99a2e1.html
At the same time, emails have just been released in which Board member Steven Schoonover – who is also a donor to the University – told other Board members they should play the “race card” in response to protests over the plans to buy a $1.2 million dollar house for President McDavis. You can read his full email and the comments of agreement from multiple other Board members in the following article, also written by Conor Morris: http://www.athensnews.com/news/local/major-ou-donor-suggested-in-email-pulling-the-race-card/article_78a0a1c0-274e-11e5-987f-d33f3cffc5d2.html
SO, you have a white, wealthy donor, who is also allowed to serve on a University’s Board of Trustees, getting pissed because students and faculty think they should have a say in how their educational institution works and how it uses its funds, which include the tuition for which students are going tens of thousands of dollars in debt – the NERVE – and telling a bunch of his colleagues that they should pull the “race card” on behalf of the University’s Black president…even though he clearly thinks it’s ridiculous when anyone calls out racist Republicans for their remarks on the president of the United States. Holy fucking Jesus. But this isn’t even remotely uncommon. This is the white patriarchal capitalist. Entitled. Selfish. Hateful. There are people with his attitude everywhere. Educational institutions included.
It’s depressing and enraging to think about. One tiny step we can take right now at OU to challenge elitist corporate abuse of our education is to demand that Steven Schoonover and the other Board members who agreed with his statements resign, and that the Board makes all of its communications, donor information, and financial dealings open to the public. Please sign this petition, so we can pressure this to happen: