May 11, 2007
On a sultry spring day, the center of Ohio University's campus was busy doing what institutions of higher learning are supposed to do: engaging in a lively exchange of ideas.
On the west portico of Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium, where just a few weeks ago more than a thousand Ohio University students paid candlelight tribute to Virginia Tech, a succession of speakers took the podium in front of a modest crowd. They aired their opposition to the administration, protested sports cuts and called for change. Onlookers listened quietly and clapped at intervals.
Supporters in the crowd demonstrated their solidarity.
"From this we hope some types of changes are made in leadership," student senator and former swim team member Matt Bell said.
"The problem is, bad things happened, and the events that led to them were ignored." first-year student J.C. Wamsley, said. "McDavis has stood behind these bad decisions, and he's making these decisions without our input."
Just across the street at Howard Park, a roughly equal group of students, staff and faculty members were marching and chanting their support for President Roderick J. McDavis. Nearly every person carried a sign with messages such as "Undeniably Qualified" and, simply, "We Support McDavis." The energy was high, the sentiment positive.
"This is a great campus. Students sit on at least 50 committees, so they do have power and a voice," sophomore Michael Adeyanju said. "Why pay Dr. McDavis to run the university if the students are going to make all the decisions?"
"I love his leadership style because he's visible on campus and he cares about students and listens to their feedback," Tinayo Kangai, a graduate student from Zimbabwe, said. "I've been on other campuses where you never saw the president."
Near the war monument, another gathering watched campus-touring evangelist Brother Micah try to save a few souls from his sidewalk pulpit. The audience was variously engaged, curious and dozing.
Although some may dismiss Brother Micah as a character, there is no dismissing the important discussions surrounding religion on campuses today.
Throughout the hour or so, a casual crowd strolled the fringes. There's no telling if protesters or preacher racked up any converts among the undecideds, but they certainly got everyone talking. Meanwhile, the media laid it all down on film, recorders and paper.
And then the thing happened that demonstrates what gives Ohio University its singular character. After a while, the group from Howard Park crossed the street and carried signs in silence past the auditorium protesters as they finished up their talks. Despite how passionately each group felt, the anti-group turned the mic over to the pro-group to present its side of the debate.
No one took umbrage at the act. In fact everyone, including a few of the most ardent protestors, voiced the same sentiments as freshman Lindsay Moore.
"I was happy that both sides were able to speak. There were some really good opinions shared," she said. "This is the first step in activism."