17:58 PM

Reflections: Honoring Chase Meola; racial justice, diversity and inclusion

In weekly message, President Johnson encourages Ohio State community members to get a flu shot

President Kristina M. Johnson sent the following email to The Ohio State University community today (Oct. 19). 

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

We continue to mourn the tragic loss of Chase Meola, a student and dedicated friend to so many on our campus and in our community. His family, friends and loved ones came together on Saturday to celebrate his life and honor his memory.

As I shared last week, this terrible crime has left us shaken and concerned. Ohio State, in partnership with law enforcement and neighborhood leaders, has launched the University Task Force on Community Safety and Well-Being. It will deliver an initial report in the coming weeks with a focus on identifying, implementing and advocating for additional approaches to address violence, crime, and high-risk activities and behaviors. We will keep you updated as members of this standing task force start their work. 

As Buckeyes, we will continue to come together during this difficult time, offering each other support and being here for one another. It’s the example Chase left for us, and we will honor it.

Below are several updates since my last reflections email.

COVID-19 updates

Because you are wearing masks, staying 6 feet apart and practicing good hygiene, Ohio State continues to be a leader in fighting COVID-19, and we are able to continue to be on campus together living, working, researching, teaching and learning.

This month, the university expanded testing to include selected asymptomatic faculty and staff whose job responsibilities require them to have consistent or sustained in-person contact with other members of our university community. Employees eligible for this program will receive an email from the university explaining the process. We continue to build on our existing protocols, which include regular testing of undergraduate, graduate and professional students, and opportunities for faculty and staff to voluntarily receive a COVID-19 test. To be more efficient and effective, we announced that the university will transition student surveillance testing to an on-campus lab and scheduling/results delivery tool. This change will allow us to test and process results more quickly and affordably, and further improve the experience at our Jesse Owens North testing facility. More information is on the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website.

Overall, we have conducted more than 146,000 tests. The seven-day average positivity rate for all students has declined for more than a month and is now at 0.8%. We are keeping a close eye on developments in the communities in which our campuses are located. Last Thursday, Franklin County moved from orange to red in the Ohio Public Health Advisory System. We must remain vigilant in following our Safe and Healthy Buckeyes requirements to ensure we can continue living and learning together.

Please also remember that it is flu season. With COVID-19 and the flu circulating at the same time, it is important to get a flu shot as soon as you are able. Information and guidance on where to get a flu shot are available on the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website.

Racial justice, diversity and inclusion

I continue to meet with Task Force on Racism and Racial Inequities members who are making progress in developing an action plan modeled on a National Research Council-style report that presents Findings, Recommendations and Grand Challenges. 

Three ideas the group is working on: 1) developing a publicly available diversity dashboard to support Ohio State’s efforts to be a more equitable community, in terms of transparency and accountability; 2) offering ways to standardize diversity and equity training on our campuses; and 3) creating a university-wide, comprehensive strategy to develop a talent pipeline. The goal is to increase diversity at all levels among students, faculty and staff. All of these efforts will help Ohio State become a national leader in recruiting, retaining and graduating diverse undergraduate students – who will then become our graduate and professional students of diversity and our researchers and postdocs of diversity. This talent pipeline willin turn, transform the diversity of our current and future administrators and faculty. We are The Ohio State University and are certainly capable of leading the nation in this area.

Ohio State joined the American Council on Education, Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities in urging the federal government to withdraw a recent executive order that would inhibit our ability to fight discrimination and racism. 

Additionally, I want to encourage you to register for the first of four webinars in the Ripe for Change: Conversations on Race in America series. I will join task force co-chairs James L. Moore III, vice provost for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer, and Tom Gregoire, dean of the College of Social Work, for the kickoff discussion tomorrow, October 20. This webinar will be moderated by Molly Ranz Calhoun, president and CEO of The Ohio State University Alumni Association. The series is coordinated by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and our Alumni Association, in partnership with Ohio State Alumni Magazine. Future webinars will be held on October 28, November 12 and November 19.

Cheering on the Buckeyes

We are excited to welcome our Ohio State student-athletes back to competition. It is critical that we maintain a safe and healthy environment to protect these athletes as well as ourselves from COVID-19 and so they can continue to play for a national championship. Our football Buckeyes face Nebraska in the ’Shoe at noon this Saturday, October 24, and the game will be televised on FOX. Only families of players and official personnel will be at the stadium, and attendance will be limited to no more than 1,600 people in alignment with health and wellness recommendations. Families of our student-athletes will receive first priority for in-person attendance, and our Athletics Department is utilizing a limited number of working personnel as part of the ongoing effort to prevent the virus from spreading.

Most of Buckeye Nation will not be able to sit in Ohio Stadium but will cheer the team from afar. While we do that, let’s remember to wear masks, stay 6 feet apart and practice good hygiene so we can enjoy the return of this beloved fall tradition. We have one shot at getting this right, and I know our Buckeye family is up to the challenge. Together As Buckeyes, we can tackle COVID-19. 

To help us all “homegate,” our Athletics Department will launch a second-screen streaming experience through social media and ohiostatebuckeyes.com. The stream will feature segments like TBDBITL performances, hype videos and more. You can also get in on the action by sending in your own photos in real time to be added to the stream.

We want you to be safe, Buckeyes. We also want you to have fun. I will see you, virtually, at kickoff.

Transportation to the polls

The November 3 general election is just over two weeks away, and it is important that we participate in this critical democratic exercise. Early voting is already underway, and OSU Votes and the Department of Transportation and Traffic Management are partnering again this year to offer free transportation for Ohio State students to the Franklin County Early Voting Center. COVID-19 safety precautions will be in place, and you can register at the Office of Student Life’s Student Activities webpage.

On campus and in our communities

There are so many ways that Buckeyes are making an impact. Below is a top 10, in no particular order, for the week. Please continue to send me your highlights.

  • We were proud to announce our 2020 Royal Buckeyes, two students elected from our Homecoming Court. This year’s Royals are Ose Arheghan and Ishan Patel. I know you join me in recognizing all 22 members of our Homecoming Court. These students were chosen for their leadership, integrity and contributions to our community, and I was delighted to be part of this month’s virtual recognition ceremony. This year marks the 108th anniversary of Homecoming at Ohio State. Though we cannot celebrate as we usually would, our students continue to exemplify the unshakable Buckeye spirit. 
  • Glenn Daehn, professor of metallurgical engineering, has been recognized with the Ohio Faculty Council’s annual Technology Commercialization Award. The award recognizes a faculty member in the state university system in Ohio for exceptional research discoveries and for supporting the translation of those discoveries into the marketplace.
  • Congratulations to our colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Optometry and Veterinary Medicine. Each has been honored with the INSIGHT into Diversity magazine 2020 Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award. Ours is the only academic institution in the nation with four recognized colleges.
  • Ohio State’s LiFEsports (Learning in Fitness and Education through Sports) has been recognized for its community engagement initiatives by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. More than 8,000 low-income youths have participated in the program’s summer camps, year-round sports clinics and youth leadership academy.
  • Two research groups in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering received great news on the same day. Led by Professors Liang-Shih Fan and Bhavik Bakshi, each group was awarded $2 million by the National Science Foundation for their projects to create value from stranded natural gas and eliminate end-of-life plastics.
  • College of Education and Human Ecology Professor Jackie Goodway has been named to the National Academy of Kinesiology’s Class of 2020 New Fellowsa recognition of her distinguished contributions to the field through scholarship and professional service.
  • Biochemistry graduate student Zhaozhe Chen is using the Milliron Research Wetlands at Ohio State Mansfield to conduct research into a low-cost, environmentally friendly way to remove harmful nutrient pollution from lakes, wetlands and streams in Ohio and elsewhere. On six artificial floating islands, he is growing plants that work with naturally occurring bacteria to clean the water.
  • Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Chair Jim Gregory won the 2020 Frank G. Brewer Trophy. The award, presented by the National Aeronautic Association, recognizes significant contributions of enduring value to aerospace education.
  • The Ohio State Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute (DHLRI) is exploring a new treatment approach for atrial fibrillation, the leading cause of stroke, heart failure and other complications. This month marks 20 years of excellence at DHLRI, which opened as one of the first freestanding research sites for the study of the heart and lungs.
  • A collection of essays published by The Ohio State University Press is a finalist for a National Book Award. “How to Make a Slave and Other Essays” by author Jerald Walker is being considered in the nonfiction category.

I look forward to sharing more next week. In the meantime, I’ll see you on campus, via Zoom, and on Twitter and Instagram. As a reminder, you can sign up for office hours with me, too.

Sincerely yours,

Kristina M. Johnson, PhD

Share this

Share on: Twitter
Share on: Facebook
Share on: LinkedIn