COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The jubilation of homecoming weekend at Ohio State will transition into calls for action on Sunday, as the university community approaches the first anniversary of OSU student Chase Meola’s murder.
Meola, a fifth-year marketing major from Mahwah, New Jersey, was fatally shot during an encounter near an off-campus party in the early morning hours of October 11, 2020. During the indictment of the alleged gunman, Franklin County prosecutors said the 23-year-old was killed while trying to help friends who were being threatened by the unwelcome party guest.
“Chase grew up in a town that’s right near where I live,” said Irene Hendrick, the mother of a second-year OSU student. “It was really so tragic and so shocking to me.”
Meola’s murder inspired Hendrick to create an online petition calling for safety improvements, which quickly garnered thousands of signatures from similarly concerned parents, students, and community members.
She explained, “It just said a few sentences, which were ‘Parents are outraged. Chase was murdered. Nobody deserves to be murdered at school. We need change and we need more security and more police officers on campus.’”
The solidarity Hendrick found with the petition led to the creation of an online group called Buckeyes for a Safe Ohio State. Now boasting more than 4.7 thousand members, the group regularly discusses safety concerns near campus and has been putting pressure on the administration.
“We’ve been at this for a year now and we haven’t seen much until recently,” said Allyson Reid, a co-founder of the group and the mother of a second-year student. “There needs to be a desperate sense of urgency.”
Following Meola’s murder, Reid and Hendrick noted an alarming number of OSU Safety Alerts detailing armed robberies, carjackings, sexual assaults, and other crimes near campus. The frequency of notices in the first weeks of the 2021 school year heightened the group’s mission.
In late September, the group crowdsourced enough money for several billboards around Columbus. One shows the face of Chase Meola with the phrase “One is one too many. Ohio State, protect your students.” Another reads, “College should not be a crime scene,” with the words framed by police tape.
“You absolutely have to do everything in your power because our kids are being harmed,” Hendrick said. “Imagine if it was your kids.”
University leadership has pledged changes to improve safety, including an investment of $2 million per year for 10 years. OSU President Kristina Johnson and Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther announced a joint effort to increase security patrols and add mobile lighting and cameras to highly trafficked areas off of campus.
Additionally, the school has been offering students free personal alarms, online safety courses, and discounted rides with Lyft between the campus area and the Short North Arts District.
“We appreciate everything the university says it’s going to do. We just want to see it done,” said Hendrick.
Dr. Johnson promised more patrols, mobile lighting, and mobile cameras stationed near campus ahead of homecoming weekend, but some doubt the president’s measures will garner results. Members of the Buckeyes for a Safe Ohio State group have called the solutions “temporary” and the responses to concerns “placating.”
“We really would like to know that this is a priority, not because of us, but because it’s actually a priority,” Hendrick said.
In an effort to rally more community support for substantial changes, the group is hosting a “Light Up the Night” event Sunday evening.
“We’re going to light up the night for Chase and all of those students who want their streets and their pathways to and from class, to and from exams at night, to be lit and safe,” explained Reid.
The parents have invited the school administration to attend and expect a large showing of students.
Reid added, “These kids love this school so much. They want to stay. We want them to stay – under better conditions.”
‘LIGHT UP THE NIGHT’ WALK NEAR CAMPUS:
- Sunday, Oct. 10 at 7:30 pm
- All supporters are welcome to meet at E 15th Ave and High St.
- Find details by clicking here.
You can learn more about Ohio State’s safety initiatives by clicking on this link.