Police Response outside of Watts Hall, the site of an attack.

Part Two

Campus Partners for Urban Community Development

Among OSU’s most glaring if rarely noticed institutional failures is its so-called Campus Partners for Urban Community Development. As I demonstrate in detail in a forthcoming study, this almost 30 year front partners only with developers, never with or for urban community development. It actively neglects the University District whereby any measure of vision, planning, or common sense, its attention should focus.

Its series of contradictions is encapsulated in its self-presentation or identity as a university-based but independent non-profit organization to beneft private developers. Always lacking in planning and direction, it does just that, to the cost of the university’s losing millions of dollars.

Campus Partners’ actual partners are Wagenbrenner/Thrive and Edwards Company developers. It specializes in purchasing structures, especially along High Street east of the campus, by dramatically overpaying for properties compared to assessed values, knocking down long-loved structures (and a small number of dive bars that the City of Columbus should have closed); then holding the properties far too long. And finally selling them at a substantial loss to large developers, dramatically destroying the historic and businesses frequented by generations of students and neighbors along High Street across the street from the main campus.

The horrendous result is the combined impact of loss of the “university area,” by constructing a 5-6 story brick wall of under-occupied, over-priced “luxury” student apartments. Concretely, through Campus Partners, the “university in the city” is physically isolating itself from the city it (sometimes) claims to serve but has always neglected. The history of self-segregation and urban neglect stands out within OSU’s decidedly mixed, contradictory, and unadmitted history.  

But Campus Partners’ failures, mismanagement, and dishonesty do not end here. Only a few weeks ago, they announced first that they are “building a temporary park” on High Street in the middle of the largely vacantly brick wall because “another office and retail building was planned, although now it appears as if it will be a [sic] least a couple of years before anything is built on the site….” (Brent Warren, “Temporary Park Planned for High Street Across from OSU,” ColumbusUnderground, Nov. 23, 2022)

At the same time, through informal channels, Campus Partners is literally begging for suggestions for free occupants to fill the many vacant spaces. This would be comic if it weren’t a university-community and environmental tragedy.

Worse, however, is Campus Partners all but total refusal to “partner” with the university community, especially the historic University District (UD) always home to most students and long home to a great many faculty and staff. On one hand, Campus Partners refused the requests of faculty and UD homeowners, and students, to purchase for-sale properties for the creation of student residential “theme houses” which are successful and popular across the US and the world. Both Academic Affairs and Student Life, characteristically, were absent in any discussion.

On the other hand, and also unlike other universities, Campus Partners refused to develop and enact a plan of action to both purchase for-sale homes (including from retired or moving faculty) for resell to incoming faculty and staff, or a responsible program to assist potential buyers with mortgage assistance. The only efforts were trivial and unpublicized.

Campus Partners is a complete failure largely unknown to the university itself and to the community. (See among my many essays on the University District and OSU, “Living in a University District: How universities and their cities fail both homeowners and student renters,” Times Higher Education, forthcoming, and in greater detail, “Disconnecting Gown and Town: Campus Partners for Urban Community Development, Ohio State University,” under review.)

Campus (un)safety: University and Columbus Police joint failures

As I also detail in these pages, OSU is unable and/or unwilling to maintain a safe environment. This failing precedes Kristina Johnson’s coming and will persist after her going. Her uninformed flailings, sloganeering, and inaction made a bad situation worse in 2021-2022, both on-campus and off. She over-reacted to a relatively minor increase in reported offenses in the late summer and early fall of 2021, dramatically exaggerated the problem, and responded with verbal and physical slogans, not plans or actions. In the process, she alarmed both students and parents.

In fact, OSU did more in the UD when we moved here in 2004 than since, sloganeering excepted. There were occasional campus safety officer patrols and a 24 hour. “hot line,” with full-time staffing. All that disappeared without notice or explanation.

In response to incomplete late summer 2021 reports and one earlier fraternity house shooting, Johnson illegally demanded the installation for show of portable lamp posts that were placed close to existing permanent lights and shined directly into drivers’ eyes and private homes. In addition, OSU formed part-time Buckeye Block Watchers who walked but did not actually watch only parts of the area and received no direction. Additional Columbus Police Department (CPD) officers stood in groups by their bicycles under streetlights or sat unmoving in a patrol car for hours on end. There was almost no actual patrolling.

The Ph.D. in Engineering president attempted to claim enormous percentage changes in reported crime based on single-digits for which percentages and trends are irrelevant. Despite the bluster, we have no trust-worthy data. OSU gave up its own failing efforts to record crimes and also send very tardy warnings to students and residents in late winter 2022. It now depends on the laughably incomplete and late CPD-related LexisNexis daily reports.

Johnson’s much-touted but never developed or funded campus and campus-area safety plan is forgotten. Block Watchers are largely imaginary. Part-time “joint” OSU-CPD two-person teams do not respond to residents’ calls to police nor take any action against the offenses (including noise, alcohol, illegal structure, and trash) most often reported by students and homeowners. As far as I can tell, they are another physical slogan like Johnson’s lamp posts that did more harm than good.

Student Life, who has for decades refused to provide basic information to students on the most relevant laws and students rights, offered students free, small, hand-held noise makers and videos on self-defense. This is totally useless when a single student is confronted by a gun or a gang, police—and common sense--admit to me. It is another OSU physical slogan.

Similarly, more than a year after reports of 100s and 100s of student, staff, and faculty stolen vehicles, especially Kias and Hyundais, OSU student government and campus police “partner” in providing free steering wheel locks

Rampant rapes in the dormitories and fraternities (and fraternity secondary rental houses) are only discussed by students themselves especially as second year students rush to evade residential requirements. Similarly, discussion of constant robberies and attempted robberies is among completely among students themselves.

At this time, Campus Safety is very slowly expanding. But in OSU fashion, the rate of increase is greater at the administrative level than in the field. There is now a chief and at least two deputy chiefs for a force of 70-odd officers.

Campus safety, whether by OSU or CPD, or together, fails. Try to walk safety on campus itself amid the robots and scooters. Other universities and cities require scooters to be either locked in specific locations or placed only in designated spots. Not OSU or Columbus.

Student Life but not student lives

Having recently published “How universities fail their students: The president may be ‘born to be a Buckeye,’ but the students are not. A call to eliminate Offices of Student Life and invest directly in students’ lives,” Busting Myths, Columbus Free Press, Nov. 10, 2022, I do not wish to use my space and time rehearsing that.

Student Life and especially the Willie J. Young, Jr. Off-Campus and Commuter Student Engagement Office do not engage with either students or off-campus homeowners, many of whom have relationships with the university. By all accounts, the major direct engagements are a free truck 4-5 times each year with the truck invariably arriving late, and very occasional distribution of tardy, incomplete, and inaccurate safety information.

For almost two decades, my neighbors and I have urged Student Life to provide basic—much needed and much desired—information to on- and off-campus students about relevant laws and expectations, information about the University District itself, students’ and tenants’ rights, accurate information on rentals and specific landlords, and the like, including when and how to deal with trash and recycling.

For almost two decades, we have only unmet promises. Despite a scattering of less than clear recent new postings, its website is an incoherent mélange of failures to serve, protect, and communicate. As far as I can tell, all work is conducted by unsupervised work-study and volunteer students. I do not know what the full-time paid staff do. No one has any regard for the actual residents, especially long-time homeowners, in the University District whose welfare is assaulted.

     Overall, Student Life’s on- and off-campus scattered, uncoordinated efforts—I cannot call them a program or plan—work toward infantilizing and juvenilizing a population of young people who face perhaps the most challenging time in American history to grow up and mature, a set of problems that I often write about. (See, for example, “Growing up was always hard to do. It’s getting harder, and universities are doing little to help,” Busting Myths, Columbus Free Press, Sept. 26, 2022)

From third year students “counseling” first and second years in the required dormitories (that second years are fleeing) to little protection against sexual assault, instead of professional advising and systematic safety, OSU students are told to consult Brutus Buckeye or turn to Carmen, Ohio. The failure is colossal.

For a substantial period of time, the head of Off-Campus and the responsible Associate Vice President of the 11 came regularly to my home with coffee and cookies to seek my advice. They stopped suddenly last winter under orders from the president’s office, I am certain.

Since that time, I attempt periodically to reach them explicitly about dealing with problematic and most recently nearby student tenants and one landlord’s active harassment and illegal activities. Student Life’s refusal to both communicate with and assist a member of the OSU community who is a UD homeowner is a direct violation of their terms of employment and the avowed mission of the Office. It also materially affects my own, my wife’s, my home-owning neighbors, and many of the students’ well-being.

With no response, I filed a complaint with OSU’s Office of Human Resources. I also informed the State of Ohio’s Commissioner of Higher Education. The latter responded professionally and supportively and told me that he would urge OSU to communicate. The former refused to respond. After repeated prompting, the director of Human Resource informed me that I “hear very soon” from Legal Affairs.

(Il)Legal Affairs: The Office of Obstructionism and Institutionalized Illegality

After four days, I wrote to four apparently relevant attorneys in that office. Finally, I received an email from a fifth person whose title—of course—is Senior Associate General Counsel and Director of Legal Operations & Strategic Initiatives. Senior Associate? Legal Operations? Strategic Initiatives? Only at The OSU.

She wrote to me in violation of all norms, proprieties, and the fundamentals of the law itself. I have witnessed this for almost two decades as the modus operandi of OSU’s nationally-known for obstructionism Office of Legal Affairs.

This young woman who is not a member of the Columbus Bar—unlike her, I research my subjects—began by lying: “The Office of Human Resources [who refused to reply to me], in collaboration with our office, have reviewed your messages. We have not identified any issues that necessitate further review . . . and we view this matter as closed.” No one investigated anything. No one even read my emails.

Undeterred by reality, she continued recklessly, “As you are aware the Office of Student Life and [unspecified] other campus offices have engaged [not a single example] with you extensively and brought in other [unspecified] community partners to review matters that fall outside of the university’s purview.”

Again, completely false. In fact, I personally connected Student Life with the City of Columbus in my living room last January. They have “brought in” no one themselves.

The unprofessional and unethical “Senior Associate General Counselor and Director of …” could not contain her fabricating, bullying, harassment, and threatening—in the passive voice of course: “Your recent communications have demonstrated that you are unable to engage in a productive and professional dialogue with the university.” It is “the university”—Student Life, Human Resources, Legal Affairs--who refuses to dialogue [sic] with me. The law vanishes from view, as does any element of honesty or respect for a member of the university community.

In poor grammar, the unlicensed counsel with the long titles ends by unprofessionally threatening me: “we further request that you cease communication with the Office of Student Life at this time.” She ends by harassing with her reverse and perverse illogic: “Please be advised that future

communications sent to the Office of Student Life will be considered harassment and forwarded to the [unspecified] proper authority for further [haha!] review and response.” “Communications…will be considered harassment,” and she claims BA, MA, and law degrees from The OSU.

My cardinal sin: I dare to ask OSU Vice Presidents, Associate Vice Presidents, and Center directors to do their jobs. Period. That is too much for the failing university. It threatens these paid public employees. What fun to pick on a 73 year old senior citizen who is Professor Emeritus and Ohio Eminent Scholar.

I responded, asking for information on what specifically she had reviewed. Instead of a response, the next morning, I received another email, this time from a detective on the campus police force, amplifying the nonbinding, non-legal, rhetorical harassment, threatening, and attempted intimidation.

The detective was even wilder in her imagineering. With no evidence, because there is none: “your previous communications to various [unspecified] staff  members at The Ohio State University have become disruptive to [unspecified] staff business. All [unspecified] assistance/information available has been provided to you by staff members. This communication is a warning to cease and desist any further communications to all staff at The Ohio State University. This includes phone calls, text messages, e-mails, social media any other form of electronic communication, including physical mail.”

She ends raising her biggest hammer, or is it a stuffed buckeye slung by Brutus? “Any communication you send that does not align [what does that mean either legally or practically?] with this [unfiled, nonnotarized, unsigned] order will be reported to The Ohio State University Police Division for documentation [of what?]  and you be charged with Telecommunications Harassment. Any [unspecified] charges would be filed with the Franklin County Prosecutors Office.”

When I stopped laughing, I wrote back: am I prohibited from speaking to my OSU physicians who are also my colleagues and friends? Oh, not. I can do that even though neither counsel nor detective paused their threats for reality to intrude on their threatening.

Plus my long-time friend and Distinguished University Professor who by prior arrangement came to my home with lunch that day. Or the President’s and Provost’s Advisory Committee and Emeritus Academy of which I am a member. Or the many colleagues and staff who are my friends and visit with their children. Or the students who seek me out for assistance with many academic and advising tasks, including writing resumes and both job and professional school applications, and who are also my friends and who teach me, despite the fact that I am an unpaid retired professor—because the university does not advise or assist them.

No, none of that occurred to the illegitimate, unprofessional, dishonest counsels and detectives. They are only interested in harassing, threatening, and intimidating. That is part of the university’s “business model.” But it does not serve them with me, or my attorneys.

I learned over a period of years that gross and minor ethical and legal offenses are standard operating procedures for Legal Affairs. The technical term is bullying. This is how they responded to Dr. Richard Strauss’ more than 600 victims of sexual abuse. When an appeals court finally ruled in early fall 2022 that the statute of limitations does not apply, OSU’s attorneys totally lost control of both intellectual and emotional faculties. A federal appeals court has just reject their incoherent temper tantrum.

This is how they attempt to respond to the challenge of the Moritz family for the Law School’s violating the terms of their endowment. It is how they respond to victims of rape and other crimes, including sexual abuse by faculty or staff, for which OSU may be at least partly liable. It is how the university illegally breaks any effort at labor organizing or stops Student Government from passing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions resolutions. It is how Legal Affairs interferes with both Student Life and the City of Columbus in protecting both student renters and further destruction in the University District.

It is also how the university protects itself by illegally ignoring formal Freedom of Information Act requests, and its official spokesman never responding to questions.

And it is how the university shields sex offenders on the faculty and staff until their retirement when their emeritus honorary title is occasionally removed. And how OSU protects male researchers with large labs and grants who are charged credibly with scientific misconduct.


Does OSU, through Legal Affairs and Campus Police—and Bricker Hall administration, actually think that success lies in such clearly exposed failures?

Such an argument can only be a considered to be a perverse series of conundrums and contradictions. But this is The “born to be buckeyes at The Ohio State University.”


Harvey J. Graff is Professor Emeritus of English and History at The Ohio State University and inaugural Ohio Eminent Scholar in Literacy Studies. Author of many books, he writes about a variety of contemporary and historical topics for Times Higher Education, Inside Higher Education, Academe Blog, Washington Monthly, Publishers Weekly, Against the Current; Columbus Free Press, and newspapers. Searching for Literacy: The Social and Intellectual Origins of Literacy Studies was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2022. My Life with Literacy: The Continuing Education of a Historian. The Intersections of the Personal, the Political, the Academic, and Place is forthcoming.