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Ohio State parents, students demonstrate in off-campus area to honor Chase Meola

The Lantern
About 300 Ohio State students, parents and other members of the Buckeye community gathered in the university community Sunday night to advocate for increased safety measures in the off-campus area. Credit: Bella Czajkowski | Editor-in-Chief

The power of one — whether it be one parent creating a safety advocacy group on Facebook, one student’s sacrifice to save his friends or a grieving mother — brings with it hundreds to thousands more uniting over a common cause: safety for Ohio State students.

The chant “one is one too many,” could be heard on the streets of the University District Sunday night as hundreds of flashlights held by about 300 Ohio State students, parents and other members of the Buckeye community advocated for increased safety measures in the off-campus area.

The “Light Up The Night” event, held by a group called Buckeyes for a Safe Ohio State, sought to shed light on safety issues for students, honor Chase Meola, a fifth-year student who was shot and killed near Phi Kappa Psi Oct. 11, 2020 , and provide students a chance to have their voice heard, Angela Fredriksson, co-founder of the group and mother of a former first-year student, said.

“I think that it shows how strong the Buckeye spirit is and how you can overcome some adversity, but it’s going to take everybody working together,” Fredriksson said. “All of us have the passion and the urgency to want to make this a safer environment for these kids who love the school, and I feel we’re just wanting the university to do the same.”

University President Kristina M. Johnson announced Aug. 27 an increase in lighting, security cameras and Ohio State and Columbus Division of Police presence following six neighborhood safety notices issued in the month of August — compared to one in August 2020, according to the Department of Public Safety website .

There were five notices issued in September, compared to one in September 2020, according to the Department of Public Safety website .

In a universitywide email Sept. 14 , Johnson announced serious crime in the off-campus neighborhood had decreased 39 percent since the implementation of increased safety measures Aug. 27.

Dennis Jeffrey, commander for Zone Four of the Columbus Division of Police, which includes the University District area, said serious crime falls under three main categories: aggravated assaults, burglaries and robberies. He added that he has almost daily talks with Ohio State to determine where lights and cameras should be located, based on crime data.

On Sept. 24, Johnson announced an additional $20 million investment in safety measures over the next decade. The announcement came the day after a safety notice of shots fired at a house party near Tuller Street and Woodruff Avenue at about 1:19 a.m., after unknown men were denied entry.

Irene Hendrick, founder of Buckeyes for a Safe Ohio State and parent of a second-year student, said the group is fighting to prevent another Ohio State student from getting injured or killed in the off-campus area.

“I think if you look around, you should know that there’s a lot of people who are fed up with being afraid,” Hendricks said. “We’re so much more alike than we’re different. So, let’s come together and find a solution that we can all support each other.”

University spokesperson Chris Booker said in an email Ohio State’s “heartfelt sympathies” are with the family and friends of Chase Meola, and he is a missed member of the Buckeye community.

Booker said the university remains vigilant about crime on and off campus and continues to take multiple measures to keep students, faculty and staff safe.

“We value and respect the feedback from members of our community and we continue to be grateful for all those partnerships and resources that have come to bear with a shared commitment of creating a safer community,” Booker said.

The group’s trip through the off-campus neighborhood began down East 15th Avenue before turning onto Indianola Avenue until East Woodruff Avenue. The group headed south on Iuka Avenue to stop at the Indianola Presybeterian Church, where people shared memories about Chase Meola, and “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John — Meola’s favorite song —  played in his memory.

Allyson Reid, co-founder of Buckeyes for a Safe Ohio State and mother of a second-year student, read a letter from Chase Meola’s mother , Margaret Meola, on the churches’ steps, which expressed the family’s continued heartache over their loss of Chase. It also reiterated her belief that the university has not allocated enough resources to student safety.

“I’ve been watching the increase in violent crime in and around The Ohio State University. These are huge triggers for our family,” Margaret Meola stated. “I am only ONE grieving mother who never in her wildest dreams or (nightmares) would have imagined herself fighting for a cause such as this. But here I am. I live every day to make my son proud.”

Margaret Meola then went on to state the impact of the billboards created regarding her son, the fight for change so another’s loved one doesn’t become a statistic and the one thing she always told her son — to never live a life with regret.

“I always told my son don’t live your life with regret. Never look back and say what I, ‘woulda, shoulda, coulda done differently,’” Margaret Meola stated. “My son stepped up to protect his friends. He paid the ultimate price.”

Buckeyes for a Safe Ohio State planned Sunday’s event in collaboration with the Secretary of Delta Tau Delta Caden Phillips. Phillips said he and the fraternity’s President Ethan Garee reached out to the group to help with the event and to serve as a student voice for Buckeyes for a Safe Ohio State’s cause.

“The students are together in it,” Phillips, a third-year in mechanical engineering, said. “We want to feel safer on campus. No one should send their kid to school and fear of them being injured, robbed or, worst case scenario which we’ve seen before, killed.”

Bella Czajkowski and Jessica Langer contributed reporting.

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