On the lookout: the best places to people-watching Athens

With approximately 24,000 total students on Ohio University’s campus, students are bound to see some pretty cool things during their time in Athens. Here are some of the best places to observe others on and near campus:

Athens County Courthouse

The Athens County Courthouse, 1 S. Court St., is located right in the middle of Court Street, making it a prime people-watching location. Throughout the year, the area in front of the courthouse is the site of many protests spearheaded by local activists due to its central location.

Benches wrap around the trees between the courthouse and the Athens County Board of Elections, where Athens resident Kayla Graham sat and watched the cars and people pass by on Court Street.

“I live right down the road,” Graham said. “It’s a nice day, so might as well. I just like to watch people.”

Another bonus is that it is free to sit at the location, Graham said.

“If you sit at any other place, you have to eat there,” she said.

Tables outside Court Street restaurants

People Watching Spots

Patrick Connolly | FILE

(left to right) Caleb Amos, Cody Sutton, Marideth Rock and Lori Linnevers, all of Athens, Ohio, enjoy the view out of the Bagel Street Deli front window during HallOUween 2014.

Some local businesses on Court Street, such as Brenen’s Coffee Cafe and Whit’s Frozen Custard, have tables outside where students will often sit if the weather is nice enough.

“We sat outside because it’s such a nice day out, and it’s nice to take a break from studying and projects and all that,” Jane Dickerson, a rising junior studying graphic design, said while she sat outside Brenen’s Coffee Cafe.

Certain days are better for people-watching than others, including Fests and HallOUween.

“We were sitting here by the window on Palmer Place Fest, and people were just running around super drunk outside taking pictures and wearing weird stuff,” Dickerson said. “That was pretty funny.”

If they’re really lucky, students will be blessed with the presence of a furry friend scampering down the street with its owner.

“I love dog watching,” Dickerson said. “Definitely the dogs.”

College Green

College Green is the hub of OU. For more than 200 years, students have enjoyed the shady trees and brick sidewalks. When the weather is nice, students can be spotted swinging in a hammock doing homework, picnicking on blankets or sunbathing on College Green.

“I like seeing all the people out,” Carly Rankin, a rising senior studying biology, said while she sat at the Civil War Monument. “That’s one of my favorite things about Athens. When it’s nice out, all these people are just congregated all the time.”

Evan Schmidt, a 2017 OU alumnus, laid back on a picnic blanket on College Green eating Chipotle with some friends. He said that was one of his favorite things to do in Athens.

“(College Green) is the eclectic college feel of everyone hanging out on grass whenever they want,” he said. “It’s the most stereotypical college feel in Athens.”

Originally published in The Post‘s Orientation Guide on May 25, 2017. The orientation guide is on the stands at Ohio University during summer months to welcome freshman to campus life.

Conservation groups sue federal agencies for auctioning off Wayne National Forest parcels

Several conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management in the U.S. District Court in Columbus on Tuesday after the federal agencies created plans to permit hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — in the Wayne National Forest.

The lawsuit was filed under the accusation that the government agencies failed to properly consider the impacts of fracking on the immediate area.

“We’re suing to stop this dangerous fracking plan because drinking water safety and public lands should come before corporate profits,” Taylor McKinnon, a public lands campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a news release. “Pollution from fracking would be disastrous for the people who depend on this water.”

The intent to sue was first filed in January by the Center for Biological Diversity, Ohio Environmental Council, Heartwood and the Sierra Club. The lawsuit is in contention of the December sale, and the groups have also filed an appeal for the March sale.

“We filed this lawsuit because the Wayne is an important natural resource for all Ohioans,” Nathan Johnson, public lands director for the Ohio Environmental Council, said in a news release. “We won’t let the Wayne be trashed by pipelines and frack pads. The law is on our side, and this public forest is worth fighting for.”

The BLM netted more than $6 million from Wayne National Forest parcel sales in December and March. More parcels are expected to be auctioned off quarterly, BLM spokeswoman Davida Carnahan said in February.

“We do have quite a few more parcels on the Wayne National Forest we will be offering for lease in the future,” she said. “It’s too early to say when the parcels will be scheduled for lease, but there is a lot of interest in that area.”

Carnahan said the BLM does not comment on pending litigation.



Originally published for The Post on May 2, 2017.

Ohio slashes standards protecting renewable energy, worrying some experts

The Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. (Provided via Ohio Department of Development)

The Ohio House of Representatives voted last month to slash standards protecting renewable energy, spurring concern from local climate change experts.

In order to pass House Bill 114, the Ohio House of Representatives asserted renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, no longer needed the assistance of the government to support the industries.

“This will undoubtedly slow the growth of renewables in Ohio and make it harder for renewable energy sources to compete with traditional, ecologically hazardous energy sources,” Sarah Pinter, the 2016-17 Student Senate environmental affairs commissioner, said.

H.B. 114 makes all former mandates voluntary after the law was created nine years ago to protect renewable energy production. In 2026, the renewable energy goals will be erased from law altogether.

The 65-29 vote included three Republicans joining Democrats to oppose the bill.

“I am sad and disappointed, but ultimately unsurprised,” Pinter said. “The Republican Party is determined to destroy progress toward sustainability to keep the pockets of the billionaires that run the fossil fuel industry lined.”

Geoffrey Buckley, a geography professor, attributes the passage of the bill to monetary motivation.

“Those (representatives) are getting money from fossil fuel industries,” he said. “It’s a last-minute money grab, and a lot of these representatives are simply doing work for these corporations that have funded them.”

Ryan Fogt, an associate professor of meteorology, said he is worried about how H.B. 114 will affect the solar industry. Solar is more beneficial than many other energy sources, Fogt said.

“Solar has been the biggest growth in renewable energy,” he said. “For every job in coal, there are three jobs in solar. It’s been an area of boom.”

Fogt said renewable energy sources are at a significant risk from the bill because it will create more of a “burden.”

Buckley argued that, in order to be competitive, Ohio needs to invest in new sources of energy.

“From an economic standpoint, it’s the future compared to the coal industry,” Buckley said. “If we want to be a player in the future and continue to attract people to the state and have good-paying jobs, the energy isn’t going to be with fossil fuels.”

If the state government continues to cut incentives for renewable energy, Pinter said the state and, ultimately, the world will suffer.

“I am worried about the future of the planet,” Pinter said. “We cannot afford to cut back on renewables in the face of climate change. It could cost lives.”



Originally published for The Post on April 24, 2017.

OU alumnus running for governor


A former Bobcat has his sights set on the governor’s chair in Columbus.

State Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, announced his candidacy for governor of Ohio on March 1 in a news release. Schiavoni, a 2001 Ohio University graduate, has served as the minority leader of the Democratic Party in the state senate for the past three years.

Prior to his election as state senator in 2009, Schiavoni worked as a workers’ compensation lawyer. He said he is ready for the next challenge and will work to address problems such as school funding, the drug epidemic and the job market.

“I saw a lot of things the state government was doing that was not helping the everyday Ohioan,” he said. “As I travel the state, I see we’re not funding our schools properly. The job market is lagging so we should make investments in jobs. We have a lot of neighborhoods that desperately need investments from the state when it comes to … revitalization.”

Schiavoni has spent the past few weeks traveling around the state to listen to the stories of his current and potential constituents.

“Ohioans want somebody that they can trust,” he said. “I want to bring people’s voices to the statehouse. The most powerful tool is giving people the opportunity to come down and testify of what’s going on in their particular municipality to make legislators understand.”

Republicans have held the majority in Ohio for •seven consecutive years. Schiavoni, a Democrat, believes the two parties can work together to improve their constituents’ lives.

“It doesn’t have to be a political battle in the statehouse every day,” he said. “They want somebody who can go there and work as hard as they possibly can to improve the quality life of people.”

Schiavoni criticized Republican Gov. John Kasich’s allocation of funds and taxation system and said he would change the way those practices are done if he were to take office.

“Constantly, it seems the governor’s priority and the Republicans’ priority is to tax cut before making investments,” he said. “We have to invest in those areas before we say we’re going to do cuts, especially to the wealthy. … Every year I see there’s an income tax reduction but a sales tax increase.”

While attending a College Democrats convention in Toledo, Schiavoni said he met several students from Athens, including Sam Miller, the current president of OU College Democrats.

“Joe Schiavoni has always been on my radar since he is minority leader,” Miller, who serves on The Post‘s Publishing Board, said. “He has stood up for the working class and Appalachia. Getting the opportunity to meet him was really good.”

Nicholas Felt, a junior studying political science and recording industry, was among other OU College Democrats who met Schiavoni. As a previous intern of former State Sen. Lou Gentile, Felt said he knew about Schiavoni and his policies prior to meeting him.

“In my mind, he is the most qualified candidate,” Felt said. “He’s been a champion of the working class in Ohio, and he’s always worked to uphold values of Democrats in Ohio.”

Schiavoni affirmed he is the best choice for college students, citing his plan to make college more affordable and managing state debt.

“Dealing with affordability, dealing with debt and also dealing with the job market is important because a lot of graduates want to stay in Ohio, and we want to keep them in Ohio, so we need to incentivize that,” he said.

Schiavoni said he is grateful for support from his alma mater and college students.

“I love seeing young people excited about this,” he said. “We desperately need young people to be very active in this election. … Politicians need to embrace the ideas of college students and college graduates.”



Originally published for The Post on April 19, 2017.

Front Room now offers more dairy alternatives

Students looking for their coffee fix at Front Room Coffeehouse can now select a variety of dairy alternatives.

Almond and coconut milk were introduced at all campus cafes in mid-March because of the demand for dairy-free options, Jim Sabin, an Ohio University spokesperson, said. They are available for an additional 60 cents per drink.

“Students are absolutely taking advantage of it and so far the feedback has been very positive,” he said in an email. “It is consumed in a much smaller percentage (than) dairy milk but still a significant enough amount to be relevant.”

Front Room and other campus coffee shops already offer soy milk for an additional 60 cents. The university also installed almond milk dispensers in the dining halls last year, and although students consume more dairy milk, Sabin said enough almond milk was used last year to continue using the dispensers.

Dairy alternatives have a variety of benefits, Angela Bohyer, a registered dietitian, said.

“Dairy alternative can offer less fat and are free of lactose,” she said in an email. “There are so many good tasting, dairy alternatives available now. Many dairy alternatives don’t have as much protein as skim milk though, so it is important to read labels and plan a balanced diet.”

Jennifer Magyari, a sophomore studying business and sociology, orders almond milk in her caramel macchiato at Front Room.

“I like almond milk so much better than dairy,” she said. “It’s better for you, and it tastes better.”

Bohyer said she is glad the university has dairy-free options in dining halls and in the coffee shops to accommodate lactose intolerant students.

“Some people are lactose intolerant and may have stomach aches, cramps and/or diarrhea when eating dairy,” she said in an email. “Lactose intolerance means they cannot tolerate the carbohydrate in dairy foods, lactose.”

Regardless of how students are getting it, Bohyer said calcium is an essential nutrient in a healthy diet.

“Calcium is found in plant sources, like green leafy vegetables, but more is more bioavailable from dairy foods,” she said in an email. “Calcium — along with the other nutrients in dairy products — helps build strong bones.”



Originally published for The Post on April 17, 2017.

Teaching in Southeast Ohio: Teachers adapting to children affected by opioid abuse

As the opioid epidemic persists, children are oftentimes left in the wake of their parents’ addictions. With the well-being of their families on their minds, elementary-aged students are bogged down at school and can’t perform academically to the best of their ability, forcing teachers to adapt to the changing climate of educating in southeast Ohio.

A “significant” number of children in the Athens City School District have lost a parent from addiction due to death, incarceration, abandonment or legal loss of parental custody, said Diane Stock, a social worker from Athens County Children Services at The Plains Elementary School.

“For some students, teachers and school staff become those trusted, safe adults that can foster resiliency through consistent, positive interactions,” she said in an email.

Addressing the effects of familial opioid abuse in the classroom is essential to instructing students in this area, but Ohio University’s Patton College of Education does very little to train teachers to combat the problem, Eugene Geist, an associate professor of early childhood education, said.

“We don’t do enough of preparing our teachers for dealing with some of these issues,” he said. “It’s not just here. In general, colleges of teacher education aren’t doing as good of a job as we should.”

Geist said the school offers courses on dealing with family issues and classes about diverse students, but OU does not offer education courses specifically dealing with drug abuse and the neglect that oftentimes goes along with that problem.

A strong suit of the education program, however, is the ties to the child and family studies program, Geist said. Through programs like that, students are trained to look for signs of neglect, which could indicate further problems, such as drug abuse.

“Sometimes, as educators, we don’t always think as much about the child’s home life as we should,” he said. “What we end up having are instead of finding out about what’s going on in a child’s life, we might see for example, certain behavioral manifestations in the classroom. … Instead of being a behavioral problem, you look at it as a symptom of their home life.”

Schools in Athens County are already having to deal with issues of opioid abuse, but, similarly to training future educators, Athens City Schools does not have a program in place specifically to address drug abuse because the state of Ohio does not require it.

Athens City Schools does provide state-required training sessions on identifying and responding to abuse and neglect annually through Athens County Children Services, though Athens City School Superintendent Tom Gibbs called it a “hit or miss.”

“It’s obviously very difficult issue to address from the perspective of working with school age children,” Gibbs said. “Part of it is that we don’t necessarily know. … It’s hard for us to ascertain if what we’re seeing in school is a result of opioid abuse or something else.”

Beyond required training, Gibbs said Athens City Schools tries to offer additional training but finds it difficult because of the lack of time and resources public educators have access to.

“We have so many trainings now, to be quite frank it’s difficult to get them all scheduled in the time they have,” he said. “To expect teachers to give up more and more unpaid time for training is an unrealistic expectation. I’d like to see more training, but I’d like to see the state put more funding for that training to pay professionals for their time.”

Athens City Schools does provide in-school mental health services because students who need those services are more likely to get to their appointments if the school can provide it, Gibbs said.

Though local schools provide some services, Stock said there is room for improvement.

“Ideally, I would like to see lower student to teacher ratios so struggling students could get more of that positive adult interaction that encourages brain development,” she said in an email. “My big dream is a district run school that provides intensive trauma informed therapeutic interventions while still maintaining academic instruction.”

Originally published in The Post on April 12, 2017 as part of the opioid issue.

Student Senate hosts workplace sexual harassment panel

Ben Braddock, the Graduate Assistant for Sexual Assault Prevention & Relationship Violence Risk Reduction, delivers a presentation on how to act as a better bystander in instances of sexual harassment in the workplace at The Corporate Cost of Sexual Harassment panel in Walter Hall on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. (Photo by Emma Howells)

In the wake of sexual misconduct scandals related to Ohio University, Student Senate held a panel Tuesday to educate students on the corporate costs of sexual harassment.

About 10 students gathered in Walter Hall to listen to three panelists of various backgrounds speak about abuse in the workplace. Student Senate Vice President Courteney Muhl said the panel was held in response to accusations of sexual assault by English professor Andrew Escobedo and the former Fox News chairman and CEO Roger E. Ailes, whose name was taken down from the WOUB newsroom following the allegations.

In both situations, Muhl said Student Senate passed a bill with resolved clauses to further education on what sexual harassment looks like in the workplace, particularly power-based abuse.

“For each of those instances, Student Senate passed a bill that called on Ohio University to stand with survivors, to keep its values strong and to make it clear that sexual abuse was intolerable,” she said. “We wanted to be a part of the culture change here on campus by making it an ongoing effort.”

Panelist Ed Yost, a College of Business professor emeritus, said about 20 percent of Americans reported being abused in the workplace, yet this problem is rarely addressed in large forums.

“Workplace abuse can escalate to workplace violence,” he said. “It may start out as simple bullying.”

Of that workplace abuse, Yost said 24 percent is related to personal relationships and can manifest through sexual harassment.

Panelist Sara Trower, the executive director of Civil Rights Compliance and Title IX coordinator, said sexual harassment in the workplace stems from a lack of accountability and respect.

“There are underlying attitudes that contribute to a culture or a climate that creates the environment that can lead to these kinds of instances,” said Trower, a former attorney who advised employers on issues of workplace violence. “Fundamentally what you’re looking at is a lack of civility and respect.”

Yost said 70 percent of employers do not have policies on workplace abuse. In those cases, bystanders must step up and help the victims through direct confrontation, delegation or distraction, said panelist Ben Braddock, a graduate assistant for sexual assault prevention and relationship violence.

“Distractions can be anything weird and silly,” he said. “Literally anything you can do to keep someone safe and get people out of a bad situation.”

Although Muhl said she wished more people had come to listen to what the panelists had to say, the audience members in attendance got a lot from the event.

“From my accounting and pre-law, I found it incredibly useful for working in (an) office environment,” Sierra Goings, a junior studying accounting, business pre-law, sociology and history pre-law. “I have experienced some of what was discussed today, and it made me realize I wish I had done something at the time.”



Originally published for The Post on April 11, 2017.