Happy June! Whether you’re relaxing on vacation or putting in hours at an internship, catch up on some fun news stories from May.
Introducing… the cheese-rolling champion!
Every May, thousands gather at Cooper’s Hill outside a small British town to watch the . About 40 contestants throw themselves down a hill after a nine pound wheel of cheese, which can reach speeds of 70 miles per hour. The first one to catch the cheese, wins.
This year, Chris Anderson broke the world record for most cheese wheels won — 22 in his 14 years competing. As amusing as this might sound, it’s no easy feat. Anderson suffered a broken ankle, a concussion and bruised kidneys during his 14 years competing.
Regardless, I can’t help but watch the and chuckle.
High School student puts school on Craigslist
Kylan Scheele was banned walking at his graduation ceremony after listing his Missouri high school for sale on Craigslist.
For just $12,725, bidders would receive the high school and all the amenities the ad offered, such as a huge parking lot, “great for partygoers.” Scheele has since apologized for the joke.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the school district, contending the harsh punishment is restrictive of Scheele’s freedom of speech.
Forget talking politics — May brought the most controversial debate in recent memory: Do you hear Laurel or Yanny? Celebrities and even weighed in.
Turns out, it can be both based on how your . Since the recording is low-quality, there was a lot of ambiguity. If you’re hearing Laurel, you’re picking up on lower frequencies, and if you’re hearing Yanny, you’re listening for the higher frequencies. If you change the pitch, you can likely hear both words. Science rules!
, however, believes the original recording is most likely “Laurel,” so if that’s what you hear, you win bragging rights (but I will stick with Yanny until the day I die).
President Donald Trump isn’t exactly known for his highly elevated syntax or eloquence. In the past, he’s baffled the nation with cryptic nonsense tweets like “” or been criticized for blunders such as .
He got schooled — quite literally — by a retired schoolteacher who . “OMG this is wrong!” she wrote, adorning the page with pens and highlighters the way she would to a student’s paper.
Let this be a lesson (though, as a journalist I may be biased in this statement): nothing is more important than grammar.
Ohio University Counseling and Psychological Services hired another furry friend this semester.
Dug, named after the talking golden retriever in Disney/Pixar’s Up, began seeing clients this academic year after the semi-retirement of Buddy, a 10-year-old standard poodle.
Rinda Scoggan, a senior counselor who trained both Dug and Buddy, said though Dug is only 2 years old and is new to the office, he is making significant progress as a therapy dog.
“Coming here, he wasn’t so sure about the size of the building,” she said. “But now he comes in, and he’s good about coming into the elevator now. He didn’t ride an elevator for the first time until the summer.”
She described him as being a “little shy” because he was raised by Scoggan’s son in the country and wasn’t used to being around so many people.
“Dug is slowly evolving,” she said. “He’s still a 2-year-old.”
Dug visits CPS offices on the third floor of Hudson Health Center every Monday.
“It’s helpful because some students have a dog back home, and they miss it,” Scoggan said.
“It just makes their day. They do form bonds that they love to pet him, and he’s so excited to see them. … He cares about them.”
Dug began visiting the offices in lieu of Buddy, who began experiencing arthritis associated with age. Scoggan tried giving him medicines to combat his ailments, but it just made him sick.
“I noticed at that time he had started limping last year,” she said. “I wanted him to be able to relax his body and his bones.”
Buddy’s much-needed break proved beneficial, and Scoggan noticed a renewed pep in his step.
“He’s much better,” she said. “I just think he needed to take a break. As long as he is able and as long as he wants to, I’m willing for him to come in once a month.”
Since Scoggan now has two dogs trained to help students, she said she is toying with the idea of having them come in more than one day a week.
“He really only sees the students who come in on Monday,” she said. “Some people schedule specifically on Mondays to just see him.”
Scoggan said as long as Buddy does not face any more medical problems, she would like to continue switching the two out.
“Sometimes dogs that do therapy can get a little depressed themselves,” she said. “The trainer recommended definitely switching out the dog.”
The therapy sessions are not only beneficial for the students, but also for the canines.
“A few years ago, when my kids all moved out, it was just Buddy and I,” she said. “Buddy started becoming depressed being in the house all the time. … It really helped him. He’s one that really needs to be petted, be loved on. Being in the house all day was not good for him. I just could tell there was a major difference.”
Other programs on campus exist to connect students to dogs, such as Bobcats of the Shelter Dogs which allows students to volunteer at the local dog shelter. Alden Library also hosts therapy dog visits near and during final week. Alden is hosting therapy dog events during finals week, and Dug from CPS will be the featured pup at one of the events.
Mia Chapman, a senior studying biological sciences pre-medicine, has been training a service dog named Clary since August through the OU branch program of 4 Paws for Ability. She said having dogs on college campuses is beneficial for not only students, but also all people who interact with the animals.
“As a student, it always brightens my day to see a dog because it’s a great stress relief and break from my daily activities,” she said. “Fostering a service dog has helped me realize the value that service dogs have to offer people with disabilities. These dogs are highly trained and help those who need them feel more comfortable out in public, as the dogs can help them physically and emotionally.”
When your extended family gathers around the table on Thursday to eat food and chat, the inevitable, “How’s college?” question will arise. Here are some talking points about Ohio University to bring up at the dinner table.
1. This was Pumpkin’s month.
No, it’s not because it’s Thanksgiving and we’re about to eat pumpkin pie. It’s because Pumpkin the cat, everyone’s favorite part of walking past the Board of Elections window on Court Street, finally got the love and attention he deserved during election season. He was more than just a spectacle to be looked at through the BOE window: he was an active participant in the demo-cat-ic process.
2. We have the most romantic (and famous) professors around.
I’m sure we all recall the heartwarming story that captured national attention about our very own assistant professor Dan West. After a student in his Introduction to Human Communications class posted this tweet, his story went viral and he garnered attention from national media, including Buzzfeed.
Today somebody asked my professor how he knew he wanted to marry his wife & he said, “I took her to the grocery store to get ice cream & while she was picking out a flavor, I realized she was who I wanted to grocery shop w for the rest of my life..”
3. Athenians can now smoke weed without penalties (well, sort of).
5. Speaking of furry friends, Tumbles, the two-legged pup is now two years old.
Tumbles, the local two-legged dog that captured national attention a few years ago, just turned two in September. He no longer uses the 3-D printed wheels the OU Innovation Center printed for him; rather he opts to hop around on his stomach or walk on his hind legs.
6. The infamous “Cocaine Plane” pilot was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Alexis Lanier, an electrical engineering student, has four women in her class.
According to a 2015 headcount from the Office of Institutional Research, only 15 percent of the Russ College of Engineering is female, despite the fact that technology is a “lucrative” field.
“There’s a lot of guys so (women) think they shouldn’t do it,” Lanier, a sophomore, said. “It’s definitely intimidating because it’s new to me, and I feel like the guys have always been really into it.”
J.J. DiGeronimo is no stranger to the frustrations those current students experience. As a 1995 OU alumna from the J. Warren McClure School of Information and Telecommunication Systems, DiGeronimo said most of her classes were at least 75 percent men.
Like many students, DiGeronimo’s main goal was to come out of college with a job. Because the ITS school was known at the time for a 100 percent job placement after graduation, pursuing a degree in communication systems management made sense.
“I was great in math,” she said. “I was great with numbers and science. … It was important for me to learn a feasible skillset the marketplace was looking for.”
As a keynote speaker and advocate for girls in STEM, DiGeronimo said gender stereotypes and inaccurate perceptions of the field can hinder a woman’s decision to enter the technology field.
“There’s some perceptions that it’s really geeky, that it’s a lot of coding, that they’re not going to fit in,” she said. “They don’t know people in the field to get experience or even ask questions of what it might be like. … There’s some preconceived notions that (women) are not going to like it.”
In most career fields, research shows women make 78 cents for every dollar a man makes, but in STEM fields, DiGeronimo said women make 92 cents for every dollar a man makes.
“As a whole, women in any field and men in any field should be about equal (numbers) just because it’s different points of view,” Katie Meeks, a sophomore studying biological sciences, said. “You are able to get a lot of different points of view and you are able to make more informed decisions.”
Although DiGeronimo said the lack of women in her college classes was unfortunate, she viewed it as a great preparation for the professional world.
“Most of my career, I have often been the only woman at the table,” she said. “Obtaining a degree that had more men than women prepared me for the workforce. I really didn’t have a lot of fear. I had already worked through some of my concerns about being the only woman.”
Meeks said her mother, a high school biology teacher, inspired her to pursue her dreams in STEM.
“Throughout elementary and middle school, I thought I didn’t like science,” Meeks said. “Once I came into high school and saw what my mother was doing, it made me want to do something better with my life.”
Though it helps to have representation in the field, DiGeronimo said those role models don’t always have to be female.
“I had a lot of great male mentors in my program that helped move me in the right direction,” she said. “You don’t necessarily have to look for the same gender. A lot of women look up to fathers, uncles, professors. It’s about getting around good people willing to help you in your career.”
Lanier agrees. She said her professors, who are primarily male, have been incredibly helpful because many of them are encouraging female participation in STEM fields.
“A lot of women tend to take support roles instead of the lead roles,” DiGeronimo said. “Don’t talk yourself out of the lead role. … Keep at it. It’s more about perseverance and persistence oftentimes than it is about how high of an IQ you have and how well you’ve done in your classes.”
Originally published for The Post on Nov. 16, 2017.
The issue, otherwise known as Marsy’s Law, will repeal and replace the Ohio Constitution’s Second Amendment passed in 1994. Similar to Amendment 2, Issue 1 establishes constitutional rights for victims and their families, but the two differ in the actual execution of those rights.
Marsy’s Law designates 10 specific rights in its text. They include a right to a timely notice of all public proceedings, the right to restitution, the right to prompt conclusion of the case and the right to refuse interviews the defendant requests.
Five other states have implemented Marsy’s Law, which is named after Marsalee Nicholas, who was stalked and killed by a former boyfriend in 1983. Marsy’s parents ran into the accused murderer in a grocery store. They weren’t alerted he was released on bail.
Opponents, like the , said the law interferes with due process and raises fair trial concerns. Since the victim would be able to intervene in any of the proceedings, the Ohio ACLU argues that it could interfere with the defendant’s right to a speedy trial.
“There are several problems with this initiative, but the most important aspect is that it will essentially turn our system of due process on its head,” the Ohio ACLU said in their FAQ section on their website.
Issue 2: Failed
It would’ve require state agencies to pay the same for prescription drugs as the Department of Veteran Affairs, which typically pays 24 percent less than other agencies for prescription medication.
Supporters of the bill said it would save taxpayers $400 million by reducing prescription medication prices, which could help fund police, schools and other public services.
Critics argued the $400 million figure has no factual backing and operates under the assumption that Ohio doesn’t already receive significant drug discounts. Opponents also said citizens who don’t get their drugs from the state wouldn’t benefit since drug companies would likely drive up prices of other drugs not purchased by the VA.
OU College Republicans President Ryan Evans said he opposes the policy because it will increase costs for citizens whose drug purchases don’t go through the government.
“Any time you force these companies to provide lower costs for certain individuals what they do in turn is charge everybody else higher rates,” Evans said. “You’re basically paying more so somebody else can get it for less.”
OU College Democrats President Ashley Fishwick said she supports Issue 2.
“I think Issue 2 is a really important step on checking pharmaceutical companies,” Fishwick said. “It’s a step in the right direction for Ohio.”
Athens native Peter Kotses has three fundamental passions: bicycles, streets and his community.
Kotses, a 1992 Ohio University graduate and local business owner, is up for re-election as an incumbent of one of three at-large city council positions.
Kotses, a Democrat, was elected in 2015, making this the first time he’s run for re-election against four other candidates. Of the five candidates who are running, three are on council currently.
“A lot of that first term is just getting your feet wet and understanding what the position is and how it works,” he said. “If I were to move into a second term, what’s cool is I would move up the latter on some of the committees.”
Kotses expressed interest in leading the transportation committee, an issue he has focused on heavily during his time on council.
“You boil back the ingredients to make a city, it’s streets and people,” he said. “If those two don’t exist, you don’t have a city. … It’s the most important property the city owns, so it’s something we can always do a better job of analyzing and providing a better system in which people can get through the city.”
His passion for transportation within the city extends beyond council. Kotses has owned and operated Athens Bicycle, 4 W. Stimson Ave., since it opened in 1998.
“A lot of people love this region, but finding employment and staying is hard,” he said. “When we opened up, it was to provide something for the community that should be present in the community we love.”
Kotses said his business skills transferred over to his position as at-large councilor.
“I have over 40 years within the city limits, so I have a good history of what this town has done and what they’ve been trying to achieve.”–– Peter Kotses
“I see a lot of parallels to what I’ve done for 20 years here being good assets for the job,” he said. “I have to manage a budget and make sure people run a tight ship. Being on council is kind of similar. You have to provide a watchful eye and make sure the funds are being spent in a proper fashion.”
Of his time on council, Kotses cites his proudest moments as the votes he casted in support of the Stimson Avenue roundabout and the bikeway extension bridge over the Hocking River. He made $7,919.55 in calendar year 2017 as a councilman.
“Every street system needs to be analyzed … so people can get around better maybe without a vehicle and so can we encourage a healthier lifestyle for people,” Kotses said, referencing the complete streets project, which is aimed to accommodate multimodal forms of transportation. “If you can make the streets safer, that (could) bring more people out so we have more human interaction. It’s breaking down barriers and making things more accessible.”
Kotses was born to an OU professor and raised in Athens. He lives in the city with his wife and 10-year-old daughter. He believes his 40-plus years of experience with the city gives him an advantage when it comes to being successful in his city council position.
“I have over 40 years within the city limits, so I have a good history of what this town has done and what they’ve been trying to achieve,” he said. “A lot of the initiatives we’re working on now, I can go back and look at why things are the way they are because of things that were happening in the ‘90s.”
Kotses said he would love to continue to serve the city he loves if he is given the chance come Election Day on Nov. 7. The other at-large candidates are Sarah Grace and Noah Trembly and incumbents Arian Smedley, D, and Pat McGee, I.
“I’ve always enjoyed the town,” Kotses said. “It’s a great place to grow up. I was excited that I was able to find something that allowed me to stay and raise a kid here. … Council is just another extension of providing help and assistance to a community I love.”
Originally published for The Post on Nov. 6, 2017.
Just 80 miles south of Athens, a veteran who suffered a stroke was riding horseback, led by Ohio University students. His wife, watching her husband ride from afar, hadn’t heard his voice in two years.
He had been riding at OU Southern’s horse park for several sessions, and he began to burst into song.
“Home, home on the range,” he belted. “Where the deer and the antelope play.”
Everyone stared in disbelief as a man who hadn’t spoken a word in years began to sing.
That is just one of the miracles that happens every day at OU Southern’s horse park, said Kelly Hall, the director of the equine studies program.
OU Southern Campus’s equine program is one of five accredited international schools to certify instructors in therapeutic riding, attracting dozens of students to enroll in hopes of pursuing a career that could change someone’s life.
A program run by students
Only two full-time faculty members staff the program, leaving the rest of the work up to students and volunteers to keep the rates for riding low. OU Southern charges $45 for a private community riding lesson and $35 for private therapeutic lessons.
OU’s Southern Campus offers an equine studies program that certifies instructors in therapeutic riding. Dozens of students have enrolled in the program.
“It takes a lot,” Hall said. “If you have one person in a wheelchair, you’re going to have to have two side walkers — one on each side — and somebody to lead the horse. You’re going to have to have an instructor. … It takes a lot of volunteers to make this program happen.”
To earn their associate degrees, students are required to participate in 25 hours of instruction with a minimum of two riders with disabilities at a time.
“The community therapeutic horsemanship center serves the purpose of allowing our students to earn their hours, but it also serves the tri-state community for people with challenges,” Hall said.
Unlike many other equine programs, OU Southern has its own horse park and barns for convenience of completing lab hours and maintaining control over curriculum, attracting students from places as far as Hawaii to participate in the therapeutic riding program.
Students also teach, care for the horses and assume other responsibilities alongside volunteers and part-time employees.
“I’ve always liked helping people, and I love horses,” Julia Glebins, a first-year student, said. “I’ve been obsessed with them my entire life. It just seemed like a natural fit.”
A horse’s strength
Horseback riding provides many benefits for people with physical disabilities. Riding develops a sense of coordination and balance and strengthens the same muscles used to walk, which can be especially useful for someone in a wheelchair.
“It benefits them to learn a different or better way of living,”Tabatha McKinney, who works at STAR Community Justice Center
“We have a couple riders who are paraplegic and in a wheelchair,” Hall said. “By putting someone on a horse and the horse walks for them, they’re exercising those muscles to help them hopefully gain some mobility.”
Glebins said she was touched when she was serving as a volunteer last year and saw significant progress in a boy she was assisting.
“One of our participants started out in a wheelchair and couldn’t hardly walk, and now he’s up walking on his own and doesn’t need very much assistance,” she said. “He rides on his own, too. … It’s pretty incredible.”
The warmth of a horse
The benefits of therapeutic riding go beyond what can be seen on the surface. Hall said emotional and mental therapy is a lot of what the program tries to provide through its lessons.
The park works with agencies for weekly lessons and has served foster care industries, regional mental health industries and more.
“It benefits them to learn a different or better way of living,” said Tabatha McKinney, who works at STAR Community Justice Center. STAR serves as an alternative to prison with the intent of rehabilitating nonviolent felony offenders and frequently works with the horse park.
Students teach and care for the horses, among other responsibilities. The program attracts students from places as far away as Hawaii.
OU Southern is partnered with Safe Harbor, a domestic violence shelter in northern Kentucky. The two secured a grant to bring children to the park weekly for riding lessons.
“It’s fun,” Jacob Bowman, 11, said. “I learn stuff about horses. They’re fun to play with and cute. I like it here.”
Hall said OU Southern tailors programs to specific needs. In the case of Safe Harbor, a main goal is teaching kids to positively identify and cope with emotions.
“I love riding (the horses),” Keagan Thornton, 8, said. “I’ve learned about leading and riding and about my emotions.”
Horses have unique personalities just like humans, Hall said. People might be drawn to a particular horse and learn a lot about their feelings from interacting with the animal.
“The horses show what we don’t want to face,” McKinney said. “The horses can sense your emotions. … It gives us a therapeutic moment to talk about those emotions instead of stuffing it.”
Expansion of the program
Since OU Southern’s equine program began offering online courses in spring 2016, adjunct professor Mark Abell said he has seen an increase in enrollment. He said this semester he has his largest class size of 26 people in introduction to equine studies, with students from the Athens campus and high school students enrolling.
“It’s really caught on,” he said. “It’s interesting because in the online program, you have a wide variety of experiences. … It’s a really good way for us to go beyond just the campus.”
Online classes, which are heavy on economics and technology, focus on the commercial side of the horse industry, Hall said. She said the staff rewrote the entire curriculum to accommodate online courses.
“Technology is really important in the horse world, too,” she said. “The horse industry is very large. There’s about a million full-time jobs in the horse industry.”
Many students are interested in starting nonprofits related to horses, so Hall said the program created online courses on equine nonprofit development and management.
Hall said they are also adding a degree to the eCampus. There will be a soft launch in January and a full launch in fall 2018.
“That’s a big deal for us,” Abell said. “I think it’s going to get bigger and bigger and bigger.”
Abell said he was excited for the program to grow and continue to flourish because of all the good he sees come out of it every day.
“It’s an absolutely wonderful program,” Abell said. “Miracles come from it. … When you watch their expressions and the light bulb comes on, and they see all of that because of the interaction with the horses, it’s really powerful.”
Originally published for The Post on Sept. 28, 2017. Appeared in print Sept. 28, 2017.