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.

Executive order poses environmental rollbacks, said to help coal miners

A statue of a coal miner sits in a small garden in downtown Shawnee on Oct. 20, 2016 (Photo by Patrick Connolly)

In a region dominated by the coal mining industry in the 19th and early 20th century, President Donald Trump was hoping to follow through on his campaign promise to help coal miners with his executive order rolling back on environmental regulations.

Trump’s March 28 order rescinds six Obama-era executive orders aimed to curb climate change by reducing carbon emissions, as well as launching a review of the Clean Power Plan. The order is said to identify all policies that are obstacles to “American energy independence,” according to White House officials, though local experts doubt it will actually increase employment in coal mining.

David Bayless, the director of the Ohio Coal Research Center at Ohio University, said the U.S. is transitioning away from coal and no executive order will change that.

“It’s probably going to make (coal miners) feel better that their voice is being heard in a political sense,” he said. “Is it going to create more coal jobs? No. Coal is receding in terms of use in electrical power generation because natural gas can be used to make electricity cheaper.”

Even if companies were to mine more coal, employment in the industry will not increase because of the trend toward mechanization, Geoffrey Buckley, a geography professor, said.

“Mines have been more mechanized so we don’t need all those workers,” he said. “These policy changes will not make a difference in those jobs.”

Trump’s executive order also has significant implications for the environment. The order rescinds President Barack Obama’s 2016 presidential memorandum calling climate change a threat to national security.

The order aligns with Trump’s threat to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency, including his appointment of Scott Pruitt, a climate change “denialist” as the head of the EPA. Though he has not formally moved to disassemble the agency, Trump has proposed significant cuts to the budget by almost a third.

Under Obama, the U.S. was on board with the Paris Agreement, a global effort to stop temperatures from rising two degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.

“The U.S. was on track to meet that target under Obama pretty easily because we had been reducing our dependency on coal,” associate meteorology professor Ryan Fogt said. “We saw coal emissions decrease under Obama’s administration. … We won’t meet our target, but we’ll be putting more into the atmosphere.”

Fogt said an economic and environmental solution would be to improve clean energy production.

“People like myself think there are a lot of job potentials in clean energy sources that could be solutions to both the economy and a cleaner way of producing energy,” he said.

Despite what Trump may say, Bayless said the market is not going to change, even if the Clean Power Initiative were to be eliminated.

“I don’t think from a political standpoint, there’s anything that can be done to stimulate coal mining jobs,” he said. “That’s unfortunate for coal miners because a lot of them really did think the current administration would be able to change the landscape and make coal competitive again, but there’s no president who can change that.”



Originally published for The Post on April 11, 2017.

OU students, Athens residents volunteer on Athens Beautification Day

Emily Lamb, a sophomore studying public health, shovels debris at the Dairy Barn Art Center on Sunday as part of Athens Beautification Day. Lamb was one of 938 students who registered to volunteer. (Photo by Blake Nissen)

Students and Athens residents gathered on a warm Sunday to volunteer for the 13th annual Athens Beautification Day.

Athens Beautification Day, an event where Ohio University students and local residents volunteer to clean up areas in Athens, kicked off Sunday morning at 9. Volunteers could choose between a morning shift, an afternoon shift or both.

Volunteers gathered on College Green to register and join their project groups. They reassembled on College Green at 11 a.m. for a pizza break and were sent out again to work from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. if they were participating in the afternoon shift. Projects included planting flowers in front of City Hall, removing graffiti around the city and more.

“Physically, streets are often much cleaner after today,” Selena Snyder, the director of Athens Beautification Day, said. “There’s a lot of physical beautification you see.”

Snyder said 938 students and Athens residents pre-registered for Athens Beautification Day. She said the amount of people working together strengthens the bond between the university and the city.

“In terms of relationships, you’ll see community members become closer with students,” Snyder, a junior studying math and neuroscience, said. “It’s fantastic seeing everyone come together and seeing how much they enjoy it.”

It takes all year to prepare for Athens Beautification Day, Snyder said, including fundraising efforts for community service projects including the 13 shuttles to and from sites. They also provide volunteers with free pizza and t-shirts. Local businesses also helped: Lowe’s donated 70 bags of mulch, Walmart donated a $50 gift card and Kroger donated banana boxes and 500 bottles of water.

Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones addressed the crowd before the afternoon shift on the importance of taking care of Athens as if it were their own community.

“When I greet first year students, I talk about getting to know Athens and treating this community as if it’s (their) own, because it is,” she said. “I hope (they) know this is not just a one-day thing, it’s an all-year thing.”

Kayela Majoros, a sophomore studying sociology-criminology, said she was glad to have an opportunity to give back to the community.

“I love Athens, so I’ll do anything I can, even clean up trash or do landscaping, to make a difference,” she said.

A sunny day in the 70s provided a nice backdrop for volunteers looking to make a difference, Majoros said.

“It was hot, sweaty and fun,” Xavier Barrett, a freshman studying biological science, said. “I loved it.”



Originally published for The Post on April 9, 2017.

Being “Affrilachian”: Those who identify as both black and Appalachian have deep history

As the sun set on a cold February afternoon, 100 people gathered on and near Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium’s portico to speak out against rumors of a “resurgence” of the Ku Klux Klan in southeast Ohio.

Several speakers shared their stories to celebrate diversity in Athens and the surrounding region, one historically thought of as almost exclusively white. With an introspective rally as the backdrop, attendees wanted to prove an important point: Black lives matter, even in Appalachia.

Black people, who make up fewer than 5 percent of Athens County’s population and 9.1 percent of the Appalachian population, have long been overlooked in an impoverished region that is overwhelmingly white.

“When people say we need to fix the white problem first, you can’t fix one without fixing both,” Ada Woodson Adams, a Nelsonville resident and 1961 Ohio University graduate, said. “When people say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ it’s a cry out that we have not been heard or seen, and we have been systematically institutionalized.”

Frank X Walker, a professor of English and African-American studies at the University of Kentucky, invented the word ‘Affrilachia’ in 1991 in response to the marginalization of black people in the region. He penned the word in a poem as a way to explain the “invisibleness” of Affrilachians.

“A lot of scholars quickly embraced the word because it allowed them to recognize that diversity had not been a large part of the conversation when we talked about the 13-state region that officially was Appalachia,” Walker said. “They embraced the word and began to recognize that they had missed something.”

White people make up 83.6 percent of the people in Appalachia in comparison to the national white population of 63.7 percent, according to 2010 U.S. Census data.

That lack of visibility creates a stigma against black people in Appalachia, Otis Trotter, the author of Keeping Heart: A Memoir of Family Struggle, Race, and Medicine, said. He spent a majority of his childhood in West Virginia before moving to Newcomerstown, Ohio in the ’60s, where he was subject to criticism because of his Appalachian and black roots.

“We still were looked on as black hillbillies,” he said. “They anticipated that we could be these typical black hillbillies, that we were unsophisticated and dumb.”

Segregation in Ohio

Data from U.S. Census Bureau

Ohio’s de facto segregation was more subtle at that time than the blatant racism in the Deep South, Adams said.

“Going Uptown, we didn’t have the same places you could go and eat if you wanted to go to the restaurant with your friends, because they would turn you away,” she said. “There was no sign, but they would tell you you weren’t welcome there.”

A more glaring and obvious form of racial discrimination were so-called “Sundown Towns,” or communities that kept out black people by law. The term was coined because the towns would sometimes have signs by their city limits stating black people must be gone by sundown. Some of those areas remain very white to this day, according to James W. Loewen’s book Sundown Towns.

“Things like that affect the psyche of people black and white,” Adams said. “It diminishes the strength of a community when you have racism.”

Provided via the Little Cities of Black Diamonds Council

Integrated coal mining towns

Many black people migrated from the South to Appalachia to find work in the coal mining industry, as the Deep South lacked decent paying jobs for black workers. Trotter said his family moved from Alabama to West Virginia for that reason.

“My father was recruited by coal miners,” Trotter said. “He ventured out and tried to take jobs near where he lived, but he couldn’t find a paying job, so when the recruiters came, he took (them) up on (their) offer.”

A notorious integrated coal mining town was Rendville, located in Perry County. It was established by the Ohio Coal Mining Company in 1879, made up by primarily German immigrants and black families. Despite initial racial tensions, the town functioned much better than other integrated communities in Appalachia with a mixed race village council, Cheryl Blosser, office coordinator for The Little Cities of Black Diamonds, said.

The Little Cities of Black Diamonds is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the history of coal mining regions.

“Rendville had a lot of opportunities and many other black miners moved there to work,” Blosser said in an email. “Because all of (the workers) were new and the miner owner paid the workers the same rate, some black families prospered better.”

(Provided via Eberly Family Special Collections Library, Penn State University Libraries) Major Fountain and children, Rendville, Ohio Perry County Ohio 1946.

Being black at Ohio University

Though OU was relatively progressive during times of de facto segregation, problematic policies were still in place.

John Newton Templeton, a freed slave who earned his bachelor’s degree from OU in 1828, was the fourth black college graduate in the nation and first in the Midwest.

Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium on College Green is named for Templeton and Martha Blackburn, the first black woman to graduate from OU in 1916.

“It is nice that OU educated (Templeton). However, there are some stains on that,” Bailey Williams, a freshman in the Templeton Scholars Program, said.

Templeton could not live in university housing with other students, so he lived in the log cabin near the Hocking River that now houses the Office of Sustainability and the Visitor Parking Registration Center.

More than 100 years later, Adams faced similar discrimination. Adams, who began her freshman year in 1957, said she could not join social sororities or fraternities during her time on campus because of the color of her skin. She also could not complete her student teaching in Athens County because OU had an agreement with local schools that they would not send black teachers to instruct students.

Adams also noted subtly segregated areas on campus. For example, black students often gathered in a room in the student center called the “Bunch of Grapes Room,” which white students nicknamed the “Bunch of Apes Room.”

“We have to take the good with the bad,” Williams said. “I feel like a lot of our history gets washed down looking at the good. We have to take it for what it is and look at the good and the bad.”

Though incidents like the painting of a hanged figure on the graffiti wall in September have left a sour taste in Williams’ mouth, he said overall, he has not experienced discrimination because of the color of his skin.

“There is a good diversity blend here (at OU),” Williams said. “It’s not much, but what we do have, it’s diverse.”

Racism in Appalachia today

2010 U.S. Census

Appalachians have made significant strides, Trotter said, but negative stereotypes surrounding those who identify as both black and Appalachian still exist.

“There is still a negative stigma,” Trotter said. “A lot of people tend to think about Appalachia as monolithic: They’re all white, they’re all poor. Many people still have that perception.”

The key to true integration of the region is to understand the differences among the population, Trotter said.

“We need to highlight a variety of people (from Appalachia) that are doing well, that are educated,” he said. “You can’t overlook that there are poor people … but you also have to try to do something to make people realize that yes, you can be poor but also intelligent and diverse.”

Originally published in The Post on the front page on April 6, 2017.