Iranian students protest Trump’s immigration ban

Mohammad Hatami, left, and Ali Rafiei, right, chain themselves together outside Baker Center Monday in protest of President Trump’s recent executive order on immigration. (Photo by Hannah Ruhoff)

Ali Khaledi has not seen his family in three years.

His family was going to travel from Iran to visit him, but President Donald Trump’s executive order limiting immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries bars them from doing so. Khaledi does not know when he will see his family again.

Students gather outside of Baker Center on Monday to protest President Trump’s recent executive order on immigration.

Khaledi and seven other Ohio University students from Iran gathered at the top of Baker Center at 11 a.m. to protest Trump’s decision. They held signs with sayings, such as “No hate, no fear,” and “My family is banned from visiting me.”

“We are here to show that we are unhappy about what’s going on,” Khaledi, a Ph.D. student studying physics, said. “It’s discrimination to ban people based on their religion or country of origin.”

Chains were wrapped around demonstrators’ wrists as they held up signs.

“The chains represent the fact that we cannot go outside the country and come back,” Ali Rafiei, a Ph.D. student studying chemistry, said. “We are limited and our families are limited. The chains represent the fact that we are prisoners. We cannot go outside and come back. We could go out, but what happens to our studies?”

Passersby stopped to observe, offering words of support and taking photos of the demonstrators, including Morgyn Freeland, an undecided freshman.

“It’s terrible that Trump is doing this,” he said. “These people have done nothing wrong. … It completely goes against everything our country stands for. It makes me emotional that I’m seeing this right now.”

Kay Tousley, an Athens resident, was walking by when she saw the group and gave them two cookies she purchased for herself.

“I love to see this kind of very quick pushback,” she said. “We’ve got to stop it as hard and fast as we can, you know, all the abominations that the Trump administration is trying to push through. … I wanted to show support.”

Another group of observers bought coffee for each one of the demonstrators to show their support.

Ari Blumer, a junior studying HTC engineering and physics, gives coffee to Mohsen Ghasemi and other students standing in the cold outside Baker Center on Monday who were protesting President Trump’s recent executive order on immigration.

Throughout the protest, some students joined. Maxwell Zelman, a senior studying animation, quickly jotted “Jews for Muslims! Solidarity” on a sheet of paper and stood next to the Iranian students.

“Muslims are under persecution and I’m not about to let a second Holocaust happen to a different group of people,” Zelman said.

Not all passersby were so agreeable. A man in a car drove by, honking his horn and shouting, “Vote for Trump,” with a thumbs up. The demonstrators did not respond.

“We are just trying to increase awareness in our community in order to let everyone know that we as students, we are like them, but we are limited,” Rafiei said. “This is discrimination against certain regions and certain nations.”

Rafiei questioned Trump’s selection of the seven countries, as they are not the major sources of terrorist attacks in the United States.

“It’s not going to solve anything,” he said. “It’s just going to put a burden on people: students and their family. It’s going to separate families.”

Khaledi said he is disheartened by the actions of Trump and wants to be treated like any other American.

“We’d like to see different treatment from the U.S.,” he said. “We came to this country because we thought it was the land of freedom.”


Originally published for The Post on Jan. 30, 2017.


OHIO Honors program delayed until fall 2018

Just down the street from Baker University Center, 35 Park Place houses the Honors Tutorial College offices. Starting in 2018, HTC will start a program called OHIO Honors. (Photo by Hannah Ruhoff)

OHIO Honors was initially scheduled to launch in the upcoming academic year, but the steering committee decided Monday to delay the program until fall 2018.

The steering committee wanted to solidify plans and staff for OHIO Honors before moving forward, Jeremy Webster, the Dean of Honors Tutorial College, said.

“We don’t want to set up a program that’s not going to benefit students,” he said. “Until we feel like we’re solid on curriculum and staff, we thought it was prudent to delay the program until 2018 just to make sure students are successful.”

Although housed in HTC, OHIO Honors will differ in many ways from the existing program. HTC offers 36 programs of study, such as chemistry and film. Students participating in OHIO Honors will remain in the college housing their major, but they will complete additional enrichment inside and outside of the classroom. When students graduate, they will have “OHIO Honors” on their transcript.

“The idea fundamentally is to create a university-wide honors program that students from each of the colleges could participate in,” Webster said. “The goal behind it is to create a series of enrichment that would augment students in meaningful ways.”

There will be three tracks students can choose from, Webster said, including research and creative activity, leadership and community engagement.

The program is still developing, and although Webster said he anticipates the work will be done by the end of Spring Semester, he said it would not give OHIO Honors enough turnaround time to have students participating in the fall. Students can either apply after being accepted to Ohio University, or potentially while they are freshmen or sophomores on campus. The logistics of application and acceptance are still being worked out.

“Partly, we felt we can’t move forward if we don’t really have a solid sense of … presenting it to students,” Webster said.

The program was officially approved through the University Curriculum Council in November 2015, according to a previous Post report.

The steering committee is currently working on finalizing curriculum and securing personnel.

“There needs to be at least one centralized advisor to help students keep records on classes and co-curricular activities they’re participating in,” Webster said. “At the moment, there’s not enough certainty about the budget for the coming year and how we’ll create that position.”

As the steering committee works to finalize the program and get it ready for fall 2018, an aura of mystery remains for students, even those in HTC.

“It’s weird, OU doesn’t have an honors program besides HTC, because HTC is small and no one really knows about it,” Jessica Hemmelgarn, a freshman studying biological sciences in HTC, said. “It would be a good thing for the college definitely, but it’s weird to have two honors side by side that are different things. It might confuse people.”

In fall 2015, there were about 270 students enrolled in HTC, according to the OU factbook.

The inclusiveness of all colleges within OHIO Honors is a great idea for all OU students to consider, Haley Appelmann, a freshman studying neuroscience in HTC, said.

“Just being in HTC so far, I’ve already been given so many opportunities,” Appelmann said. “This would be a better chance to give all students those opportunities and widen that scope.”


Originally published for The Post on Jan. 26, 2017.

Wayne National Forest auctioned off to oil and gas companies, netted more than $1 million

The Bureau of Land Management has auctioned off areas of the Wayne National Forest, viewed here from the Snake Ridge Lookout Tower at the Wayne National Forest Headquarters & Athens Ranger Station (FILE by Emma Howells).

719 acres of Wayne National Forest, the only national forest in Ohio, were auctioned off for oil and gas purposes on Tuesday. The sale could lead to hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — on public land.

Fracking is a process in which pressurized liquid is used to fracture rock and release gas. The Bureau of Land Management released a notice about the auction schedule to take place on Dec. 13, allowing for a 30-day formal protest period which ended on Nov. 14.

Many Athens activists, including members of the Athens County Fracking Action Network, banded together to fight the motion, two of whom delivered a petition to the BLM in Washington D.C. on Nov. 14. The petition has more than 99,000 signatures as of press time. Andrea Reik and Roxanne Groff, among other Athens activists, have been protesting the auction since the announcement of the sale. More than 50 community members rallied at the Wayne National Forest Saturday afternoon.

“My experience of this process was disappointing,” Reik, a member of ACFAN, said. “We did not get support from either (Ohio) senator. … It’s very disturbing to me that we had almost 100,000 signatures on a petition, daily phone calls, postcards, there was no action taken … As a citizen that is frightening to me. Our voices need to be heard.”

The petition was denied by the BLM, though the report indicates that some of proposed parcels would not be included in the auction for reasons besides her petition.

“That’s not surprising,” Groff, a member of ACFAN, said. “It makes sense they would deny the formal protest that were based on issues like health risks and also the fact that we don’t feel they followed the National Environmental Act. … We’re not surprised, but nevertheless disappointed.”

The summary of the sales and parcels sold are posted at the conclusion of the business associated with the sales, Davida Carnahan, a BLM spokesperson said. 15 of the 33 proposed parcels were not included in the sale because the BLM was “not able” to resolve questions regarding mineral ownership. A news release from the sales confirmed the sales netted more than $1 million.

Carnahan said it would be incorrect to assume that fracking will definitely take place on the parcels purchased. Developers must file an Application to Drill Permit which includes a map, drilling plan and other means of acquiring oil or gas, including whether the developer has plans to frack. From there, further assessment will take place and the company will have 10 years to develop minerals.

“The leasing action makes federal minerals available for development, but it does not authorize ground disturbing activity,” Carnahan said in an email. “When the BLM receives the APD, we begin a more site-specific environmental analysis of the operations proposed by the application to drill. … Additionally, developers must submit a permit request to the State of Ohio before their lease may be developed in order to put protections in place required by the state to mitigate risks to groundwater.”

Both Reik and Groff feel the BLM’s environmental assessment was not thorough about the immediate impacts and long-term effects of fracking. ACFAN members attempted to include additional information, but Reik said they were denied.

“They wanted science peer review, so we gave many, many reports and studies and they were never addressed in any way in the environmental assessment,” Reik said. “There were 200 comments on the environmental assessment by the BLM and these were written by environmental attorneys and scientists and every single comment was denied.”

Groff said she is hoping a lawsuit will soon be heard in court contesting the decision made by the BLM and U.S. Forest Service.

“(The lawsuit) won’t come from us citizens,” she said. “We wouldn’t be able to raise the funds ourselves. We were hope lawyers from bigger state agencies or national groups might choose to file legal action against their decision.”

The fight for the Wayne will not end anytime soon, Reik said.

“More and more citizens and groups are forming,” she said. “We are not backing down. We are not stopping. We will continue to raise this as an issue. … This is where I’ve lived and I will not walk away from it.”


Originally published for The Post on December 14, 2016.

OU to assist on-campus students hoping to vote in Athens with email documentation

The Division of Student Affairs sent out an email to students encouraging them to register to vote in the upcoming November election. (SCREENSHOT)

For the first time, Ohio University will be taking advantage of technology to assist students living on campus who wish to vote in Athens.

To vote in Ohio, one has update their voter registration form with their current address each time they move within the state. The registered voter then has to provide some form of identification which may include, according to, current and valid photo identification issued by the federal government or Ohio, such as a driver’s license; military identification with the voter’s name or a copy, or an original copy, of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or government document showing the voter’s name and current address.

For those students registered to vote in Athens who currently reside in a residence hall, though, those identification requirements typically presented a few hurdles. For example, not all OU students who register to vote in Athens have an Ohio driver’s license.

In the past, those students had to go to the Vice President of Student Affairs in Cutler Hall or the Dean of Student’s office in Baker to receive the proper documentation.

“This year, we decided to do this electronically,” Chad Barnhardt, the assistant dean of students, said. “What we’ve done is we’ve worked with the registrar’s office and information technology to generate letters that will go out to students that live on campus to verify their address.”

The letters will be sent automatically to students living on campus. Barnhardt added the university can only verify the addresses for students living on campus, because those are the addresses in its records.

Charis Johnson, a junior studying exercise physiology, said she already utilized the electronic request because she is eager to vote in a swing state.

“Coming here, I had no idea how it would go,” Johnson said. “I got the email, and I filled it out as soon as possible. It was actually a very easy process. I was worried, but it made it really easy.”

The Athens County Board of Elections began working with OU over the summer to develop the idea, Debbie Quivey, the Athens Board of Elections director, said.

Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones sent out an email Sept. 22 with a timeline for the process.

Documentation on OU letterhead will be sent out via email on Oct. 12 and Nov. 3 for students who are voting absentee and students physically going to the polls. Students living in the residence halls must print the letter and bring it to their polling location — Baker University Center Ballroom — on Nov. 8.

Lauren Elliott-Dorans, an OU political science professor, said she was excited about the new process, and the change was “many years in the making.” Elections during a voters’ college years are some of the most crucial, she said.

“If young people don’t vote in their first three elections, it’s unlikely they’re going to become consistent voters after that,” Elliott-Dorans said. “The best way to curate a lifelong voting habit is to make it possible and easy for young people to vote, especially in those first three elections.”

Elliott-Dorans said she always takes two forms of identification to the polls: her driver’s license and a utility bill. Because obtaining documentation from OU is more simplified through the electronic request, she said she would suggest all students take advantage of that opportunity.

“Removing any barrier we can for young people is so important because we’re not just talking about a single vote, we’re talking about a lifetime of voting we’re hoping to cultivate,” Elliott-Dorans said.



Originally published for The Post on September 29, 2016.

New clothing store to open on West Union Street as construction continues

Photo by Kevin Pan

A revamped West Union Street is set to include a new restaurant, a clothing store and more.

A clothing retailer is set to open Friday, following the November 2014 fire that had West Union Street under construction for months, Uptown Dog owner Mary Cheadle said.

After 20 years at 10 W. Union St., Uptown Dog relocated to 9 W. Union St. while the buildings were being reconstructed.

Rather than moving Uptown Dog back into the restored space, Cheadle decided to open 10 WEST Clothing Co., a unisex store marketed toward both students and local citizens.

In addition to undecorated T-shirts and sweatshirts, the store will offer a “nearly new” section, Cheadle said. It will include used garments, as well as big-name brands with 50 to 70 percent off their original prices.

“Most of the other clothing stores in town are a little more upscale and dressy and a little higher-priced, so I’m trying to offer this more casual type of clothing at a reduced rate,” Cheadle said.

Cheadle’s ultimate goal is to enhance the shopping experience of students and Athens residents.

“I wanted to be a part of the comeback after the fire and rebuilding Union Street,” Cheadle said. “I felt like adding another store is essentially enriching Uptown Athens shopping more than what we already have.”

The rest of the street’s construction will come to an end relatively soon, Guy Philips, an Athens HotLink Housing commercial rental property owner, said.

Although the initial target date was set for the beginning of 2017, realistically, the project will draw to a close in February 2017, Philips said.

To students like Logan Rose, a fifth-year senior studying accounting who lives in the new apartments on West Union Street, the construction has seemed never-ending.

“They seem like they’re taking their time with it,” Rose said. “My mom was on campus earlier, and she said that it seemed like it was taking forever to get done.”

Rose said his roommate — whose room faces the street — has reported loud noises due to the construction, though life on West Union has its upsides, too, such as the proximity to classes and Court Street.

“Most of our classes are in Copeland, so it’s the best location,” Rose said. “I never thought I’d be living near Court Street. It was a 10-month lease, so we got to save on two months of rent.”

Rose and his roommates are the first to live in the apartment, owned by Best of Athens Rentals.

Philips said while it may seem like the project is taking a long time, his team has been working tirelessly for the amount of work that needs to be done.

“Everybody moves as quickly as possible, and it’s a big project,” Philips said. “I think it’s moving along pretty quickly considering the loss of five or six buildings, and we’re getting them all replaced.”

Rebuilding of The Union Bar and Grill was completed in May, but there will be more additions to the buildings on West Union Street in the upcoming year. The Ohio University Credit Union will occupy one storefront, and a restaurant will move into another. The name of the restaurant has yet to be unveiled to the public.

“I’ve seen their other restaurants, and I’ve got friends who are familiar with the other restaurants, and they love it, and they think it will be a great fit for Athens,” Philips said of the unnamed location and its owner. “It’ll cater to university students and townspeople alike.”


Originally published by The Post on September 22, 2016.