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Ohio State President Optimistic About Student Safety Amid Pandemic, Increased Crime

 Ohio State President Kristina Johnson talks to a student in the classroom.
Ohio State University
Ohio State President Kristina Johnson talks to a student in the classroom.

It's been over a week since classes have started, and Ohio State University President Kristina Johnson is optimistic about keeping students safe this year.

Johnson appeared on WOSU's All Sides with Ann Fisher Thursday morning, and addressed questions regarding student safety, not only crime safety, but COVID-19 as well.

Last week, Ohio State announced students and staff were required to get the COVID vaccine. Students who don't get vaccinated would not be able to attend classes in-person next semester. Johnson said since then, 77% of the university has been vaccinated.

"We're at 86% for our residential students, 83% overall for students, and in the low 70's for our faculty and staff," Johnson said. "So I think it's really had the effect that we hoped which is priority one, keep people safe."

Students that aren't vaccinated by the university's deadline will not be allowed to attend classes in-person. Other schools like the University of Virginia have de-enrolled or will de-enroll students for not complying with their vaccine mandates.

But Johnson said that's not Ohio State's intention with not allowing unvaccinated students on campus.

"Our goal is to make sure our students graduate and to help them do that," Johnson said. "We're not looking to de-enroll but we are looking to put in place a requirement to enroll for next semester again to keep our students, faculty and staff safe."

However, she added professors won't have to change their classes to be available as a hybrid course next semester. Unvaccinated students will have to take classes that were already designed for online use, meaning a limited pool of classes for them.

Johnson also addressed the increase in campus area crimes in addition to COVID-19 safety measures. The university issued six safety notices in the month of August alone.

On Wednesday, the university announced efforts to increase campus area security in collaboration with the Columbus Division of Police.

Columbus Division of Police Deputy Chief Jennifer Knight said at Wednesday's press conference that she hopes the crimes do not continue and that campus-area residents and the city will help law enforcement prevent and prosecute crimes.

“And I’m here to tell those individuals that are victimizing the students out here that we will have a police officer right around the corner,” Knight said. “We will catch you, we will arrest you, and we will prosecute you.”

Johnson said on All Sides while they've been increasing security measures like a higher police presence and better lighting at night, it's going to take collaboration from everyone.

"It's going to take community leaders. It's going to take OSU leaders. It's going to take our faculty, students, staff. It's going to take property owners, visitors and residents in those neighborhoods working together," she said.

Michael Lee joined WOSU in 2021, but was previously an intern at the station in 2018. He is a graduate from Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism where he obtained his master's degree, and an alumnus of Ohio State University. Michael has previously worked as an intern at the Columbus Dispatch and most recently, the Chicago Sun-Times.