As the sun dipped behind Ohio State’s campus Sunday evening, hundreds of students and parents gathered to remember slain OSU student Chase Meola and put pressure on the university to increase off-campus safety measures.
The event, organized by the parent-led Buckeyes for a Safe Ohio State, met at the new public plaza at the corner of 15th Avenue and High Street for “Light Up the Night.” Organizers passed out flashlights, glow sticks and signs that read things like “Buck Up, Ohio State” and “More lights! More cameras! More action!”.
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Irene Hendrick, a Buckeyes for Safe Ohio State organizer and parent of an OSU sophomore, took to a megaphone and stood up on a bench.
“Thank you all for being here for Chase. Thank you all for being here for yourselves, and thank you for being here for you school,” she said. “‘Together as Buckeyes’ takes on a whole new meaning tonight.”
Meola, a 23-year-old New Jersey native and fifth-year Ohio State marketing major, was fatally shot at an off-campus party in the early morning hours of Oct. 11, 2020. Since then, parents, students and community members have been calling on Ohio State to amplify safety measures on and off campus, primarily in the University District neighborhood.
Ohio State recently announced it is investing an additional $2 million a year in funding over the next decade to enhance safety and security measures on and near campus. The funding will total at least $20 million over the 10-year period and will go toward increasing off-campus patrols, including more private security, uniformed officers and joint patrols; additional mobile lighting and camera towers in the area; and extending the university’s ride share services for students into the Short North.
The group walked up 15th Avenue –– one street away from where Meola died –– then onto Indianola Avenue and down Waldeck Avenue to the Indianola Presbyterian Church. Some of the attendees joined the organizers in chants like “OH-IO, campus crime has got to go,” but most walked in reflective silence to the church. Onlookers watched from the doorways of their fraternity houses and beeped their car horns in solidarity.
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As everyone filed onto the church’s lawn, little lights from hundreds of cell phones and flash light peppered the dark.
Hendrick took to the megaphone again on the church steps.
“Look around and see how many people loved Chase,” she said.
Hendrick and her fellow parent organizers didn’t know the Meola family before Chase died. But his death sparked an urgency in them to make the University District safer, she said. Hendrick told the crowd that by giving students a safer college experience, it also saves parents some worry.
The group played Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer,” Meola’s favorite song, over a loud speaker. Some of Meola’s friends – who wore black hoodies adorned with his name – wrapped their arms around one another, swaying back and forth. Others gently wiped tears away as they sang along.
And now she’s in me, always with me, tiny dancer in my hand.
Allyson Reid, another Buckeyes for a Safe Ohio State organizer, read a letter written by Chase Meola’s mother, Margaret. She was invited to attend the walk, but Margaret said she couldn’t bare being that close to where her son died.
“She wants all of you guys to be safe every single day, but every time there’s a safety notice that goes out, it takes her right back to that day,” Reid said.
Emily O’Shaughnessy and Sophie Newman wanted to attend the walk to honor Chase Meola’s memory and express their frustration with the university’s safety measures.
Although the 20-year-old Ohio State juniors didn’t know Meola personally, they are both friends with some of his old fraternity brothers, and they were at the party the night he died. They live a few blocks away in the University District and say although the added lights and cameras have made a difference, more still needs done to protect students.
“It’s nice knowing that more has been done in the last two weeks, but it doesn’t make it any easier,” O’Shaughnessy said.
The two students said there were disappointed that Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson didn’t make an appearance at the event.
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Still, the walk was a beautiful way to remember Meola and see how many lives he touched, they said.
“Anything we can do to acknowledge him is enough,” O’Shaughnessy said.
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