The Oval clears for a couple coming back to make the Long Walk before a surprise proposal. Balloons fly across every corner of the Union and a stage sits in the center. The masses swarm in waves of scarlet and gray and Buckeyes of every age carpet campus. It’s Homecoming weekend, and the Buckeyes have come home.
For some, the return had to be jarring. In more places than one, new glass buildings have replaced familiar brick halls. The old Union is gone, with the one I know reaching only its sixth birthday, and majors that were once the stuff of science fiction and fantasy have classes spread across the Oval. The meaning of “time and change” truly hit me when a tried Link of Sphinx Senior Honorary met a member of this year’s class and could not wrap their head around the fact they got in. Why? Because “girls aren’t allowed in Sphinx.”
Although it might not be as dramatic as the introduction of Title IX, the campus I knew as a freshmen is different than the one I see now. Insomnia Cookies and Caine’s have left central campus, and most of the local businesses on High Street have been, or will be, forced out of business for high scale apartments and business buildings. SEL is now 18th Avenue Library. North Campus, once a quiet study-land, is now the most updated area of campus. Resources are increasingly devoted to second-years, as STEP’s creation two years ago takes hold and a two year live on requirement ballooned the on-campus population. The James Cancer Hospital has a new building. Bystander training is required of all incoming freshmen. The Union Market no longer sells onion petals. A tradition involving Mirror Lake has officially been condemned by the university, and if rumors are true, the lake itself will soon disappear.
Time and change. Some of these changes I welcome. Others I don’t. Sometimes, my opinion is built on pettiness, such as sadness about university dining no longer serving my favorite side snack. Other times, it’s built on disappointment in my school, where money sometimes seems to take precedence over student welfare. Where funding can be found for cosmetic changes but not for creating a Women’s Place, hiring an extra advisor in the MCC or fixing a system that takes advantage of adjunct professors. Where a new campus rec center is ordered to be built without any increase to the department’s budget, leading to the elimination of holiday pay, shortened hours, and less benefits for the student employees in order to pull it off. Where OSU chooses to kick out local businesses and affordable housing, both of which are accessible to students, in favor of lucrative new tenants whose businesses and apartments are out of the financial range of all but the most wealthy grads and undergrads.
Time and change. Both bring turmoil, whether positive or negative. And so many of the changes on campus have been positive. Maymester has allowed students to sample new classes and graduate on time by providing a free 3-credit hour voucher since its creation. The It’s On Us Campaign and mandatory sexual assault training have helped bring light to campus issues and slowly shift previously ingrained mentalities. OSU shows dedication to sustainability, in its infrastructure, its emphasis of the same to its students, in looking for innovation solutions. For every change that someone sees as a misstep, there’s another step that someone sees as progress and vice versa.
I myself have changed since stepping foot on this campus. I’m not as self-assured that the sheltered eighteen-year-old who entered Lincoln Tower, but I’m more self-aware. I’m involved in the world around me, am more political. My friend circle has changed, from highly similar high school friends who always agreed with each other, to a rowdier, less harmonious group with different backgrounds and different opinions. I have causes and stances that earn praise and push back. I’m more driven and find myself saddled with bigger dreams; dreams that I know won’t all come true, but even some of them becoming reality is more than freshman year could have ever imagined. The sum of these changes: are they good? I don’t know. I don’t know whether I have necessarily “improved” as a person while at OSU, but I do know that OSU and I have created an indelible change in each other, just one more link in a cycle that occurs for everyone who comes to Columbus as a Buckeye.
And as always, even when dealing with such change, we always return home, to our OSU families and traditions. We sing Carmen at the end of every game, and Homecoming Kings and Queens from decades past put on their sash and join in. Each class makes its own traditions, a tradition in itself, and students build lifelong bonds with their classmates. Because at Ohio State, scarlet and gray are always the best colors, boys and girls grow into men and women, and the Long Walk still means love forever after.