Last night's Mirror Lake Jump ended prematurely, and in tragedy, as a young man who jumped in the lake last night passed away. After years of trying to mange the inherent risks of such an event, with fences, wristbands and more, it appears that the university is prepared to put the hammer down and end the Mirror Lake jump once and for all.
But you know what? That's probably the right move.
Let there be no mistake, I think I speak for everybody who contributes to this website when I say that the Mirror Lake Jump was awesome. I jumped in both of my years in Columbus, and they were two of my fondest memories at Ohio State. When I jumped in 2007 and 2008, the event was probably the biggest campus-wide event, and brought everybody together.
But let's not be naive here. It's dangerous, and it's been dangerous for a while. It gets really cold in late November in Columbus, adding another incentive to "self-insulate" with alcohol to an event that would already be more than lubricated. It's crowded, chaotic, dark (even with spotlights), and given the sheer number of people there, in a small space, with tons of alcohol, plus a freezing body of water, it's an open invitation for injuries, or worse.
If we're being totally honest, the jump is dangerous, even ignoring the risks from alcohol poisoning or hypothermia. That lake is disgusting, and an open invitation for everybody to jump in to catch sort of malady, especially since shallow depth and rocky bottom of the lake make it easy to cut yourself. It also turns the entire Mirror Lake area into a mud pit after the jump, ripping up grass, and replacing it with garbage and misplaced hoodies.
This year, a person died. Last year, five people were arrested, and another four were hospitalized (albeit with minor conditions). Arrests at the event are not uncommon historically, and others have been hospitalized for everything from sprained ankles to hypothermia. Given all of those risks, the question shouldn't be whether the university and other stakeholders are overreacting to a single tragedy, but whether we've all been lucky that only one person has died. Crowds, plus booze, plus freezing temperatures, plus the physical makeup of that lake, adds up to a dangerous combination.
Ohio State has tried to discourage people from jumping, but that obviously hasn't worked. They've tried to mitigate risks with additional structure, like fences, or wristbands, or additional police. But those haven't worked, and it is difficult to imagine other ways that the university could practically try to bring in additional precautions while still maintaining the event.
Ohio State has already put out a statement that says they will work to end the event. Ohio State's elected student leadership agrees. And all things considered, that's the most responsible thing to do, and we support their efforts.
We realize that this won't be easy. Tensions will be running high between the campus community and the university, and the school may need to place strong measures to prevent protest jumps in the near future. Maybe that means draining the lake a few weeks before Michigan. Maybe it means extra police monitoring. We hope that everybody involved with Ohio State can act in a way that's both safe and respectful.
One of the very best things about Ohio State is that sense of tradition, and the Mirror Lake Jump is certainly not the only one the university enjoys and cherishes. The next generation of Buckeyes should look to build on those traditions and start their own during Michigan week, and find a way to engage everybody in a way that doesn't risk the premature death of a student.
The Mirror Lake Jump was awesome. It was an exciting and fun campus tradition. But no campus tradition is worth dying over. It's time to move on.