Graduate Housing at The Ridges May Harm Ecosystem


Lifestyle Staff Writer| Alexis McCurdy|

Graduate students may be embracing new homes at The Ridges after Ohio University Student Senate voted Wednesday against a bill proposed to preserve green spaces on The Ridges.

The bill was aimed at protecting the environmental and historical aspects of The Ridges while Ohio University considered it as a place for graduate housing.

The Ridges could be a new housing area for grad students. Many are concerned it could have negative effects on the environment. Photo via Wesley Eller, Flickr.

Environmental Affairs Commissioner, Sarah Pinter, said the new development on the property would hurt the ecosystem around The Ridges.

“First of all, we have to respect the history of this town, outside of just our part in it,” Pinter said. “There is marketable value of green space.”

Graduate College Senator Mitchell Smith disagreed.

Smith said graduate student housing was a necessity. He said undergraduates are in better shape for housing in that they are provided a secure living space in dorms, however expensive the space might be. Graduate students, he said, do not have this option.

“The housing market here is untenable, in some ways, in terms of competition and trying to find housing,” Smith said. “There needs to be an option, however limited, for graduate housing through the university, not through outside entities.”

Smith continued to argue that the development of housing on The Ridges would not hurt, especially with the many open green spaces around Athens.

“I’m not belittling The Ridges,” Smith said. “I’ve walked there more times than I can count, it’s a beautiful space. But, the university isn’t just going to destroy it. As with any new development plans, there’s always a plan to have green space involved in any new building project that people put in. That’s the way things work.”

Many other members agreed.

Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones said sponsors of the bill may have been mistaken in their interpretation of development plans.

“The Ridges encompasses over 700 acres,” Hall-Jones said. “So it’s a large, vast space. Any development that would happen for graduate student housing would never touch the cemeteries or the historical sites, and it would preserve a lot of green space. So I feel like there’s a little misinformation about what the plan is.”

Fatma Jabbari, commissioner of International Graduate Affairs, said the housing situation for international graduate students was even worse. Going through a long, elaborate process, Jabbari said international students will have at best three to four weeks to find housing before the semester starts.

She said having a low cost option for graduate housing would help ease the process.

“Thinking of rent, thinking of utilities, there is also health insurance that I have to pay,” she said. “So if I have more options that are less, I will go for the less. I would go with apartments that fit my budget.”

Ohio University officials plan to complete housing within the next year. In the renovation of the buildings in The Ridges, asbestos and biohazards will be taken care of.

While the renovation may be costly, Hall-Jones said some help will be coming.

“Yes, it would cost millions of dollars to do that,” she said. “But that’s why the university is interested in doing a public-private partnership. Other old asylums like that have been turned into really awesome, beautiful spaces, but only with the help of a private contractor.”