Students roll with Gee as part of weekend party entourageGreat to know our childlren are entrusted with such an awesome, caring President
Updated: Monday, October 18, 2010 22:10
Sometimes, after a long day of work, Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee likes to take a stroll through the University District to see how students live outside the classroom. When he does, he rolls out with an entourage of student escorts.
University officials choose who gets to brush shoulders with Gee based on recommendations anyone can submit to the Office of Student Life.
There is no formal application process for eligibility. Staff in the Office of Student Life and the Office of the President try to reward involved and hard-working students with the leadership opportunity of being a student escort, said Tracy Stuck, assistant vice president for Student Life and director of the Ohio Union.
"We try to pick as a diverse group of students as possible: undergrads, grads and professional students," Stuck said.
The privilege comes with certain rules, she said.
Always carry water and snacks. Know how to use all types cameras. And most importantly, don't lose Gee.
Once the escorts know the drill, they can help decide the president's agenda for the night, along with other events pulled from Facebook and the Office of Student Life's calendar.
Escorts "pretty much go on Facebook and find out what's going on on-campus. So essentially, they're Facebook stalking," said Lucas Nutter, former president of Block "O" and a past escort.
The length of Gee's to-do list depends on factors such as his mood and the weather, Nutter said.
"He won't bypass a house to get to somewhere we're trying to go," said Ashley Sinram, a two-time student escort. "He will go anywhere because he wants to meet as many students as possible. He won't quit. I was more tired than he was."
After going over the night's schedule of events, mapping out their destinations and devising a strategy, Gee and his student escorts set off.
"We literally just show up. People think there is a science … there's no science. We literally parked at CVS and walked down Lane Avenue," Nutter said.
Gee's surprise visits often prompt dozens of students eager to get private pictures with the president. But escorts encourage students to take group pictures - and to keep alcohol to a minimum.
"It's a lot of work," said Joey Clark, a student in the Moritz College of Law and one of Gee's student escorts. "You're making sure students don't grab him or take pictures with drinks."
Nutter said the occasional Solo cup or beer bottle make it into photos with Gee, but escorts try to make sure "it doesn't look like the ‘Animal House' poster."
The most difficult part of the job, Nutter said, is sticking to the schedule.
"You have to have someone who can have the agenda and keep things in order," he said. "The goal is to have the best mix of exposure to people, fun, pictures, and all that stuff, but then we have to move on."
At the end of the evening, the students send Stuck a reflection on their experiences as an escort.
Nutter, Sinram and Clark said they would love to escort Gee again but think others deserve a chance.
"To me, the joy that it provides to students, that your university president would show up to your birthday party or would show up at the student organization function that you planned, that he cares enough to show up. Sometimes, you're just in awe," Stuck said.
In an interview with The Lantern staff, Gee said it's important to connect with students and stay active in the OSU community.
"I'm 66 and I feel younger now than when I was 36," Gee said. "I'm
certain I'm going to wear out - or wear you out - but not yet."