Ohio State students upset graduation death not acknowledged during ceremony

Graduates and staff question the school's response after a person fell from the stadium to their death during the commencement ceremony.
OSU graduation death
Posted at 7:56 AM, May 07, 2024

Graduates and staff members at The Ohio State University say they are disappointed in the college's response after a person fell from the stadium and died as the commencement ceremony was starting. The university didn't mention the death during the three-hour event.

What was supposed to be one of the most exciting days of Anthony Mullen’s life turned into a tragedy.

"It just sent shock waves throughout the entire section of the graduates," Mullen said.

His family traveled down from Canton to celebrate his graduation from OSU’s psychology program. But as he was walking into Ohio Stadium, a person fell from the stands and died.

"It kind of takes you out of it — obviously things like that do," he said. "But it definitely is a damper."

The individual died at 12:25 p.m., nearly a half hour after the graduation began, according to the Franklin County Coroner's Office. They are still working to identify the person.

It is unclear what led up to the fall, but OSU police are investigating.

Mullen said that students were left in a panic because the university did not mention the death at all during the ceremony.

"That is such a tough thing to feel and also to feel like that is not being addressed — just kind of ignoring it — it just happened," he said. "My heart goes out to them."

Dr. Pranav Jani is a leader on campus and is trying to see the administration's point of view.

"I don't want to pretend that I know the pressure that was on the leadership to figure out whether they should continue or not," the professor said.

Jani still felt that the administration should have done more.

"Something tragic has happened; we're investigating; don't panic, but we're going to give a moment of silence," he said, giving an example of a better way to handle the death.

He was shocked and angry when he learned, through someone messaging him, that the death occurred.

"I felt that business should not go on as usual when something this tragic happens," he said.

That being said, Jani, Mullen and others said they knew the whole event couldn't have been shut down.

"So many people have come in and so much work has been done and the graduation day is so important," Jani added.

University spokesperson Ben Johnson said the school did not mention the death “out of respect for the family during an evolving public safety response.”

Johnson said the university doesn't have any more details to share right now, but it is providing counseling services.

OSU's full statement:

"Tragically, an individual fell from the stands and is deceased. We have no additional details to share at this time. For anyone affected by yesterday’s incident, we will make counseling and other support resources available."

This wasn't enough for Mullen.

"I think there's a lot going on with the university that they're just shoving under the rug and ignoring — and finding easy solutions that don't necessarily promote long-term change or long-term mental health promotion," the graduate said.

Mullen was also frustrated that the university chose a Bitcoin influencer as the commencement speaker — and didn't address the more than 40 arrests over the past two weeks on campus as pro-Palestinian demonstrators have been opposing OSU's relationship with Israel.

This story was originally published by Morgan Trau at Scripps News Cleveland.