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Monday, May 7,2012

Palmer Fest house fire tenants speak out about arson, street fest

screenshot for video

Photo Caption: This is a screenshot from a video produced by Sway the Crowd Productions. The man, an OU student named John Wesley Hicks, lived in the house on palmer street that someone tried to burn down during Palmer Fest April 28.

In two interviews recently captured by Sway the Crowd Productions, three tenants who lived at a Palmer Street rental that was set on fire during Palmer Fest speak about their anger and frustration over the arson, and the continued irresponsible behavior of many people who attend the annual spring block parties held in Ohio University student neighborhoods.

After a fire was set in the basement of a house at 11 Palmer St. around 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 28, Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl declared the street and surrounding areas a "riot area," allowing police to clear inhabitants out of the neighborhood.

No one was injured in the fire, which state investigators suspect was an arson committed by someone who broke into the basement of the home.

In one video, former tenant John Wesley Hicks, who lost his home due to the fire, tells an interviewer that he received a text message telling him the house was on fire while he was working at a local bar.

Sitting in his damaged former bedroom, Hicks recalls that he used to get a lot of schoolwork done in the room. "That's no more," he said, due to the irresponsible act of arson.

"You never think it's going to happen to you, but when it does, it's devastating," he says

Hicks expresses anger over what he calls the "negligence" of many Palmer Fest participants, which he suggests is hurting Ohio University's image.

"It devalues our degrees," says the student, who recently won the National Student Advertising title for OU.

He called on students to "redefine our reputation" and get away from the image of a hard-drinking party school. He suggested students should ask themselves "why you would work so hard to get to this place, then let some asshole ruin it for you."

Two other tenants of the house, not identified by name, shared similar sentiments in another video. One woman who said she just graduated from Hocking College recounted that she had invited seven friends to stay with her over the weekend; the fire rendered all of them instantly "homeless for the evening," she said.

A male tenant said "there's nothing wrong with partying," but added, "you've got to understand there are limits to things… and burning someone's house down is not considered partying in my book."

Sway the Crowd Productions, a student-run video production company in Athens, is completing the videos as part of an informal look at OU's party-school reputation, dubbed "Reputation Redefined."

Sway the Crowd is producing event and news videos for The Athens NEWS this school year, though the "Reputation Redefine" videos are a separate project. The project, according to Sway the Crowd founder/producer Brian Grady, is meant to spark discussion about OU's party-school reputation and its causes and consequences.


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The problem is not the wonderful Ohio University.  It is not the University's highly above-average and very competitive students. For those who may not be aware, Ohio University has high admission standards.  It also has an impressive share of highly qualified faculty and has done, and is doing some of the most advanced and significant research in the world.  Yes, the world. It is a wonderfully well-rounded institution which is very strong in science and mathematics,  engineering, business,  health sciences, journalism, fine and applied arts, all the traditional subjects in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, and much more.  Its Honors Tutorial College provides undergraduate preparation in a large number of disciplines that ranks among the best in the world in terms of quality. Ohio has long been officially recognized as one of a surprisingly small number of Research Institutions in the country--a real honor in the academic world. No, it's not the University nor its fine faculty, staff, and students.  It's the insane actions of a few horribly motivated and mentally disturbed  individuals of the type that, unfortunately, can be found often in nearly every large  crowd that gets a lot of attention, especially when it is at a large university in a small town.   It just seems that some of the media especially enjoy writing about Ohio and perpetuating this nonsense about Ohio being a "party school" when, in fact, it's among the best public universities in the country.