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.