DECKER

The Columbus Dispatch - - Metro&state - C’mon, man! You can’t bail on us! Best years of our lives, right?” tdecker@dis­patch.com @Theodor­e_Decker

an­nounced Tues­day that OSU had agreed to pay his fam­ily $450,000 to set­tle their wrong­ful-death suit.

I won’t re­peat any of the com­ments here, but my ini­tial re­ac­tion? Just, wow.

Not that this in­for­ma­tion would knock such flaw­less com­menters from the sad­dles of their high horses, but here’s one fact I’ll re­peat about Sin­gle­tary: He was a leader with the Buck­eye Civic En­gage­ment Con­nec­tion, a pro­ject of the Of­fice of Stu­dent Life. In that role, he vol­un­teered at East­gate El­e­men­tary School in Colum­bus, help­ing stu­dents with their school­work and with be­hav­ioral is­sues.

So how about swal­low­ing a lit­tle of that bile?

Sin­gle­tary was a young man who, while un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol, made a bad — sure, we can call it stupid — de­ci­sion to leap into an icy stew of wa­ter­fowl poop and hu­man urine.

That same sce­nario ap­plied to prob­a­bly 80 per­cent of the throng sur­round­ing him that night. And un­like a good por­tion of the hun­dreds tak­ing the plunge, Sin­gle­tary was of le­gal

drink­ing age.

He also, friends told in­ves­ti­ga­tors later, didn’t even re­ally want to do it. We’re too old at 22 to blame peer pres­sure for our dumb choices but some­times not old enough to rec­og­nize the hold it still has on us.

You’ve all likely heard it:

That Sin­gle­tary should be pil­lo­ried for do­ing what gen­er­a­tions of col­lege stu­dents have done, namely drink too much al­co­hol to act re­spon­si­bly, feels aw­fully two-faced. I did plenty of stupid things af­ter drink­ing too much in col­lege. So did ev­ery sin­gle per­son I can think of in my so­cial cir­cle, and we weren’t even con­sid­ered par­ty­ers. The self-de­struc­tive phe­nom­e­non of binge drink­ing has be­come as much a part of col­le­giate life as pulling an all-nighter.

Most of us squeaked through un­scathed. Ev­ery school year, some don’t.

Some crit­ics blasted OSU for agree­ing to the set­tle­ment. Those crit­ics hit the bet­ter tar­get for the wrong rea­son.

OSU agreed to the set­tle­ment with­out ac­cept­ing li­a­bil­ity, but rest as­sured that univer­sity lawyers knew that Sin­gle­tary’s fam­ily had a case.

As the Mir­ror Lake tra­di­tion grew, OSU clearly be­came un­com­fort­able with it but al­lowed it to per­sist. While main­tain­ing all along that the stu­dent-led event was frowned upon by the univer­sity, ad­min­is­tra­tors tried all sorts of ways to over­see it. When Sin­gle­tary died, the prac­tice was to in­stall tem­po­rary fenc­ing and hand out wrist­bands to con­trol ac­cess to the lake.

So, his fam­ily’s at­tor­ney might have ar­gued, the univer­sity turned the Mir­ror Lake plunge into a ride at a car­ni­val mid­way. What the univer­sity con­sid­ered le­git­i­mate at­tempts to keep stu­dents safe could be seen in­stead as pro­vid­ing stu­dents with a false sense of se­cu­rity.

Any­one an­gered by this set­tle­ment should fo­cus not on a young man’s tragic death or the con­sid­er­able sum of state money that will not make up for it. Ask in­stead why it took Ohio State ad­min­is­tra­tors 25 years to hit upon the most ob­vi­ous so­lu­tion, plainly on dis­play for the past two years dur­ing what they say is the un­re­lated over­haul of tem­po­rar­ily empty Mir­ror Lake.

All they had to do was pull the plug.

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