A Tradition Tamed
Police Bite Back on Lion Injuries
The lion has been keeping watch over Kaufmann Mall for over fifteen years. The rise in injuries occurring while riding the lion have caused the Old Dominion Police Department to crack down. A camera was placed atop the Webb Center with a direct line to the police department to prevent students from even attempting to ride the lion.
For over 15 years the lion has kept watch over Kaufman Mall. The rise in injuries resulting from riding the lion has caused the Old Dominion University police department to crack down on the antics. Now, a camera placed atop Webb Center has a direct line to the police department to deter students from attempting to ride the lion.
ODUPD has bumped up security in response to a serious injury that resulted from riding the lion. Police Chief Harris claims the injured student received puncture wounds on the abdomen and/or back. However, the specific details of the injury could not be released, due to confidentiality restrictions. This injury brought the issue to the forefront of concerns, resulting in the security camera at the Webb Center.
“There is a security officer that is assigned to the Webb Center. We have asked that during their patrols, that they also monitor the lion,” Police Chief Harris said. The dispatch center watches the camera and alerts security officers when people are trespassing.
Students who are caught riding the lion can be charged with trespassing, and will be sent to the Office of Student Conduct & Academic Integrity for sentencing.
“The lion was not intended to have people climb through the fountain and get on it. I don’t think it was intended to have people who are drinking climb through the water and climb on it,” Police Chief Harris said.
Jennifer Foss, director of student health services, has many concerns with the custom. After, being with the university for 21 years, Foss remembers the year the lion was erected on Kaufmann Mall. She said ‘four to five students per year report serious injuries from riding the lion and this number is up from previous years.’
“As young adults a lot of students think they’re invincible and nothing can happen to them… They see their peers doing it, good old-fashioned peer-pressure. It seems like a fun thing to do, so they fail to realize the dangers involved with climbing the lion,” Kathy Smothers, president of student health advisory committee (SHAC) said. SHAC was not aware of the number of injuries related to the lion every semester, but plans to hold health related promotions on the issue in the upcoming semester.
“I want to do a good job about communicating what happens on campus with the students, particularly about safety stuff,” Police Chief Harris said.
There have been discussions about the traditions across the university. Many faculty members acknowledge the seal superstitions, Big Blue and now Charles the Monarch as a part of ODU traditions but wince when regarding the riding of the lion. Police Chief Harris, Foss and Smothers agree that the tradition came from the students and not from the school.
Foss believes the students are the ones who make the traditions at Old Dominion University. Throughout time, this “tradition” was passed on from class to class and made a rite of passage. Foss poses this question to student groups on campus: “Why not start a new tradition that is safer for everyone to participate in?” She believes people enjoy the thrill of riding the lion, but hopes to spark a new tradition that will have the same thrill without the danger.
By: Megan Jefferson