Sticky Fingers 101

How members of OSU's student government financed a night on the town.

Venus Beauty Institute
When it comes to politics, wisdom says the system corrupts. Then again, those entering politics might be just a bit more susceptible.

Take the case of eight Ohio State student-government leaders who were recently removed from office after they lavished on themselves a $2,250 night on the town -- and then went to curious lengths to cover it up.

On December 14, 12 student-government members spent a dizzy night in downtown Columbus. They rented a limousine. They sipped champagne. They cut beef at Mitchell Steakhouse, a restaurant popular among the government elite. And they paid the bill with money from a student-government account. Among these leaders of tomorrow were two Northeast Ohioans: undergraduate student government president Robert "B.J." Schuerger of Hinckley, and vice president Juan Cespedes of Lorain.

On February 5, The Lantern, OSU's student newspaper, ran a front-page story about the swanky evening. The day the story appeared, 10,000 copies of The Lantern, which is distributed free around campus, vanished.

Confronted with allegations that the student leaders swiped the papers, Schuerger responded in requisite political fashion -- which is to say he folded like a cheap lawn chair. Schuerger alleged that Cespedes hatched the paper-stealing plot, and he accused Cespedes and Chief of Staff Keller Blackburn of cutting the checks for the dinner. Though he attended the Mitchell's repast, Schuerger claimed he didn't know the student government was covering it. He also said he forced Cespedes and Blackburn to resign. But Blackburn said he resigned on his own, that he alerted the Office of Student Affairs about the paper caper, and that Schuerger came up with the scheme.

After a university investigation, eight students -- including Schuerger, Cespedes, and Blackburn -- were banished from their government positions and placed on probation. Six students were ordered to perform community service and reimburse the Lantern for lost advertising revenue and printing costs.

Self-pitying to the end, Schuerger tendered his "resignation" February 15, implying he was a victim of the politics of destruction. "I would like to see USG go back to what Juan and I came in for -- the students of this university," he said.

Schuerger is prohibited from running for office at OSU, but something tells Edge that we haven't heard the last of him. There's always Mahoning County.

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