Ohio State is creating a centralized report-and-response office for responding to sexual and gender-based harassment, violence and other forms of discrimination and harassment, the university announced in a statement on Tuesday.
From the university's statement:
The Ohio State University announced today the creation of a centralized office for responding to sexual- and gender-based harassment, violence and other forms of discrimination and harassment. This centralized report-and-response office provides informed and compassionate responses to students, faculty and staff impacted by discrimination and harassment. The office provides a dedicated system to assist members of the university community who have experienced, witnessed or are aware of sexual misconduct, have questions about the university’s Sexual Misconduct Policy or are seeking more information about resources or reporting options.
“The university will continue to focus on advancing our efforts in this vital area,” President Michael V. Drake said. “The members of our Buckeye community deserve nothing less.”
The immediate focus will be on enhancing the university’s Title IX resources for intake and assessment. The ultimate structure and nomenclature of the office will be finalized over the course of the fall semester with the opportunity for participation and feedback by students, faculty and staff. The new office reports to Executive Vice President and Provost Bruce A. McPheron.
Ohio State previously announced in June that it was dissolving its Sexual Civility and Empowerment unit after a review found that it "had failed to properly document and report information regarding some sexual assault complaints by students."
The university said in its statement on Tuesday that the creation of the centralized report-and-response office is "part of an ongoing review and enhancement of the university’s Title IX programs and procedures."
Additional steps coinciding with the start of the academic year include the below.
- An online course, now in pilot mode, will be launched widely this fall to provide students, faculty and staff with required education in prevention and tools to challenge and report inappropriate and harmful behavior when witnessed.
- The university is continuing to expand opportunities for student engagement. For example, two additional students will be included on the task force for Buckeyes ACT, the university’s comprehensive plan to combat sexual misconduct and relationship violence.
- An enhanced sexual- and gender-based harassment and violence website will provide detailed information about the comprehensive support services available.
The actions align directly with interim recommendations from nationally recognized experts Gina Maisto Smith and Leslie M. Gomez from the Philadelphia-based law firm Cozen O’Connor. In June, the university announced that it had engaged Smith and Gomez to help create a redesigned, best-in-class model to support victims of sexual assault and conduct a thorough evaluation of the broader Title IX program.
“Through this audit, we have observed Ohio State’s strong commitment to fostering increased reporting, coordinating university responses and creating an environment free from sex- and gender-based harassment and violence,” Smith said.
A final, comprehensive set of recommendations from Cozen O’Connor is expected this semester, with further implementation to take place throughout the academic year.
Tuesday's announcement comes on the eve of a meeting of Ohio State's Board of Trustees, scheduled for Wednesday at 9 a.m., to discuss the findings of its investigation of Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer, which centered around whether he properly reported domestic violence allegations against former Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith.
Ohio State is also currently investigating sexual misconduct allegations by former wrestlers and other student-athletes against Richard Strauss, who was employed as a physician by the university from the mid-1970s to the 1990s. The university also reopened an investigation earlier this year into sexual misconduct allegations that were initially made in 2014 against former club diving coach Will Bohonyi.