17:38 PM

University announces steps to address sexual misconduct

Changes and enhancements coincide with start of new academic year

COLUMBUS, Ohio – 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.

Intake-and-outreach coordinators, under the oversight of the Title IX Coordinator, will be dedicated specifically to helping students, faculty and staff understand their rights, options and services available to them; report concerns; coordinate interim measures (academic, residential, etc.); make referrals to confidential campus, community and other resources; as well as file required reports to police and other appropriate agencies. Coordinator staff can be reached by calling 614-247-5838. More information will be available at https://titleix.osu.edu/.

Intake-and-outreach coordinator staff will work with complainants, respondents or any member of the university community to facilitate access to the full range of available resources. Staffing is in place and will be expanded this semester with the hiring of three additional coordinators. Investigation and adjudication functions will continue to be supervised by Deputy Title IX Coordinators in Student Conduct and the Office of Human Resources.

In addition to this centralized report-and-response model, the university continues to provide a continuum of confidential resources for students, faculty and staff. As a reminder, university community members can choose whether to seek confidential assistance or disclose their experience to the university. To facilitate access to confidential resources, the university has established a confidential phone line for students who wish to be connected directly with a confidential resource, including licensed psychologists and physicians. The phone line is available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday at 614-688-3956.

Additionally, students can access confidential counseling on campus through the Office of Student Life’s Counseling and Consultation Service and Student Health Services, offering medical confidentiality and support. Confidential advocacy services are also available in the community 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio (SARNCO). Faculty and staff can access confidential resources through Ohio State’s Employee Assistance Program and SARNCO. The Wexner Medical Center’s STAR Program also provides on-campus confidential advocacy and counseling in addition to the services currently available through the medical center’s Emergency Department and the Mount Carmel Crime and Trauma Assistance Program.

These actions are 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.

“We spent several weeks at Ohio State over the spring and summer meeting with a wide range of university administrators, and we look forward to the opportunity to speak with students now that they are back on campus,” Gomez added. “The actions taken thus far are part of a series of efforts that will continue to enhance the university’s prevention and response programs. Student input and feedback are critical to those efforts.”

Smith and Gomez observed further that navigating the complex and evolving arena of campus and community services related to sexual- and gender-based harassment and violence is a national challenge. A centralized, report-and-response approach in which the university offers personalized guidance can help impacted community members more quickly find the support they desire and enable the university to take responsive action to eliminate sexual misconduct, prevent its recurrence and address its effects.

“Ohio State has an existing and extensive system for providing support and services,” Smith said. “Our goal is to enhance the strength of those programs and provide a continuum of support and resources tailored to the specific needs of the university community.”

Related information can be found at titleix.osu.edu or www.osu.edu/buckeyesact.

“We strive each day to make Ohio State the best possible place to live, work and learn,” McPheron said. “Our work toward preventing and responding to sexual misconduct on campus is vital to that effort.”