Ohio State creating centralized report-and-response office for sexual misconduct
The Ohio State University announced that it will be creating a centralized report-and-response office in order to respond to sexual misconduct and harassment.
On Tuesday, Ohio State released an official statement detailing the report-and-response office, explaining why it is coming into existence and why it is essential for the school.
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 is creating the report-and-response office in wake of the Zach Smith and Urban Meyer scandal that has been ongoing since late July.
Smith, accused of domestic violence on at least two occasions, was fired by Ohio State in July. Meyer, who reportedly knew about the accusations and arrests and continued to keep his former assistant coach on staff, was placed on administrative leave while an independent team investigated the situation.
Ohio State also detailed some of the more specific aspects of its report-and-response office in the statement released Tuesday.
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.
The Board of Trustees is meeting on Wednesday and is expected to come to a decision on the punishment for Meyer.