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Ohio State University creates new office to respond to sexual violence, harassment or misconduct

August 22, 2018

Ohio State University creates new office to respond to sexual violence, harassment or misconduct

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State University announced Tuesday afternoon that it will create a new central office to respond to sexual misconduct, violence and harassment claims. 

The university’s Sexual Civility and Empowerment unit, which previously supported survivors of sexual assault, was first suspended in February and dissolved in June after an external review found it improperly documented and reported information regarding some sexual assault complaints by students.

The new office is part of a overhaul of how Ohio State handles Title IX complaints and will be overseen by the school’s Title IX coordinator Kellie Brennan. The goal is to create a central hub where a victim of sexual violence, misconduct or harassment can go for help and be directed to the right place. 

OSU is currently investigating accusations of sexual misconduct first made in April against former university doctor Richard Strauss, who committed suicide in 2005. The school acknowledged in July that more than 100 students gave firsthand accounts against Strauss, who worked with the university in some capacity for 20 years, to independent investigators. 

In August, the university announced that the federal office that deals with Title IX violations opened an investigation into how the university is dealing with the complaints.

In the meantime, the university is changing how it offers Title IX services based on the recommendations of experts Gina Maisto Smith and Leslie Gomez from the Philadelphia-based law firm Cozen O’Connor given in June.

The new office is a result of these recommendations. Workers will respond to claims of “sexual- and gender-based harassment, violence and other forms of discrimination and harassment,” according to a university press release. 

These “intake coordinators” will:

help students, faculty and staff understand their rights, options and servicesreport concerns;coordinate interim measures (academic, residential, etc.);make referrals to confidential campus, community and other resources; andfile required reports to police and other appropriate agencies.

The university will also launch a new online course this fall to educate students, faculty and staff to provide “tools to challenge and report inappropriate and harmful behavior when witnessed.”

Staff will report to Executive Vice President and Provost Bruce McPheron. 

Investigation and adjudication -- the process of settling claims and deciding what steps officials need to take -- will continue to be supervised by Deputy Title IX Coordinators in Student Conduct and the Office of Human Resources, according to the release. 

The university also announced a new website to share information on Title IX concerns. 

Work on expanding Title IX services will continue throughout the year, including a final set of recommendations from experts expected this semester. 

Read more about the new services and other resources available. 

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