Ohio State office to respond to sexual violence, harassment

University has been mired in multiple scandals

By MADISON PARK, CNN
Grzegorczyk1/Wikimedia Commons

(CNN) - As it faces several scandals and a federal investigation, Ohio State University announced Tuesday that it will create a new office to respond to sexual and gender harassment, violence and other forms of discrimination.

The new centralized office will help people at the university who've experienced, witnessed or have become aware of sexual misconduct -- or those who are seeking resources and other reporting options, it said in a statement. The university has yet to finalize a name for the new office.

The university had dissolved its former Sexual Civility and Empowerment unit earlier this year, CNN affiliate WBNS reported.

"The immediate focus will be on enhancing the university's Title IX resources for intake and assessment," according to the university statement. Coordinators will help students, faculty and staff understand their rights, options, services, and to help them report concerns and file required reports to police other others, the school said.

Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex for schools and programs that receive federal funding, including protection from sexual harassment.

The university made the announcement on the first day of classes that it is taking steps including launching an online course to focus on prevention and ways to report harmful behavior, as well as an "enhanced" website to provide information about what support services are available.

Ohio State said it's also working with a law firm to redesign the way to "support victims of sexual assault and conduct a thorough evaluation of the broader Title IX program," according to its press release. The law firm is expected to issue its recommendations in coming months.

The university has recently found itself mired in multiple scandals.

More than 100 former Ohio State students reported firsthand accounts of sexual misconduct by former school doctor Richard Strauss. Some of the accusers, mostly former student athletes, have come forward to publicly claim that Strauss sexually abused them under the guise of a medical examination. The abuse is alleged to have taken place between 1979 and 1997, according to the university.

Earlier this month, US Department of Education opened an investigation into the university's handling of the allegations of sexual misconduct by Strauss. The investigation is being conducted by the department's Office for Civil Rights, which oversees Title IX complaints.

Another scandal involves a former coach of the Ohio State University Diving Club, who has been accused of sexually abusing a former athlete, according to a lawsuit.

The university is investigating its head football coach, Urban Meyer, who was placed on leave, over what he knew about allegations of spousal abuse by former wide receiver coach Zach Smith. The Ohio State University Board of Trustees will meet Wednesday to discuss Meyer.

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