Ohio State University has agreed to several steps to strengthen its policies on sexual assault and harassment, the federal government said, concluding a four-year civil rights investigation at one of the nation’s largest public universities.
The agreement, announced Thursday, requires Ohio State to review its handling of sexual harassment and violence reports since the 2011-2012 school year; expand training for the campus community to help prevent incidents; and take action to ensure that students and staff are aware of their rights under the anti-discrimination law known as Title IX.
The resolution will remove Ohio State from a list of 79 colleges and universities under federal investigations related to their handling of sexual violence reports. The government first released a comprehensive list of schools facing such investigations in May, responding to rising public interest in the prevention of campus sexual assault. At the time, there were 55 schools on the list. The Ohio State investigation was the longest-running.
The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) began its investigation of Ohio State in June 2010. Its probe found that the university’s written policies and procedures for responding to complaints of sexual violence and harassment did not comply with requirements under Title IX.
During the federal probe, Ohio State conducted its own inquiry into allegations of sexual harassment within its marching band. The university found “that there was a sexually hostile environment for students in the marching band and that the band director failed to adequately eliminate that harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects,” according to the OCR.
The university fired the band director, Jonathan Waters, in July. Waters subsequently told the Columbus Dispatch that he had tried to improve the culture of the band after taking over its leadership in 2012 and that the conclusions of the university inquiry were flawed and “very inaccurate.”
But a federal official applauded the university’s settlement agreement and its actions concerning the band.
“This agreement and The Ohio State University’s recent response to the culture within the marching band, set clear and vitally important expectations for a community-wide culture of prevention, support, and safety,” Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant education secretary for civil rights, said in a statement. “I applaud Ohio State for taking strong leadership now to eradicate a culture of silence related to sexual harassment. I look forward to working with Ohio State as it implements the resolution agreement.”
The resolution agreement covers 63,000 students at six Ohio State campuses.
With the Ohio State probe ended, the oldest active OCR investigation into Title IX sexual violence issues is now a case involving Princeton University. That probe was launched on Dec. 15, 2010. On Sept. 4, Princeton signaled that it is moving toward a revision of its sexual-assault policies.