The Ohio State University’s Sexual Civility and Empowerment (SCE) center is currently shuttered, but concerns over its mishandling of sexual assault and misconduct allegations remain. The latest comes from a report suggesting the now-dissolved administrative unit failed to report nearly 60 potential felonies to state law enforcement as required by law.
The Sexual Civility and Empowerment Unit: A Short History
- Ohio State’s Sexual Civility and Empowerment center opened in 2015, the year school officials launched a comprehensive program to combat sexual misconduct and relationship violence among students, faculty, and staff.
- After only a year, Ohio State began investigating SCE for structural and reporting issues. That investigation and subsequent independent reviews led to a suspension of SCE in February 2018 over concerns it was mismanaging allegations, and failing to adequately support students who stepped forward with claims which fall under Title IX.
- In June 2018, the school announced it was dissolving the unit entirely, and firing four employees reviews found failed to properly document and report at least 20 sexual assault complaints filed by students.
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More Mismanagement Details Come to Light
The findings of independent audits into the SCE were recently obtained and published by The Columbus Dispatch. In the review files, auditors identified 57 potential felonies the SCE unit should have reported to authorities, but did not.
The news is yet another blow to Ohio State, which has faced scrutiny over its handling of sexual misconduct matters in recent years – including a Title IX investigation opened by the Department of Education in August 2018 over school’s handling of allegations involving former university physician Richard Strauss. Strauss, who committed suicide in 2005, had been accused of sexual abuse by more than 100 students.
Ohio State, in response to the audit findings, commented that the failures are unacceptable, and a major reason behind the school’s decision to end SCE and create the new Title IX program it launched during the fall semester.
Title IX Investigations & Defense
The #MeToo era and growing scrutiny of sexual misconduct allegations have transformed the way individuals and entities respond to claims. That transformation is perhaps most pronounced at U.S. colleges and other publicly funded institutions of higher learning, which have long been a breeding ground for misconduct, and which are subject to Title IX.
A federal law which broadly prohibits discrimination in educational programs that receive federal financial assistance, Title IX has become the guideline for how colleges conduct administrative hearings over claims of sexual assault, harassment, stalking, and other forms of campus sexual misconduct.
Though these are indeed important issues, the zealousness with which Title IX proceedings are carried out, compounded by the fact that they are not criminal proceedings where the accused have the same rights they would have within the justice system, have led to many violations of due process, an uptick in complaints and false allegations, and an overwhelming number of adverse and life-altering consequences for students and staff.
Attorney Brad Koffel, for example, recently represented an Ohio State football player falsely accused of sexual assault. Following a Title IX hearing, his client was acquitted of all charges.
Cases like these are not few and far between; they’re becoming the norm. A recent announcement by Yale University, for instance, reported a significant rise in sexual misconduct complaints, as well as the most complaints in school history. The same is true at many schools across Ohio and the U.S.
As the Education Department looks to refine and strengthen guidance for Title IX proceedings, Koffel Brininger Nesbitt will continue to protect the rights of individuals facing administrative investigations over Title IX offenses or sex crime allegations. We offer free and confidential consultations. Contact us to speak with a lawyer.