A federal investigation into Ohio State’s handlings of sexual abuse complaints under Title IX praised the way the university dealt with marching band issues, but it also had its criticisms, and set stipulations accordingly.
The U.S. Department of Education posted a list of 55 U.S. colleges being investigated for their handling of sexual abuse complaints under Title IX in May. OSU was on the list and at the time, an OSU spokesman said there was no reason to worry because the investigation was not complaint-based.
The findings of that investigation were released Thursday and the department’s Office of Civil Rights announced it will enter into an agreement with OSU to ensure proper Title IX obedience following the conclusion of the review.
The conclusion mostly applauded OSU’s efforts on Title IX compliance.
“The university has demonstrated its strong commitment to vigorously addressing sexual assault and sexual harassment on its campuses, including by taking effective steps to stop sexual harassment, prevent its recurrence, eliminate any hostile environment and remedy its discriminatory effects on complaints and any others as inappropriate,” the release stated.
The OCR also concluded, however, the university had violated some facets of Title IX. Since then, though, it said OSU has adapted to comply with the law.
Title IX is a clause of the Education Amendments of 1972 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in publicly-funded programs.
During the investigation, the university improved its documentation of sexual violence investigations, formed a sexual violence consultation team, created the Office of Compliance and Integrity, as well as a Title IX website, and developed online bystander intervention training for students, according to the release.
But there are a few things still in the works. For example, the university now has to require sexual assault and harassment training of all OSU community members, the release said.
OSU spokesman Chris Davey said the university is developing an online training program to help train faculty, students and staff. He said he doesn’t know how much it is expected to cost the university but said it should be completed by mid-December.
He also praised the resolution in a Thursday email.
“We are grateful for the collaboration with the Department of Education in completing a thorough, proactive review of our Title IX programs and policies, and we are very pleased that the review has found no major concerns and that Ohio State has proper protocols and resources in place for combatting sexual harassment and sexual misconduct,” he said.
OSU’s Title IX compliance came under further public scrutiny after a two-month investigation by the university found a “sexualized culture” within the marching band. Former band director Jonathan Waters was fired July 24 at the end of the investigation, when the university determined that he knew about harassment within the band, or at least should have known, and did not do enough to stop it.
OSU’s cheerleading team also saw a overhaul of its coaching staff in 2013 after a university investigation found “sufficient evidence” that two assistant coaches had violated the university’s sexual harassment policy. The related investigation later led to head coach Lenee Buchman being fired.
Meanwhile, a second investigation into the marching band, led by former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery, is currently under way, and the Board of Trustees continues to label the university’s Title IX compliance as a “high risk,” according to its agenda.
In OCR’s report, it agreed with the university that a “sexually hostile environment” within the band violated Title IX.
Waters’ attorney, David Axelrod, however, insists Waters’ termination was an attempt by the university to appease the department, given its investigation into OSU.
“The university’s motive was to appease the Department of Education and get it to end its investigation suit. I think that was the point,” he said Thursday. “They made Jonathan a convenient scapegoat to avoid further investigation.”
Since his termination, Waters has vehemently defended his leadership of the band, and has received an outpouring of support from band alumni. His firing was also protested at the first Board of Trustees meeting of the year, which led Board Chair Jeffrey Wadsworth to give a brief forum to a representative of TBDBITL Alumni Club.
Waters is set to perform with the alumni band during the OSU football game against Kent State on Saturday.