Home » Opinion » Letters to Editor » An Open Letter to the OSU Community from the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies

An Open Letter to the OSU Community from the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies

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Ohio State statistics from the Association of American Universities' national campus climate survey on sexual misconduct and relationship violence. Credit: Denny Check / Design Editor

Ohio State statistics from the Association of American Universities’ national campus climate survey on sexual misconduct and relationship violence. Credit: Denny Check / Design Editor

Last week the Ohio State community received the report on the Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct. Among other things, this report states that by their senior year, more than one in four OSU women undergraduates experienced at least one sexual assault — defined as “nonconsensual penetration or sexual touching by force or by incapacitation.” This and other equally worrying findings, such as the high prevalence of sexual victimization of nonheterosexuals, was the result of a survey of 11,154 OSU students conducted by the Association of American Universities.

The OSU numbers fall in line with the numbers at other universities that were similarly polled. When Joe Biden appeared on campus on Sept. 17 to speak on behalf of the It’s On Us campaign, he cited this national trend in his passionate plea to make our campus safe for women and sexual minorities, to address sexual assault as a serious crime, get help for survivors, and initiate prevention programs. During Biden’s visit, OSU President Michael Drake also uncovered the school’s new plan to address sexual assault, which will include sexual violence awareness training for all OSU students.

Let’s connect the dots on this issue: A month ago, OSU made the news when, during move-in week, a residence near campus hung hand-painted signs boasting “Daughter Daycare” and “Dads, we’ll take it from here.” The snarkiness of the daddy message is that in a man’s world, women are handed from fathers to other men, and daughters are being delivered to campus where these other men are waiting to get their hands on them. The young men responsible for the banners, apparently OSU seniors, argued that “it was all a good joke, nothing personal to anybody” and “we just do this for fun, man.”

The statistics reported by OSU students make it hard to believe women and sexual minorities are having as much fun. Twenty-point-six percent of female undergraduate students reported incidents of sexual acts initiated in spite of refusal of permission, ignoring cues to stop or slow down and failing to obtain consent. Forty-eight-point-six percent of all students indicate they have been victims of sexual harassment with female undergraduate students reporting this most often (60.8 percent) followed by female graduate students (45 percent) and male undergraduate students (41.2 percent). A larger proportion of LGBTQ students overall indicated they have been the victims of sexual harassment and assault than have heterosexuals. The majority of reported offenders in all cases (90.5 percent) were other students.

We in the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at OSU would like to make a public call to the campus community to step up current efforts to raise awareness about rape and sexual violence, with special attention to the vulnerability of women and nonheterosexuals.

  • The OSU survey, in conjunction with the move-in week incident, lays out the realities of “rape culture” — a climate in which sexual assault is widespread but isn’t taken seriously and is laughed off as part of the social scene. Women’s bodies and the bodies of LGBTQ persons are highly at risk in this culture. The It’s On Us campaign stresses the urgency of awareness and responsibility, and the move-in incident is a good example of what that entails: We need to call out behavior and language that isn’t just offensive but that actually contributes to sexual violence by generating a climate in which it’s shrugged off.
  • Although rape education “is on us,” it’s also on OSU as an institution to address these problems with more attention than we have seen in the past. Joseph E. Steinmetz, executive vice president and provost, is heading a task force to respond to these findings, and we hope to see this group pull together campus resources from the medical center faculty, counseling services, wellness services and the police in order to work on training, prevention and care for survivors.
  • The recent OSU update of the Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Harassment and Relationship Violence policy urgently needs to be revised to address the serious safety threats to LGBTQ students and staff. The policy does not explain how the different types of misconduct, harassment and violence might apply to and be experienced by persons of different genders and gender/sexual identities. Implicit in the language is an emphasis on types of violations most common among heterosexuals. While the policy does not explicitly exclude nonheterosexuals and may cover their experiences, it would do so only if they fell within the context of the “normalized” forms of harassment, misconduct and partner violence more common to people in relationships or trying to start relationships. That is, nowhere in this document on “relationship violence” is any reference to violence, harassment or misconduct whose victims are sexual minorities and trans people. This is a shocking omission given other university policies that support diversity and make unacceptable all forms of discrimination against these groups.

We at WGSS fervently agree that “it’s on us,” all of us, to work against sexual violence, and we strongly believe that it’s on OSU as well to step up and make this happen.

The Faculty of the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies WGSS@osu.edu


  1. I applaud this strong statement. And I ask: why did not OSU–unlike the Virginia public university where a similar incident to the move-in week incident occurred–issue a strong statement of condemnation?

    Nothing will change at OSU until serious matters like sexual assault is removed from the domain of Student Life, and until we have visible, serious policing on and near campus. Failing that, we will continue to be a very unsafe campus.

  2. Wouldn’t “more than one in four OSU women undergraduates” be more along the lines of 26%, rather than 24%?.

    Anyway, very powerful article.

  3. It also needs to have faculty misconduct with students addressed. There ARE professors sleeping with their students/employees. Not just in the past but in the present as well. They are even promoting those students that they are sleeping with to move them ahead. This is damaging on many levels. These professors are then rewarded for their actions with promotions and raises when they should be fired. Young women entering the college scene THINK they are mature enough to understand the idea of a relationship with older faculty (men and women included). They are not. A 20-something student may be of legal age for consent but compared to a 40-something professor there is a huge gap in emotional and psychological development. College is often their first real experience of life unsheltered and what seems like a good idea at the time leads to many problems in the future.

    It harms the reputation of these students. They are not viewed as valued scholars but individuals who slept their way through college to graduate. Any scholarships, grants, job interviews, or school interviews awarded to these students on recommendations by the faculty they are having sexual intercourse with are not fairly awarded. They are judged harshly by their peers and any positive impact they could have had on the community at large is discounted as only the extended ideas of whichever professor they had a relationship with.

    This calls into question the integrity of the professors committing the acts, the departments that ignore the problem even when it is exposed, and the reputation of the University at large. It sets back the progress that women have made in the academic community to a time where professors were known to sleep with their secretaries.

    It is degrading to these young people and unethical on the part of the professors. Harsh measures should be taken against those that have violated the policies. They are there for the protection of students and faculty alike. Those professors that snub their noses at the rules should be dismissed without a positive reference. Entering into any kind of sexual relationship with a student/employee creates the persona of a predator and they should be treated as such. The students that enter into these relationships should have their degrees placed on hold while their grades are reevaluated by a panel from other departments. It is the only way to ensure that the grades are truly earned rather than earned on their backs.

  4. I’d suggest reading this, where the 1-4 figure came from and why it’s wrong. http://www.city-journal.org/2008/18_1_campus_rape.html

  5. The statistics purported here are false. See the Bureau of Justice Statistics December 2014 report:

    The actual rate is 6.1 per 1,000 or 0.61% for those dumb feminists who apparently do not understand numbers. For non-students, the rate of sexual assault is 7.6 per 1,000 people. So, campuses are safer than off-campus. You can read more here: http://thefederalist.com/2014/12/11/new-doj-data-on-sexual-assaults-college-students-are-actually-less-likely-to-be-victimized/

    The Lantern is shamelessly and with absolutely no journalistic integrity repeating feminist lies, where the definition of sexual assault is so trivialized that even “staring” is considered:

    The link in the article to the OSU page ( http://swc.osu.edu/sexual-violence-education-support-sves/what-is-sexual-violence/sexual-harassment/ ) has been cleverly deleted, just like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has removed the false 1 in 4 Mary Koss statistics from her website. Feminists sure know how to do damage control. You can read more at these places:

    I urge you to read through the WGSS curriculum here:

    You will find that there is not a single course addressing the huge issues men and boys face in the entire curriculum, such as widespread male genital mutilation, war deaths (99.9% male), workplace deaths (93% male), suicide (80% male), prison rape, male dropout rates, male college enrollment (around 42% of students), fatherlessness, parental alienation, unfair divorce courts, lack of reproductive rights, paternity fraud, and more. But feminism is all about equality, right? (Although you’ll find ridiculously specific courses about non-issues like chicana lesbianism.)

    WGSS is a complete waste of taxpayer’s money and an indoctrination camp into lies and seems like The Lantern is now its mouthpiece of lies. I write this as an ex faculty/staff whose department kept getting budget cuts throughout the years I’ve taught while we have been wasting money on this crap. I am happy I do not work at OSU anymore and that universities in my country are too poor to afford gender studies departments yet.

  6. The bending of the facts in this article is not surprising and is reflective of the whole “rape culture” movement as a whole. Does anyone really believe there is truth in the statistic that 1 in 4 women on OSU campus are sexually assaulted? For reference, that ratio is higher than in the Rwandan Genocide. No moral parent would send their son or daughter into such a circumstance and no student would enroll in a university if they believed there was a 25% chance of being sexually assaulted as a result. This statistic is in line with the thinking that sex after one alcoholic beverage is technically sexual assault. Feminists need to stop skewing the data to fit their agenda and put their energy toward becoming actual productive members of society. Last time I checked, cancer still existed and is awaiting a cure.

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