Sex scandals on college campuses: Could it happen at Ohio State?
Published: Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012 00:06
Penn State, Syracuse, Wisconsin. These three institutions, synonymous with academic and athletic excellence, have been tarnished by sexual abuse scandals. Lives were changed forever, innocence robbed, reputations turned upside down. Could this happen at Ohio State and what is the university doing to prevent it?
Legislation concerning mandatory sexual abuse reporting is pending in 25 states, but Ohio is not one of them. OSU has taken no additional action following the incidents at other schools, including two in the Big Ten.
Gene Smith, OSU athletic director, said he is confident about the educational tools OSU has in place, although the athletic department has not done anything concerning the hot-button issue of sexual abuse in athletics.
"I can't say we do something that's really unique, or really different since the Penn State case broke," Smith said. "Obviously because of these cases we've heightened our conversation."
Sheldon Kennedy, a former NHL player who was sexually abused as a youth hockey player in Canada, said education and awareness is key to preventing instances of sexual abuse.
"People need to be able to have a conversation," Kennedy said. "They don't have to be experts in it, but we need to have that conversation if something isn't right."
Kennedy said OSU should provide as much education as possible to create a comfortable atmosphere for campus leaders and students.
"If you walked around Ohio State and you asked people, the leaders, the teachers, sport coaches and deans, ‘Can you give me the definition of abuse and the legal and moral definitions around it?' The odds of them getting the right answer aren't very good," Kennedy said. "But when it comes down to it, we're all expected to do the right thing. So why wouldn't we want to clearly and explicitly educate all our people?"
‘What are we going to do here?'
In November, former PSU defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was accused of a range of illegal acts from touching boys' legs to violently sexually assaulting them. Sandusky remains on house arrest as he awaits his trial.
Not even a month later, Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine was fired for allegedly sexually molesting numerous males, including former ball boys for the team. Some of those allegations dated back to the 1980s and 1990s.
Former Wisconsin athletic director John Chadima resigned after allegations were reported that he sexually assaulted a student during a Rose Bowl party in January. Wisconsin Chancellor David Ward released a statement Monday that said campus police will be investigating new allegations against Chadima.
The tragedies within these programs are something Smith said provided a learning experience for OSU, in that students can see education in action.
"It gives you a window of opportunity to say, ‘See, this is what we've been preaching and this why you should feel comfortable if you see something or if something uncomfortable happens to you, or if you feel uncomfortable with just how someone is interacting with you, you need to bring it forward,'" Smith said. "Unfortunately, when we see cases like that, you have to use them the best you can to educate the people you serve."
Former sexual abuse victim speaks out about importance of education
Smith said he is constantly worried about sexual abuse happening at OSU.
"I've always had that concern all my life, every day. I've seen a lot of things," Smith said. "I didn't need the Penn State (scandal) to create those concerns."
President E. Gordon Gee said he held a meeting Monday with his senior management council regarding the issue of sexual abuse and how OSU should deal with it going forward. Gee said he required his advisers to read New York Times reporter Pete Thamel's coverage on what happened at PSU.