More than 50 student organizations signed a letter urging Ohio State to reinstate resources for sexual violence survivors in response to the recent closing and review of the university’s Sexual Civility and Empowerment program.
The focus of the letter, which is not addressed specifically to Ohio State, but to “whom it may concern,” is to bring awareness to the importance of SCE and the effects its current closure might have.
“While the reasons for the review of the office are unknown, we as an organization would like to emphasize the university’s obligation to provide a centralized and personalized resource for survivors of sexual violence,” the letter reads.
The SCE office was notified of its review Feb. 12 and asked to halt its work in March, leaving some students seeking alternative help because they’re no longer allowed to see SCE faculty that typically support them. Ohio State is deferring any student seeking help regarding sexual violence and assault to its Title IX office, Counseling and Consultation Service, and the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio (SARNCO).
Ohio State has not released specific information on the reasoning behind SCE’s review.
“The Ohio State University is committed to providing a safe and inclusive learning environment. We have an extensive system of programs for providing support and services for members of our community who experience sexual misconduct,” a university statement said.
Ohio State spokesmen could not comment directly on the letter because it was not released prior to this article’s publication, but said, “We will share relevant updates and changes that may be made as a result of the review when completed.”
Led by Advocates for Women of the World, a student organization that focuses on bringing awareness to global women’s issues, the letter was written to pressure Ohio State to take action, said Karla Haddad, one of the letter’s two authors and AWOW’s vice president for marketing.
“We just want to reinforce the fact that, as a university, you should be providing these resources and the fact that while it’s under review, there’s been no interim resources in place,” said Haddad, a second-year in marketing and political science. “I think [its closing] is punishing survivors the most, and in my opinion, that’s extremely problematic.”
Following the office’s closing, the university said in a statement that measures were taken to move some of the resources provided by SCE into other offices. The letter said the help from SCE cannot be matched by other existing campus resources.
“Although the university provides alternate resources for survivors, such as the Office of Title IX and Counseling and Consulting Services, neither of these resources provide the same personalized, student-centered experience that the Sexual Civility and Empowerment (SCE) program provides,” it reads.
Haddad — along with co-author Taylor Albright, a second-year in political science who works for the SCE’s front desk who also is a member of AWOW — introduced the idea of a letter to the group after they felt that someone needed to take direct action.
“My biggest concern was that nothing had been addressed,” Haddad said. “There was no clear path when the resources would be reinstated or if there were interim resources, and I think the biggest thing that hit me along with Taylor is that for the time being, survivors’ needs were not being met.”
Members of the advocate group talked to people around campus to gain support. From there, the list of student organizations that signed the letter grew to include sororities, fraternities, LGBTQ-focused groups and club sports teams.
The letter ends by emphasizing the authors’ demand for resources similar to the SCE to return to campus.
“The Ohio State University must be held to a degree of accountability to give survivors the resources that they need in a form that is personalized, accessible, and survivor-focused,” the letter reads.