Faced with multiple reports of druggings at off-campus bars and parties, Ohio State President Michael Drake said Tuesday the university is working with the proper authorities regarding potential off-campus crimes.
During an interview with The Lantern, Drake said anything that happens off campus is outside the university’s jurisdiction and has to be handled in separate investigations.
“Sometimes they are criminal matters or conduct matters, and we do our best to investigate those when we have complaints and come to an equitable decision,” Drake said. “But what happens and the outcome of those investigations can be an incredible range of what’s possible in the investigation, so we have to wait until we have those to know what [Ohio State’s] proper role is.”
Drake’s comments followed two emailed warnings university officials sent students in recent weeks. The most recent, sent Friday, detailed ways for students to safeguard themselves against being unknowingly drugged, such as monitoring their drinks and knowing what symptoms to look for in others who may have been drugged.
The university said it has received 17 reports of suspected druggings in recent weeks, although the university said some reports overlap so there were not necessarily 17 separate incidents. These included incidents at off-campus bars and at an off-campus party.
The university has released five of the reports, with the other 12 being filed through the Title IX Office and protected by state law, according to university spokesman Ben Johnson.
Drake’s comments came before university officials released two more reports late Tuesday afternoon, in which campus police described an encounter with a possibly drugged female student found lying in a men’s bathroom stall at Smith-Steeb Hall on Feb. 24.
Though he said Ohio State is concerned with the safety and wellbeing of students, Drake said that the university’s authority only stretches so far when it comes to off-campus criminal activities.
“If there’s an investigation of such behaviors, there are maybe actions there that we can act on behalf of, but we have to wait for what the investigation shows us,” Drake said. “There are other investigations and other penalties that are potentially at play as well.”
One such entity that falls into the off-campus zone that Drake referred to is suspended chapters of Greek life, or those permanently removed from the university’s recognition of operating chapters, that continue non-official activities that include hosting off-campus parties.
One of the police reports obtained by The Lantern detailed an incident where a female student stated she was drugged at a party hosted by Alpha Epsilon Pi, a fraternity that has been suspended since May 2018 until 2023.
“There is a police report, so there will be a police investigation,” Drake said about this particular incident. “Adults understand that you have to get the data of the investigation and do our best to make the right decision at the end.”
Drake said that everyone is vulnerable to criminal behavior in the world beyond college, so it’s important for students to take care of themselves and to be smart and thoughtful.
“These are complicated issues there,” Drake said. “I hope everyone believes fully that we are entirely interested in your safety and growth as human beings, and doing everything we can to have you leave this as a wonderful experience and go in the world and make your mark on the world. So that’s what we’re always interested in doing.”