An audit following the closure of Ohio State’s Sexual Civility and Empowerment unit found that the center failed to report 57 potential felonies since its establishment in 2015.
The university dissolved SCE, a center for survivors of sexual violence, in June 2018 and fired four employees after an external review determined that the unit did not comply with requirements to document and report sexual assault complaints, according to a university press release.
Margolis Healy, the national auditing firm responsible for conducting the review, found that 57 potential felony cases went unreported to law enforcement. Among those cases, six were never appropriately documented under the Clery Act, which requires federally-funded universities to release campus crime statistics each year, University Spokesman Chris Davey said in an email.
“This failure is unacceptable, which is one of the reasons the university shut down the office and engaged nationally recognized experts to create a redesigned, best-in-class model to support victims of sexual assault,” Davey said.
To remedy the lack of sexual assault reporting resources, Ohio State announced the creation of the Office of Institutional Equity, which will oversee reports of gender- and sexual-based harassment, along with the university’s compliance with Title IX, the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal and state laws starting Thursday, Davey said.
Katherine Lasher, former Title IX coordinator of Central Michigan University, will serve as the associate vice president of OIE, according to a May press release announcing her appointment.
“Ohio State is one of this nation’s great land-grant universities, and I look forward to collaborating with students, faculty and staff to advance this office’s important mission,” Lasher said in the press release. “I am pleased to be returning to my home state to continue my work to ensure equitable treatment for all.”
Davey said that additional steps have been made to ensure a support system for survivors on campus, including the January appointment of a trauma case manager and March appointment of a therapist to Counseling and Consultation Services, both available a few hours each week.
Following SCE’s closure, Davey said Ohio State also appointed two confidential advocates from the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio, who will help sexual assault victims deal with trauma and understand information about reporting procedures and on-campus resources.
Davey said the university will continue to work with the law firm Cozen O’Connor to assist with the establishment and operations of the new OIE office.
When Ohio State first announced the suspension of SCE in February 2018, The Lantern reported that many sexual assault victims seeking help were faced with a voicemail machine, confused about where to turn to for help next.
At the time, the university said in a statement that other offices and services such as Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio (SARNCO), a rape crisis intervention program in Columbus, and Counseling and Consultation Service are working to provide care for any students who contact SCE during the review.
With the newly created OIE office, Davey said the office aims to coordinate a timely response to each person seeking assistance and provide complainants with information about reporting and resources.