OCR Investigates Claims of Unfair Sexual Assault Policies at Ohio State

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Early in November the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) launched an investigation of Ohio State University’s (OSU) evidentiary policy regarding sexual assault and harassment cases.

The announcement came after students and victims advocates filed a complaint against what they contended were unreasonably high standards placed upon victims of sexual assault and harassment for producing evidence enabling disciplinary action to be taken against their offenders.

The argument is that OSU’s high burden of proof is tantamount to discriminating against victims of sexual assault and harassment, and that Title IX, which establishes certain gender equity and sexual harassment requirements, stands in clear contrast to this.

The standard used by most schools across the nation to govern the outcome of sexual misconduct cases is usually the “preponderance of evidence” standard, said Wendy Murphy, a civil rights attorney affiliated with the non-profit group Security On Campus Inc. (SOC). OSU’s “clear and convincing evidence” standard is too harsh, she added, which may dissuade victims of sexual assault from coming forward to report violations.

A separate 2004 federal review of OSU’s handling of sexual assault complaints remains open.

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