COLUMBUS, Ohio ― Ohio State University began planning cultural sensitivity training for then-president Gordon Gee after he made comments jabbing Roman Catholics and Southeastern Conference schools last December, according to email records released Wednesday by the university.
The emails show that the university considered several proposals last spring for sensitivity and media training for Gee, whose off-the-cuff remarks repeatedly got him into trouble. The proposals included having Gee talk with trainers to develop a deeper respect for diversity and learn techniques for discussing challenging topics and avoiding pitfalls.
A Washington-based public relations firm proposed a handful of off-campus training sessions at a location unfamiliar to Gee, such as a Buddhist temple or a women’s center, followed by assignments meant to challenge his thinking, such as visiting a new place or reading a certain book. An organizational psychologist suggested a two-and-a-half-day offsite visit with Gee, then regular coaching calls and consulting visits for several months. Two firms with offices in Washington proposed media training at costs of up to $10,000.
Gee retired before any of sessions occurred, Ohio State spokeswoman Gayle Saunders said in a statement.
Asked whether such training would be part of Gee’s continued involvement with Ohio State as a professor and academic researcher, Saunders wouldn’t comment and said she could only refer to her previous statement.
Gee stepped down July 1, shortly after The Associated Press first reported about his December remarks to the university’s Athletic Council.
Saunders said the plan for Gee’s coaching was developed in line with direction from university trustees after Ohio State learned about the remarks. The university has said it placed Gee on a remediation plan to change his behavior.
Gee issued a series of apologies for the remarks to the Athletic Council, which had included digs at Notre Dame and the Big Ten and lampooned the academic integrity of the University of Louisville and Southeastern Conference schools.
Ohio State, with about 56,000 students on its main campus, is among the country’s biggest universities. Provost Joseph Alutto was named interim president while Ohio State searches for a replacement for Gee.