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Ohio State Announces a Series of Anti-sexual Assault Efforts

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State University is announcing initiatives aimed at reducing sexual assaults on campus, including mandatory sexual violence awareness training for all freshmen next year.

The efforts being unveiled Thursday include online training for all students beginning next week, the hiring of an additional sexual violence prevention coordinator and more advocates to support students.

“We are deeply concerned by sexual misconduct and relationship violence both at Ohio State and at institutions of higher learning across the nation,” President Michael Drake said in a statement provided to The Associated Press. “Campuses must be safe places to learn and grow.”

A task force including students, staff and faculty also will brainstorm new ways to prevent and respond to such misconduct and violence.

Vice President Joe Biden was scheduled to speak at Ohio State Thursday night to promote national efforts to combat sexual assaults on campuses.

A year ago, the U.S. Department of Education announced it was closing a four-year investigation into the university’s handling of sexual abuse allegations. That action followed the firing of marching band director Jonathan Waters, who university investigators said ignored a “sexualized culture” of rituals and traditions.

As part of an agreement ending the federal inquiry, Ohio State agreed to revise certain policies and review the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints since the 2011-12 school year.

At the time, the government said Ohio State demonstrated a strong commitment to addressing sexual assault and sexual harassment, while identifying some problems.

Some of the efforts announced Thursday are part of that agreement but many are new, said university spokesman Chris Davey.

Those efforts, dubbed “Buckeyes ACT,” combines new programs with existing initiatives in three areas that give the program its acronym: action, counseling and training.

In combination with Buckeyes Got Your Back, an existing bystander intervention initiative, the university will appoint an additional sexual violence prevention coordinator and dedicate a team to investigating reports of student sexual misconduct and relationship violence.

Ohio State was one of 27 U.S. universities that participated in the Association of American Universities’ campus climate survey. The university will use those results, expected soon, to adjust Buckeyes ACT as needed. The university plans to survey students again in 2016 and 2017.

Ohio State also plans to partner with a local sexual assault hotline and increase the number of advocates in its Office of Student Life available for confidential group and individual counseling.

Next week, Ohio State will launch an online training course for students developed over the past year, followed by a separate online course for faculty, staff and volunteers. Sexual misconduct training will become mandatory as part of first-year orientation over the next year.

Additional coursework for students covering sexual misconduct and relationship violence also is in the works.

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