University of Findlay 1 of 5 Universities Selected to Help Address Title IX Issues
University of Findlay was selected as one of five institutions to collect data on Title IX issues including sexual harassment, sexual assault, and discrimination as part of the Taking Bold Action initiative. The project is part of the Ohio Department of High Education’s (ODHE) effort to decrease the amount of sexual misconduct cases on college campuses, in turn improving student success and increasing equity by eliminating those types of risk factors on campus.
The five college campuses are part of the second cohort of universities to take part in the Taking Bold Action initiative but are part of a bigger picture that started in 2015 under former Ohio Governor, John Kasich. The goal was to ask students, faculty, and staff members questions about sexual misconduct and discrimination, and to collect data to improve Ohio’s higher education institutions. As part of the more refined cohort, the five universities, including the University of Findlay, have volunteered to take it one step further.
“This year, the universities have opted into being on the cutting edge of something unique and innovative, adding additional questions around central belonging, diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Sharon Wasco, PhD., Owner of SMW Consulting LLC and ODHE vendor for Survey Support Services. Wasco and her company are working with the universities to hand-design surveys for each campus. The surveys will be sent out in April, and the data will be analyzed over the summer to create a custom report for each school. All five institutions will then come together to compare and discuss common trends that were found and provide a list of recommendations.
“I think the University of Findlay’s decision is really visionary to be able to connect common solutions that can help international students make the transition to feeling safer on campus, the same way that the University will signal to LGBTQ+ students and staff that they are safe on campus. It’s also a great way to signal that the University doesn’t tolerate bullying, discrimination, and sexual harassment,” said Wasco.
Skylar Mettert, ’11 M.A.E ’14 serves as the University of Findlay’s Associate Vice President for Safety and Wellness. When he heard about the opportunity to help make a difference, he and other University officials immediately took on the role and threw UF’s hat into the ring. “It’s important that UF was selected to be a part of Taking Bold Action, as it provides invaluable information on ways institutions can continue to remove barriers, particularly for marginalized communities,” said Mettert. While the efforts will benefit many institutions across the country, it also specifically helps UF grow and improve. “Surveys such as this provide our team with vital information necessary to further our goal of improving life for all UF students, day-by-day, month-by-month, and even year-by-year,” he said.
The first set of data in Ohio was collected in 2016, but COVID threw a wrench in data collection, as universities were forced to focus on COVID policies and procedures. Nonetheless, data has revealed a few things. “Since collecting data in 2016, we have not seen rates of sexual harassment go down,” said Wasco. “What we have seen is a tremendous movement in the number of campuses across Ohio who provide or have started to provide prevention training,” she added.
The efforts from the state of Ohio have grown to the national level with the Violence Against Women Act, requiring college campuses across the nation to collect data around issues of sexual violence using a standardized tool. For Wasco and the ODHE, it’s more of the same, “Ohio has been at the forefront of a national effort that is now taking very seriously the students’ demands to have their experiences seen, heard, acknowledged, and responded to,” said Wasco. The data collected from surveys will first be shared with the participating universities to help shape campus policies, but will eventually find itself on the state of Ohio website, where it can help shape local and state policies as well.
University of Findlay Civil Rights/Title IX Coordinator, Charles Ludwig, MLS will work alongside Kristen Lindsay, Ph.D., UF Director of Institutional Research and Sharon Wasco to develop the surveys that will then be sent to University students, faculty, and staff. Those surveys will be sent out in April. Individuals will be asked for their perception of safety on campus, including their personal safety in relationships to various types of harassment and violence.
When asked about the question, “Should I complete the survey if I have never experienced sexual harassment or assault?” both Mettert and Wasco agreed with a resounding “Yes!” “National statistics show that if it hasn’t happened to you, it’s happened to your friend, classmate, intimate partner, or someone else you know. Responding to the survey will allow you to improve campus climate and culture not only for yourself, but also for those close to you now and for generations to come,” said Mettert.
Ludwig, Lindsay and Mettert will work with Sharon Wasco and her team to compile the data collected from the surveys and analyze the data for potential areas of improvement on campus. Final reports will be completed by Summer 2023.
For those on the campus of the University of Findlay, there are on-campus resources available, including Equity & Title IX, Campus Safety, and confidential resources including Cosiano, Counseling Services, and Campus Ministry.