In the wake of sexual misconduct scandals related to Ohio University, Student Senate held a panel Tuesday to educate students on the corporate costs of sexual harassment.
About 10 students gathered in Walter Hall to listen to three panelists of various backgrounds speak about abuse in the workplace. Student Senate Vice President Courteney Muhl said the panel was held in response to accusations of sexual assault by English professor Andrew Escobedo and the former Fox News chairman and CEO Roger E. Ailes, whose name was taken down from the WOUB newsroom following the allegations.
In both situations, Muhl said Student Senate passed a bill with resolved clauses to further education on what sexual harassment looks like in the workplace, particularly power-based abuse.
“For each of those instances, Student Senate passed a bill that called on Ohio University to stand with survivors, to keep its values strong and to make it clear that sexual abuse was intolerable,” she said. “We wanted to be a part of the culture change here on campus by making it an ongoing effort.”
Panelist Ed Yost, a College of Business professor emeritus, said about 20 percent of Americans reported being abused in the workplace, yet this problem is rarely addressed in large forums.
“Workplace abuse can escalate to workplace violence,” he said. “It may start out as simple bullying.”
Of that workplace abuse, Yost said 24 percent is related to personal relationships and can manifest through sexual harassment.
Panelist Sara Trower, the executive director of Civil Rights Compliance and Title IX coordinator, said sexual harassment in the workplace stems from a lack of accountability and respect.
“There are underlying attitudes that contribute to a culture or a climate that creates the environment that can lead to these kinds of instances,” said Trower, a former attorney who advised employers on issues of workplace violence. “Fundamentally what you’re looking at is a lack of civility and respect.”
Yost said 70 percent of employers do not have policies on workplace abuse. In those cases, bystanders must step up and help the victims through direct confrontation, delegation or distraction, said panelist Ben Braddock, a graduate assistant for sexual assault prevention and relationship violence.
“Distractions can be anything weird and silly,” he said. “Literally anything you can do to keep someone safe and get people out of a bad situation.”
Although Muhl said she wished more people had come to listen to what the panelists had to say, the audience members in attendance got a lot from the event.
“From my accounting and pre-law, I found it incredibly useful for working in (an) office environment,” Sierra Goings, a junior studying accounting, business pre-law, sociology and history pre-law. “I have experienced some of what was discussed today, and it made me realize I wish I had done something at the time.”
Originally published for The Post on April 11, 2017.