Standing on the front balcony of Ellis Hall on Friday, Alyssa Ensminger, senior at Ohio University, read a letter aloud from the graduate students of the English department to Professor Andrew Escobedo to an attentive crowd.
“To the English department faculty: we are writing you to take the recent memorandum findings seriously,” read Ensminger. “Ohio University has a responsibility to ensure that such behavior by a documented sexual abuser is not allowed to continue elsewhere.”
The people gathered were rallying against sexual assault and harassment following the release of Ohio University’s Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance memorandum findings on Escobedo. They found he had “engaged in a pattern of exploiting females who are subordinate to (him) by virtue of their student status or their junior employment status.”
Escobedo is currently on paid administrative leave. Executive Vice-President and Provost Pam Benoit sent a letter to Interim President David Descutner on Thursday, recommending detenuring procedures.
“I find that Dr. Escobedo’s conduct violates the most basic relationship between faculty and student and erodes the foundation of trust upon which the academy depends,” Benoit wrote.
“Cases of sexual misconduct do not always follow the same protocol as other cases. Is it not ridiculous that if a student is sexually assaulted a panel of their mentors will sit together in a room and take a poll on what they believe to have happened to a colleague, friend or rival who assaulted them,” read Hannah Koerner, one of the event’s organizer, from the protester’s list of demands.
Demands included that Escobedo be de-tenured and fired and future cases be reviewed by a neutral third party investigator.
Many of the speakers at the rally maintained OU has a history of poorly handling sexual misconduct. Anika Holland, senior Honors Tutorial College English student, spoke about her experience with sexual harassment during her sophomore year with a fellow student, Michael (Mickey) Marshall. He lived in her dorm and repeatedly asked for sexual favors.
“I finally decided to report him to what was at the time called the Office of Institutional Equity after a night of partying with the pre-law fraternity we were both a part of,” Holland said. “After going through the Title IX process, Mickey was ultimately suspended from OU for one semester. Then, he sued the university for discriminating against him as a man.”
Holland went on to explain Mickey claimed his civil rights were infringed, and she related his argument to those that Escobedo’s lawyers are using.
“The thing that struck me the most, disappointed me the most, exhausted me the most, about Andrew Escobedo’s so-called apology and the complicit apologies the English faculty have made on his behalf are the excuses that our professors, mentors and self-proclaimed feminists are willing to make for sexual violence. Make no mistake: harassment is violence.
“Being drunk is not an excuse to touch a person without their consent,” Holland continued. “Being drunk is not an excuse for abusing your power as a professor.”
A solidarity rally was held at the University of Cincinnati by Students for Survivors on Friday to support OU’s student activists.
“Rape culture is compromising the safety of students for the comfort of institutions of higher education and perpetrators alike,” the group wrote in a post on its Facebook page. “This is not an isolated incident. This is happening here on our campus, the University of Cincinnati and OU are complicit in rape culture. We must take a stance.”