Interesting detail about the proto-scandal swirling around Jim Jordan, the Republican congressman accused of turning a blind eye to sexual misconduct on the Ohio State wrestling team when he was assistant coach there: Jordan might have violated the school’s sexual harassment Code of Conduct.
For those not following this story, Jordan has represented Ohio’s 4th congressional district since 2007, and is a leading voice in the Tea Party wing of the party. He also worked as an assistant coach for the Ohio State wrestling team from 1987 to 1995. Earlier this month, numerous former wrestling students from that era accused Jordan of ignoring complaints they tried to raise about sexual abuse from a team doctor, Richard Strauss, who committed suicide in 2005.
Jordan has denied the former students’ allegations. First he said the allegations against him were false (concocted by the Deep State, no doubt), or that no students ever brought the abuse accusations to him personally. (Former students say Jordan is lying.)
Last week, however, Jordan changed his tune. During an interview with Fox News, he said: “Conversations in a locker room are a lot different than people coming up and talking about abuse. No one ever reported any abuse to me.”
Hmmm. So Jordan now is suggesting that even if he had heard students talking about sexual abuse, those weren’t allegations because nobody spoke the words directly to him or announced,“I am making an allegation.” (I can see your eyes rolling right out of your skull from here, compliance officers.)
Anyway, a sharp-eyed compliance professional passed along to me the Ohio State sexual misconduct policy. There on Page 6 are these lines about an employee’s duty to report:
All university employees, except those exempted by legal privilege of confidentiality or expressly identified as a confidential reporter, have an obligation to report incidents of sexual assault. Any employee who receives a disclosure of a sexual assault or becomes aware of information that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a sexual assault may have occurred involving anyone covered under this policy, must report all known information immediately.
And in case anyone wants to defend Jordan by arguing that he only turned a blind eye to misconduct rather than assault, the university policy addresses that point, too. Immediately after the above clause on assault, the policy has another clause that says anyone who supervises faculty, staff, students, or volunteers must report “all other incidents of sexual misconduct” within five days of becoming aware of such allegations.
One important point: this policy went into effect in 2016, long after Jordan left the university. But the policy also includes a history of all prior revisions, including the detail that Ohio State first adopted its anti-harassment policy in 1980 — long before Jordan arrived at the university.
So what was Ohio State’s policy while Jordan was there? Did it include a duty to report? Did it define sexual misconduct broadly, or only impose the duty to report if you saw one person forcibly holding down another and assaulting him or her?
We don’t know. (If you happen to have a copy of Ohio State’s original policy lying around somewhere, feel free to email it to me.) We do know the policy was amended first in 1983, and again in 1993. In that latter instance, Jordan was on university staff, and perhaps had to certify his awareness of the policy or go through training.
Again, we don’t know. By 1993 Clarence Thomas had pushed sexual harassment into the public consciousness, thanks to his Supreme Court nomination hearings in 1990; so maybe the Ohio State policy did address the misconduct Jordan allegedly knew about. Then again, compliance in that era was still embryonic compared to today’s standards. Maybe the policy and training were weak.
Anyway, Jordan has chosen to defend himself by parsing words, tweaking statements, and alleging conspiracies masterminded by shadowy larger forces — which, in the tribal world of modern Republican politics, just might work.
For now, however, let’s remember this point: an allegation of misconduct made in a locker room is still an allegation, that leaders must investigate. Claiming “locker room exemption” is not a thing.