Some Ohio University students organized a rally protesting sexual assault Friday in response to the allegations against English professor Andrew Escobedo.
The rally took place in front of Ellis Hall, which houses the English department, at 4:30 p.m. Hannah Koerner, one of the organizers, outlined the protesters' demands at the beginning of the rally. The demands included that Escobedo lose his tenure and be fired, and that OU implements consent training courses.
“What prompted me to organize the rally was both the public disclosure of Escobedo’s multiple sexual misconducts and being a member of the English department and seeing the distrust that’s been festering being students and faculty for some time, as well as the lack of transparency,” Koerner, a senior studying English, said.
Escobedo is accused of sexually harassing multiple female students as early as 2003. Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance investigators found he bought female students drinks at bars and touched them sexually.
One woman told investigators that he kissed her without consent and rubbed his erection against her leg. Another said he rubbed her vagina over her clothing during the same night. The women said they were afraid saying no would damage their grades or reputations.
Six women filed complaints with the office, and the office found enough evidence to support a violation of university policy in four of the complaints.
One of the speakers at the rally was Lori Hensley, a survivor of sexual assault. Hensley said she was assaulted for five years by someone she trusted from the time she was 13 years old until she came to OU.
“I’m angry and I’m terrified,” Hensley, a freshman studying English, said. “I’m a freshman, and I was eager to have a place to be safe. … I don’t feel safe right now. … How OU handles this determines if students feel safe.”
OU Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit recommended Interim President David Descutner consider a “full range of sanctions” against Escobedo in a Thursday letter, including possible loss of tenure and dismissal. After Descutner makes his decision, the OU Board of Trustees will vote on the final disciplinary action.
Michael Mayberry, a senior studying English, said he has been waiting for the university to acknowledge the situation.
“We want to move forward,” he said. “A critical part of moving forward is acknowledging the past. We have been waiting to hear some sort of condemnation. … We are still waiting.”
Bobby Walker, a member of the International Socialist Organization, said students need to continue to come together in solidarity.
“We need to continue to organize,” she said. “We need to make it so hard for them to ignore us. We need to make it unprofitable for them to ignore us.”
Jason Pina, the vice president for Student Affairs, attended the rally to listen to student grievances.
“I came to really try to hear what the students are feeling and what they’ve been going through,” he said. “I wanted to be able to speak to some of the organizers and ask them to email me their list of demands so I could share them directly with the leadership team at the university.”
Pina said he appreciates how passionate the students were.
“So many people care so much about tough issues and are willing to stand up for what they believe in and are willing to protest and rally and let folks know how they feel,” he said. “To be a part of a community where people care and love OU and is willing to call out its faults and things it needs to work on is something I want to be a part of.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified who organized the rally. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.