Know Your Surroundings: History of Self Defense at OSU

This exhibit’s purpose is to highlight how self-defense has been invoked by The Ohio State University and affiliated institutions, students, and activists in the context of gender-based violence and sexual violence. I utilized archived material from The Lantern and OSU archives and created metadata for them to be displayed in this exhibit.

Snook Case Will Go to Jury Today

The first mention of “self-defense” in The Lantern was in the 1920s. The article was highlighting the benefit of boxing – “the manly art of self defense.” College debate was also dubbed "the new manly art of self-defense." Self-defense was also a hot topic throughout the reporting of the 1929 Snook murder case where Dr. James H. Snook was charged with murdering one of his students - Theora K. Hix. Snook legal defense relied on “insanity at the time of the killing, use of drugs, and self-defense.” However, the reporting on self-defense would only really increase in the 1960s when martial arts became more popular.

One such example of this is that in 1970 the Women Liberation Front (WLM) demanded that OSU offer a self-defense course for women students. In 1983, Marty Schmidt, a graduate administrative associate for OSU’s Rape Education Prevention Program, said that “college women can avoid date rape situations if they know self defense.” Due to the assumptions surrounding who is raped in the 1960s and the growing anti-rape movement at OSU in the 70s and 80s, self-defense was now often explicitly tied to women and their need to defend themselves against would-be rapists and molesters.

By 1978, OSU had been offering self-defense classes exclusively to women; however, OSU rolled out a new class - Physical Education 172 – which was a self-defense class for both men and women. OSU would continue to expand its role in educating its students in self-defense. In 1983, OSU’s Office of Student Life provided rape prevention and self-defense workshops for student dorms and Greek Life. As of 2022, OSU still offers self-defense classes for students.

It is unclear what exact techniques or ideas were being taught in the early OSU self-defense courses; however, anti-rape activist groups such as WAR asserted that OSU’s self-defense classes and theirs were not the same because according to WAR, theirs were taught by a feminist perspective and OSU’s was not.

An article published in 1994 titled “Student gain chemical weapons know-how” quoted OSU Police Captain David Stelzer as saying that weapons such as mace have gained popularity over the past 10 years and are legal in Ohio. In 1995, OSU’s Advance Self Defense Class demonstrated to students how to use pepper spray. Other self-defense technology would emerge in the 2000s for consumers, such as 130-decibel safety alarms, tasers, and stun guns.

After 2003, there is a noticeable decline in articles about self-defense in The Lantern’s archive. Self-defense came back into the spotlight after the murder of Reagan Tokes in 2017 because free self-defense classes were being offered in her honor. In January 2021, the OSU Department of Public Safety launched a 10-part safety spotlight video series that covered “self-defense techniques and general safety resources.” The article details additional resources such as OSU’s partnership with Lyft to give students discounted rides after dark, the Rave Guardian app that allows students to share their location with others, and where students can pick up free home safety devices.



Know Your Surroundings: History of Self Defense at OSU