Ohio State University’s Board of Trustees will again hear from victims of Dr. Richard Strauss at their upcoming board meeting.
After requests from a handful of former students who were sexually abused by Strauss, a Monday letter from the board’s secretary said the men are welcome to speak for 30 minutes at the upcoming meeting on Thursday, Nov. 21.
The request from three victims, including former Ohio State nursing student Brian Garrett, expressed concern over the state’s two-year statute of limitations for sex abuse crimes, and the fact that plaintiffs’ claims have not yet been resolved during ongoing mediation.
The men requested the 30 minutes before the board “so that we may update you on the daily injury victims continue to suffer from Ohio State’s delay, and so OSU can advise us in a public and forthright manner whether it intends to continue to rely on the current statute of limitations,” their request said.
Trustees and administrators will listen to the men, but because Ohio State is in litigation and mediation with some of the victims, “the board and administration are not in a position to engage in dialogue at the board meeting,” board secretary Jessica Eveland said in a written response to the former students’ request to speak.
“We remain engaged in an ongoing mediation directed by the court, and the judge has instructed all of us to restrict our communication to the mediation process, which we believe is the more appropriate venue for continued discussion,” she wrote.
“However, because these are extraordinary circumstances, and you have expressed that it is important and meaningful to you as survivors to speak at the upcoming board meeting, we will welcome you to address the board and administrative leaders,” Eveland wrote.
Strauss worked as a sports and student health physician at Ohio State from 1979 to 1998, and was found to have sexually abused at least 177 students, according to a May report from law firm Perkins Coie. Numbers released by Ohio State last month showed there had been nearly 1,500 instances of sexual abuse tied to the doctor. University officials knew about Strauss’ conduct but repeatedly failed to stop it, the Perkins Coie report found.
The findings led Gov. Mike DeWine to create a working group to review a closed 1996 State medical Board of Ohio case involving allegations against Strauss. The medical board has since announced $150,000 in spending to review about 2,000 past sexual-misconduct complaints that were closed without board action, in response to the working group’s report released in late August.
The medical board may implement changes by the end of the year that would eliminate the administrative authority to close a case if a survivor initially declines to come forward. Board staff will present a draft of changes for the investigator manual to the state board’s Strauss committee Wednesday morning, according to a November report from the working group.
Nearly 300 plaintiffs have filed more than a dozen lawsuits against the university over their handling of Strauss’ abuse.
A group of former students addressed the board a year ago, describing the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of Strauss. The men asked the board to take action and responsibility and to take steps to ensure such abuse will never happen again.
Garrett said he and others have come to find out that the abuse by Strauss is “even worse than what we said last year,” he said, adding that he wants to “talk about the damage it’s done to people’s lives.”
While some victims were enthusiastic by the university’s response to their request, Garrett said others are skeptical over what he described as “more legalese from Ohio State.”
Dispatch reporter Max Filby contributed to this report.