If you were to run into a mathematical expert, you would learn that the number 177 is the smallest constant for a three-by-three magic square that does not include the number one or use consecutive or arithmetic progression. If you were to sit down with a NASA astronomer, you would find out that 177 Irma is an extremely large main belt asteroid. If you were to speak with a curator at an Imperial War Museum in Britain, you would discover that the WE 177 bomb was the United Kingdom’s last air-dropped nuclear weapon. And if you were to talk to an official at Ohio State University, you would find that 177 is the minimum number of male students that were sexually abused by a university physician.
In 1978, Ohio State University (OSU) hired Richard Strauss as an Assistant Professor in the College of Medicine. Within the next few years, he began serving as a physician in the OSU Athletic Department. Within his first year of employment—and continuing throughout nearly two decades of working at OSU—Strauss had been the subject of complaints by both students and staff for performing inappropriate medical exams. It was also common for Strauss to shower alongside male students in the locker room, which players repeatedly complained about to their coaches.
The university failed to take any meaningful action against Strauss until January 1996 when OSU placed Strauss on administrative leave while the university investigated several complaints that had arisen during the mid-1990s. In June 1996, OSU’s Student Affairs office conducted a closed-session disciplinary hearing into Strauss’ misconduct, but the hearing did not allow any student-patients to participate. In the summer of 1996, Strauss’ employment with Student Health Services and his position with the Athletic Department were terminated, but Strauss’ status as a tenured faculty member was not altered. Strauss even received an emeritus appointment from the School of Public Health upon his voluntary retirement in 1998. He died by suicide in 2005.
To date, more than 350 former OSU athletes and other men have brought suit against OSU for failing to stop Strauss’ abuse. While some of Strauss’ survivors have reached an undisclosed settlement with the school, many survivors have yet to find redress. Judge Michael Watson, the presiding judge over the lawsuit, paused the litigation to allow the parties to enter into mediation. Mediation is a private process where a neutral third-party is tasked with assisting the parties in resolving their dispute. Mediation is encouraged, and often mandated, in larger scale lawsuits. Lawyers for many of the plaintiffs, however, have accused OSU of failing to mediate in good faith. Though OSU denies those allegations, Judge Watson issued an order allowing the survivors to proceed with their litigation against OSU. Judge Watson has made it clear that mediation towards settlement should still continue as the lawsuits go forward.
Many of Strauss’ survivors have accused OSU of deliberately delaying mediation efforts because of politics. They allege that OSU is hampering settlement discussions because it is waiting to see if the Ohio Legislature is going to pass House Bill 249. The bill would open a window for Strauss survivors to sue the university. The bill has already undergone multiple committee hearings.
OSU is a Big 10 powerhouse that continually competes with in-conference rivals Michigan State University, University of Michigan, and University of Minnesota for athletic championships in all sports. Lately, however, these universities have been ramping up the competition in the sexual abuse scandal arena. The qualified attorneys at Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis, and Overholtz represent survivors of sexual abuse. Please contact us to receive more information.