The investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against former Ohio State doctor Richard Strauss is “nearing its conclusion,” Provost Bruce McPheron said at Ohio State’s full Board of Trustee meeting, while noting that the university is still seeking to reach mediation with accusers in federal court.
McPheron also said that counseling has been offered to alumni and will be paid for by the university.
According to court documents in early February, there was disagreement between the plaintiffs in Brian Garrett et. al, v. Ohio State and Steve Snyder-Hill et. al, v. Ohio State, a pair of class-action suits led by Strauss accusers. Garrett and Snyder-Hill, the leading plaintiffs, requested former mediators of both the Penn State and Michigan State sexual abuse cases.
Ohio State opposed both proposed mediators, and instead suggested a former district court chief judge and an appeals court chief mediator. The plaintiffs opposed the two, arguing that neither had experience handling sexual abuse mediations in the past.
A mediation was supposed to begin within 30 days after the initial court order came in on Jan. 17, which would have been on Feb. 16. According to court documents citing a meeting of the two sides on Feb. 19, the two parties now have until March 12 to agree on a mediator.
In Steve Snyder-Hill et. al v. Ohio State, the plaintiff proposed an alternate mediator in Judge Steven Rhodes if the other two are not selected. Rhodes is a retired judge who presided over the City of Detroit bankruptcy case in 2013. He has also served as mediator in a second phase of the Michigan State sexual abuse case involving Larry Nassar.
Strauss, a doctor at Ohio State from 1978 to 1998, is accused of sexually abusing former student-athletes during his time as a team physician at Ohio State, as well as students while serving as an employee at Student Health Services. Ohio State investigators are also looking into claims as to whether he abused students at a private clinic after leaving the university.
Strauss died by suicide in 2005.
In a letter sent to 115,000 alumni in February, Ohio State said it would cover the cost of professionally certified counseling from Praesidium for any students affected by Strauss. In a past Board update, it was revealed that more than 150 individuals had come forward with allegations of misconduct from Strauss.
McPheron said Friday that Praesidium is a “leader in responding to incidents of sexual abuse.”
At the last full Board meeting in November, a number of accusers, including both Garrett and Snyder-Hill, spoke before the board with their stories of sexual abuse from Strauss.
Ohio State opened an investigation into Strauss in April 2018 with Porter Wright Morris & Arthur serving as legal counsel to Ohio State, as appointed by then-attorney general and now-Governor Mike DeWine. The firm originally hired Bricker & Eckler to lead the investigation, but turned to Seattle-based Perkins Coie in May due to a legal conflict with Bricker & Eckler.
Facing lawsuits from accusers, Ohio State has been represented by Carpenter Lipps & Leland. Ohio State attempted to have both the court cases dismissed, but Judge Michael H. Watson put both the motion to stay discovery and motion to dismiss on hold.
“Ohio State remains steadfastly committed to learning about Strauss’ conduct,” McPheron said, noting that the university will address the past when the investigation is concluded and will continue to improve in the future.