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Academic Affairs and Student Life Committee revokes Strauss’ emeritus status, approves new major

The Board of Trustees meets Friday morning at the Longaberger Alumni House. Credit: Matt Dorsey | Lantern Reporter

The Academic Affairs and Student Life Committee voted to revoke former Ohio State physician Dr. Richard Strauss’ emeritus status, approved a new branch campus major and awarded an honorary degree to commencement speaker Fareed Zakaria Thursday.

The committee voted unanimously to officially revoke Strauss’ professor emeritus status in light of the conclusions the independent investigation into Strauss’ behavior came to.

Strauss sexually abused at least 177 male athletes during his 20-year tenure at Ohio State while he served as a team doctor for 17 varsity sports, physician in the Student Health Center as well as an off-campus clinic, according to the investigative report released May 17. The independent investigation into Strauss concluded that university administrators knew of Strauss’ conduct and failed to act.

During the Board of Trustees meeting, the committee addressed the issue of revocation, prompted by a letter from University President Michael V. Drake sent to the Board May 16. While the president can revoke emeritus status at any time with approval from the Board, this is the first time in Ohio State history that such an action has been taken, Executive Vice President Bruce McPheron said.

McPheron provided context on the investigation for the committee.

“While we cannot erase what Strauss did, today we are asking this committee to correct the record in terms of his faculty status,” University Executive Vice President Bruce McPheron said. “Despite his abuse, Ohio State allowed Strauss to retire as emeritus professor in 1998. Strauss’ actions are clearly antithetical to our values as a university.”

During the meeting, Drake stressed the university’s commitment to assisting victims, referencing the counseling the university has offered for those affected. The university will continue to stay vigilant in addressing sexual misconduct, Drake said.

There were no questions or comments from the committee after these remarks, and the committee unanimously agreed to revoke the status.

Also on the meeting’s agenda was the approval of a new major, Bachelor of Science in engineering technology, to Ohio State’s branch campuses.

The new degree program is planned to begin in the fall 2020 semester for the Lima, Marion and Mansfield campuses, and will be added to the Newark campus at an unspecified later date.

The program is intended to address a growing need in the region for industrial plant managers with an understanding of manufacturing engineering technology, according to the public meeting materials. It was developed in collaboration with economic development agencies for the counties of the branch campuses in addition to local employers.

“What we heard the workforce community asking for was someone who could talk to the engineers and talk to the workers on the machines,” McPheron said.

McPheron added that the degree has an engineering grounding but is not an engineering degree; instead, the program is intended to make use of facilities belonging to local technical colleges that have partnered with the campuses.

The program was preapproved by the Council on Academic Affairs in March and the University Senate in April.

Finally, CNN host and political scientist Fareed Zakaria, Ohio State’s May 2019 commencement speaker, was approved by the committee to receive a Doctorate of Humane Letters.

The author and journalist stressed unity and open-mindedness in his commencement address, and it was this mentality that board members praised, along with Zakaria’s staunch support for liberal education, as they discussed his merits.

A full agenda and list of materials for the Academic Affairs and Student Life Committee’s meeting can be found at trustees.osu.edu/meeting/2019/5/academic-affairs-meeting-may-2019.

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