The formation of a sexual abuse task force intended to prevent serial abuse on college campuses is complete, and the members will be made public in the upcoming weeks, University President Michael V. Drake said Monday.
In an interview with The Lantern, Drake spoke about the aftermath of the investigation of former university physician Richard Strauss’ abuse, the formation of the national sexual abuse task force that was announced at the full Board of Trustees meeting in May, what the task force was intended to do and how it might function.
The task force was formed in light of cases of serial abuse at institutions of higher education and the conclusion from an independent investigation that Ohio State failed to stop Strauss from abusing at least 177 students during his 1978-1998 tenure. Over his 20-year career, Strauss served as the team doctor for 17 men’s varsity sports and as a physician at the Student Health Center.
Drake, who holds a medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco, said that in his capacity as a medical professional, the entire incident was “doubly horrific.”
One of the larger issues in this situation is the violation of the trust that a patient has with his or her doctor, he said.
“Here’s someone who now, in fact, abused a position of ultimate trust,” Drake said. “It’s one of the things that’s most precious to medical professionals is that you and your patients have trust. So I think that that’s awful, unspeakably awful.”
Drake said that he hopes that the task force will work to help make places like Ohio State safer by addressing such issues.
“It is a terrific problem, that if we look at, I’m sure affects millions of people across the country,” Drake said. “And it’s often in silence, often in shadows, and we’d love to be able to find a way to shine a light in those places to make them safer places.”
The university has appointed a chair for the task force, Drake said. The members, too, were named over the summer and the entire task force will convene for the first time before the end of September, he said.
“I’m very pleased about the chair and the task force and looking forward to real, meaningful work from them,” Drake said.
Drake said at the full Board meeting May 31 that the task force will include survivors of sexual abuse and Ohio State and national scholars who will use the information from the Strauss report as well as other resources to advance the national conversation around sexual misconduct on college campuses.
The people on this task force will be bringing their perspective and expertise together, will be informed by experts from around the country and then will come out with recommendations and suggestions after having a “period of reasonable deliberation,” Drake said.
The development of the task force will form organically, so its purpose will take shape as time goes on, Drake said. It will probably be similar to the Suicide and Mental Health Task Force that was put into effect in April 2018, he said.
Drake said he hopes the task force will provide recommendations to address how survivors can come forward and be supported and how, in general, the campus environment can become safer for everyone.
“What can we learn, and then given what we’ve learned, what can we do to make the world a safer place?” Drake said. “What can we do to enable survivors to come forward in a supportive way? Those are the questions I’ll be interested in hearing.”
Correction: Drake received his medical degree from University of California, San Francisco. An earlier version of this article said his degree was from University of California, Irvine. This article has been updated with the correct information.