After 13 months of mediation with victims of Richard Strauss, a resolution passed by Ohio State’s Board of Trustees indicates that a settlement could be on the horizon.
The Ohio State Board of Trustees unanimously authorized Board Chairman Gary Heminger to approve settlements between the university and sexual assault victims of former university physician and team doctor Strauss on behalf of the full Board Thursday. But one Strauss survivor said the resolution is “irresponsible” of Ohio State.
The resolution states the university has been participating in mediation efforts and is committed to a monetary resolution. It also states that the Board “wants the university to be in a position to expedite the execution of a settlement if a resolution has been agreed to in principle.”
“For two years, we’ve actively engaged in coming to terms with Strauss’ abuse and the university’s failure to appropriately respond at the time,” Heminger said.
The resolution comes two days after four law firms representing victims of Strauss wrote a letter to Watson that said the mediation effort with the university has “run its course.”
According to an investigation conducted by Perkins Coie, LLP, Strauss abused at least 177 students and student-athletes during his time as team doctor and physician from 1978 to ’98. The investigation concluded that Ohio State knew of the abuse and failed to act on it at the time.
Strauss died by suicide in 2005.
There are currently at least 17 Strauss-related lawsuits filed against the university and according to the Board’s resolution, the suits have been filed on behalf of approximately 350 plaintiffs. Mediation started in January 2019 and Watson named Judge Michael R. Barrett as mediator in the cases in March 2019, according to previous Lantern reporting, but there have been no resolutions.
The Board’s resolution also reaffirms the ability of the university’s general counsel to execute any necessary settlements, with approval from the Ohio attorney general, on behalf of the university.
“Ohio State reiterates its deep regret and apologies to all who Strauss abused, and the university remains actively committed to a resolution with the plaintiffs, including a monetary resolution, as well as creating future opportunities for survivors to be heard once litigation is resolved,” the resolution reads.
Strauss victim Dan Ritchie, a former wrestler at Ohio State from 1988 to 1992, told The Lantern that the Board’s resolution struck him and other victims as “out of the blue” and “irresponsible.” Ritchie said that the groups of survivors are supposed to work together in mediation and that survivors are looking for a consensus.
He said he believes Ohio State is working “behind the scenes” to work with a group who wants a settlement “just to get it done.”
“They’re not, again — and we’ve said this from the start — they’re not acting in good faith. They’re not talking to everybody. They’re talking to a single group that just wants to get in and get out” Ritchie said.
For comparison, Michigan State settled with the 332 sexual abuse victims of former university physician Larry Nassar for $500 million in May 2018.
The Board also approved a slate of resolutions from its various committees.
Aeronautical and astronautical engineering degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels will now be named aerospace engineering to reflect the industry and educational norm. The new name will align with the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering’s name, Trustee Alex Shumate said.
This was Shumate’s last meeting, concluding his 23 years on the Board across three separate terms.
Admission into the Master of Business Logistics Engineering program will be suspended. The program has seen a 50-percent decline in applicants since 2012 and currently has 42 students enrolled. Those students will complete their degrees as planned.
University President Michael V. Drake will be eligible to receive a total of $3.3 million after leaving his current position with a contract amendment extending his relationship with the university to June 30, 2024.
Ryan Day’s contract as head coach of the football program has been approved through the 2026 season.
A combined $504 million have been allocated for an Interdisciplinary Research Facility and Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State’s outpatient care centers. The research facility and new medical center outpatient care facility will be located on West Campus. A second outpatient center will be located in Dublin, Ohio.
The Board also approved a slight price increase in basketball tickets for faculty and the public next season.