The following email was sent to students, faculty and staff on Friday, May 17, 2019.
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:
In April 2018, the university announced an independent investigation into allegations of sexual abuse against Dr. Richard Strauss, who was employed by Ohio State from 1978 to 1998. Strauss died in 2005.
We established and announced the independent investigation after allegations were brought to the university’s attention last spring. The independent investigation is now complete.
The findings are shocking and painful to comprehend.
On behalf of the university, we offer our profound regret and sincere apologies to each person who endured Strauss’ abuse. Our institution’s fundamental failure at the time to prevent this abuse was unacceptable — as were the inadequate efforts to thoroughly investigate complaints raised by students and staff members.
This independent investigation was completed because of the strength and courage of survivors. We thank each of them for their willingness to share their experiences.
We have notified survivors that we would be releasing the report publicly today, and it has been shared with them. Now, we are sharing the report and related public records with the university community.
We want to assure you that the investigators made every effort to protect the anonymity of survivors. Accordingly, the names of survivors are omitted from the report.
The university advocated with the State Medical Board of Ohio to be allowed to release the full, unredacted report, and we filed a motion in that regard with the federal court. The medical board opposed our motion to the court, citing R.C. 4731.22(F). The federal court denied our motion. Therefore, portions of the report referring to the medical board’s investigatory file on Strauss must be redacted. The university will continue to advocate for permission to release the redacted portions of the report.
Please know the report contains explicit descriptions of sexual abuse.
The report is the culmination of the 12-month investigation by Perkins Coie. The independent investigators concluded that Strauss committed acts of sexual abuse against at least 177 students during the years he was employed as a physician at the university. The report also concludes that university personnel at the time had knowledge of complaints and concerns about Strauss’ conduct as early as 1979 but failed to investigate or act meaningfully.
The university announced earlier this year that it will cover the cost of professionally certified counseling for those affected by Strauss. The counseling is offered through Praesidium, which has extensive experience in providing confidential and sensitive support services. No contact with the university is required, and Praesidium will not share information with Ohio State. Affected individuals can engage in counseling for as long as needed. For those who have received counseling as a result of Strauss’ actions, the university will reimburse those costs through Praesidium.
Issues of sexual misconduct and abuse challenge our society in real and important ways. We will continue to work to ensure that Ohio State is at the forefront of addressing these critical issues and enhancing the safety and well-being of our community.
Addressing sexual misconduct and abuse
The university has implemented multiple additional safeguards in the 20 years since Strauss left the university. These include:
- Creation in 2000 of a sexual violence consultation team to review all sexual misconduct complaints for appropriate resources, consistency of response and referral, and input on related issues and inquiries.
- Implementation in 2006 of EthicsPoint, the university’s first centralized hotline allowing anyone to make anonymous reports of wrongdoing, including sexual misconduct allegations.
- Began administering in 2009 provider credentialing for doctors in Student Health Services through the Wexner Medical Center.
- Designation in 2011 of a Title IX coordinator to oversee the university’s efforts to comply with guidance from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Title IX, which expanded in 2011, is the federal law for protecting higher education communities from discrimination resulting from sexual misconduct and abuse.
- Creation in 2012 of the Office of University Compliance and Integrity following a comprehensive, external assessment. In 2013, the office added a specialized compliance investigator and launched skills training for investigative partners in student conduct, human resources and athletics.
- Establishment in 2015 of mandatory reporting of sexual assault for all university employees.
- Launch in 2015 of Buckeyes ACT, a community-wide approach to combat sexual misconduct through action, counseling and support, and training.
- Conducted a campus climate survey in 2015 in partnership with the Association of American Universities to identify issues and provide data used to enhance training for awareness and prevention programming. Ohio State continues to conduct annual climate surveys, most recently in spring 2019.
- Implementation in 2016 of mandatory sexual misconduct prevention education for incoming students. The university expanded this requirement in 2018 to all students, faculty and staff.
Building on systems already in place over the past two decades, the university announced in autumn 2018 the creation of the Office of Institutional Equity, a centralized office which includes additional staff and focuses on institutional prevention of all forms of discrimination and harassment such as those related to sex, gender, race, ethnicity or disability.
In alignment with this office, Ohio State will add two confidential counselors from the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio (SARNCO) to be located on the Columbus campus. The university will also administer a campus survey as part of an institution-wide initiative on shared values.
The university has also made significant improvements in the Department of Athletics, including additional options for reporting misconduct and expanded training on incident reporting requirements for staff in athletics compliance, and medical and student-athlete support services. Other actions include prohibiting public access to locker rooms and training facilities, enhanced chaperone policies and providing student-athletes access to multiple physicians.
At the Wexner Medical Center, actions include the enhancement of the concern-reporting protocol to encourage the reporting of incidents and underscore that retaliation is prohibited. Additional enhancements have been made to policies concerning sensitive medical exams of all patients, including student-athletes.
Ohio State has initiated the process to revoke the faculty emeritus status that was conferred upon Strauss in 1998. The university will continue to review the report and will take additional action as appropriate.
As a reminder, anyone who has experienced sexual misconduct while at Ohio State — and the incident involved another student or university employee — is encouraged to report to the Office of Institutional Equity, our anonymous reporting service or law enforcement. Those who have experienced sexual misconduct outside of Ohio State should contact local law enforcement. Additional resources include:
- If you reside in the Columbus, Ohio, area, advocates from SARNCO can assist you in reporting, explain the investigation process and accompany you to any meeting. SARNCO’s confidential, 24/7 support hotline is 614-267-7020.
- If you do not reside in the Columbus area, you can contact the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline, a confidential, 24/7 resource, at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). You can also visit the website to chat live with a representative. Advocates will help you find a resource in your community.
Current Ohio State students seeking support after reading the independent investigative report can contact the Office of Student Life’s Counseling and Consultation Service while faculty and staff can access support resources through the Employee Assistance Program.
As Ohio State Buckeyes, we all play a role in responding to and preventing sexual misconduct and abuse. We urge you to be an active participant here on campus and in your communities.
It is our collective responsibility to remain ever-vigilant and work to ensure that this can never happen again.
Michael V. Drake, MD