The Victims of Dr. Richard Strass and of OSU
Harvey J Graff

On March 14, 2023, a day that will live in infamy in Columbus and across the Oval, The Ohio State University filed the petition to the US Supreme Court that it foreshadowed the moment the federal District Court of Appeals ruled against its previous attempt to escape responsibility for the criminal misconduct of Dr. Richard Strass and its refusal to respond responsibly to the more than 600 documented victims of Strauss’ sexual abuse.

It is no accident that OSU’s unnamed attorneys file their brief with the right-wing ideological and anti-Constitution majority United States Supreme Court. They purposefully and blatantly misrepresent the case and the issues. The University declares that it asks, “the justices to review at divided decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in order to preserve the statute of limitations for Title IX claims, which is foundational to the nation’s shared rule of law, and affirm the scope of federal education protections under Title IX.”

Let’s begin with this summary statement. I note:

1. “Divided opinion” = 24 against OSU; 4 in favor. In today’s wording that is called a super-majority, not a division.

2. OSU mispresents the fact that the issue is not to “preserve the statute of limitations for Title IX claims” in general but for Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault as committed by its long-term student athletics physician, Strauss. (This was witnessed silently, scores of witnesses claim, by then assistant men’s wrestling coach Jim Jordan, now a member of the US House of Representatives in the most gerrymandered district in the nation. Jordan maintains that he “does not remember,” just as he “does not remember” speaking to former president Trump on Jan. 6, 2021.)

3. Relatedly, this issue in this case is not what OSU falsely purports to be “foundational to the nation’s shared rule of law.” It pertains to the rights of victims of sexual assault committed by employees of educational institutions while on the job. OSU’s pretense that the Court should “affirm the scope of federal education protect” unconscionably ignores the rights of students to “federal education protections” under Title IX. That is unconscionable and unacceptable.

Nowhere does OSU acknowledge that a swelling number of jurists, legal scholars, and victims’ rights advocates agree that statutes of limitation should not apply to sexual abuse and sexual assaults cases. That makes many of OSU’s claims irrelevant and/or distractions, as well as its appeals to other universities and the amicus brief from only seven universities with only 200,00 students.

That is not all in OSU’s flawed filing and fabrications. It should be noted that outgoing President Kristina Johnson apologized to the victims in 2022 but neither the University formally nor the Board of Trustees have taken that step that many institutions take in comparable circumstances. This contradicts OSU Marketing and Communication Department self-promotion. This is a longstanding university pattern.

History matters here. Strauss’ criminal assaults took place in the 1980s and 1990s. By the 1990s and 2000s they were reported to a variety of offices at OSU and were well known in the university and the Columbus community. The time is specific, not undated “decades old.” Along with any other imaginable allegations or documented violations.

OSU’s statements about statutes of limitation protection directly contradict its proclamations about “protecting students.” The institution cannot have it both ways. Similarly, OSU grossly exaggerates when it states, “if left to stand, [the Sixth District ruling] will produce enormous uncertainly for educational institutions as well as victims of alleged abuse….” That is distorted and illogical. Similarly, the statements about statutes of limitation applying to 100,000 spectators at a home football game or anyone on campus are irrelevant, illogical, and offensive.

The underlying proof here is that, contrary to its assertions, OSU did not “[lead] the effort to investigate and expose Strauss’ abuse and the university’s failure at the time to prevent it….” OSU did nothing from the mid-1990s until the late 2010s. It ignored it, and allowed statutes of limitation to expire. 

Given the extent of sexual misconduct and rape on and off campus, OSU has not “committed to preventing and addressing [an odd ordering of points] substantial resources to preventing and addressing sexual misconduct on campus….” That assertion is refuted by comparing OSU with other universities and examining—when possible—how OSU deals with cases of actual abuse and assault.

Compared to peer institutions’ responses to abuse of student athletes, OSU remains in the shadows. Contrast its unacceptably target and small actions with the much quicker and more significant monetary settlements made to both female and male athletes by Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan, USC, UCLA, and Stanford.

OSU admits that it has reached even partial settlements with fewer than the 600 documented filing victims. Its offers of a few hundred thousand dollars to only a selection of the victims are trivial in comparison to millions of dollars to individuals at other universities. Of the majority of Strauss victims who have not settled, a significant number rejected the offensively small offers. Many others were never made offers.

It is simply untrue for OSU to assert, “The majority of the survivors settled their claims.” The next sentence refers to 295 of more than 600.

I do not understand what settling “through a trauma-informed approach” actually means when the next sentence appears to take pains to communicate avoidance of the additional trauma of formal testimony. But more important, it is not true to declare that “Ohio State has sincerely and persistently tried to reconcile through monetary and non-monetary means, and all male students who filed lawsuits” That is contrary to the factual record.

OSU’s petition to the Supreme Court—and its public press release--misrepresents all of this. A number of the victims actively and legally continue their cases—under the law as written, unlike The Ohio State University.


Harvey J. Graff is Professor Emeritus of English and History at The Ohio State University and inaugural Ohio Eminent Scholar in Literacy Studies. Author of many books, he writes about a variety of contemporary and historical topics for Times Higher Education, Inside Higher Education, Academe Blog, Washington Monthly, Publishers Weekly, Against the Current, Columbus Free Press, and newspapers. Searching for Literacy: The Social and Intellectual Origins of Literacy Studies was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2022. My Life with Literacy: The Continuing Education of a Historian. The Intersections of the Personal, the Political, the Academic, and Place is forthcoming.