COLUMBUS (AP) — Men alleging Ohio State ignored or failed to stop sexual misconduct by a team doctor are recommending their lawsuits be handled by one of the mediation teams used in nationally known cases involving Michigan State and Penn State.
But Ohio State said it won’t agree to those mediators because the handling of those cases led to controversy, according to a joint court filing Thursday about who might guide the process toward a potential settlement. The university is recommending that a former federal judge or a federal appeals court mediator be used instead in the two lawsuits against it.
They were brought by dozens of the 150-plus former students who say they experienced unnecessary groping during exams or other sexual misconduct by Dr. Richard Strauss between 1979 and 1997. The allegations involve male athletes from at least 16 sports, plus Strauss’ off-campus medical office and work at the student health center.
The plaintiffs said they were pleased when a federal judge steered the case toward mediation last month, but a lawyer for some of them said Friday it’s troubling that the plaintiffs and Ohio State couldn’t agree on a mediator recommendation.
“We think this is a red flag that OSU is not sincere in their efforts to resolve this matter,” attorney Scott Elliot Smith said.
A message seeking comment was left for the university’s lead lawyer.
The plaintiffs recommended mediation teams led by former federal judge Layn Phillips, who mediated recent sexual misconduct cases involving Michigan State University and the University of Southern California, or Kenneth Feinberg, who worked on Penn State cases and is mediating sexual abuse claims involving the Catholic church in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
The university recommended former federal Judge James Holderman or Paul Calico, the chief mediator for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, saying both have expertise in mediation.
The sides now await the court’s instruction on how to proceed. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights is reviewing whether OSU responded appropriately to concerns about Strauss, and a law firm is investigating the allegations for the university.
Some Strauss accusers have questioned the independence of that investigation. Ohio State insists it is committed to uncovering the truth and will publicly share the findings.
Strauss died in 2005. Although his family expressed shock, no one has publicly defended him since the allegations were raised last spring.
Employment records released by the university reflect no major concerns about Strauss, but alumni say they complained about him as far back as the late 1970s. Ohio State has at least one documented complaint from 1995.
The State Medical Board said it never disciplined Strauss, but it has acknowledged having confidential records about the investigation of a complaint involving him. It won’t disclose details.
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