OSU Promises Payout for Doctor’s Victims

Ohio State University has added its brand to the list of colleges and universities paying for reports of sexual abuse by members of its staff or paid contractors. According to recent media reports, OSU has promised a “monetary resolution” related to accounts of men being sexually abused by disgraced and now-deceased team doctor, Richard Strauss.

At this point, the message is more about getting out ahead of the story and trying to grab some control of the narrative than it is about offering contrition or specifics. As of this writing, no settlement has been reached in any lawsuits which allege school officials “ignored complaints” or “failed to stop” Strauss’s abuse.

That’s not to say blame has not been levied or accepted. In a previous release, OSU officials acknowledged that they did, in fact, fail to properly investigate or otherwise prevent the abuse that has been alleged. This release came with an apology, one of several offered by the school.

OSU Board Chairman, Gary Heminger, left no doubt as to the board’s position on the issue: “I want to reiterate that we are dedicated to a fair outcome… This means that Ohio State is committed to a monetary resolution.”

What kind of “monetary resolution,” as well as other details have yet to be announced. To date, nearly 300 men have been involved in mediation hoping to move toward an agreeable settlement. Some of these men have been openly critical of what they see as a delay in OSU’s actions in this case.

One such plaintiff, Brian Garrett, said, about the announcement: “(It’s) the first glimmer that they are thinking about doing the right thing…”

Meanwhile, the number of plaintiffs and accusers not currently attached to any lawsuit continues to grow. This telegraphs that, even if there is monetary resolution, this situation isn’t going away any time soon. It’s clear that OSU will need to move beyond promises and apologies, before this PR crisis takes on a life of its own.

Issues such as these, which can continue to grow, fomenting more and more ill will due to perceived inaction by the responsible party, need to be addressed in multiple ways. OSU needs to not only be seen accepting responsibility, they need to be seen demonstrating empathy and addressing the actual concerns of the victims in this situation.

Failure to be seen taking action will erode any perception of goodwill earned by the “monetary” announcement, because it will eventually be seen as an empty gesture. Especially, since the number of accusers and victims attached to the suit continues to rise. Already, comparisons are being made in the media to the infamous Larry Nassar case at Michigan State. This is company OSU definitely does not want to keep.

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

View more posts from this author