Kobritz: Ohio State has its very own version of Nassar
BEYOND THE LINES
Larry Nassar, the former doctor for Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, is rotting in prison for sexually abusing over 300 girls and women during a 30-year period. The scandal may be the most widely recognized collegiate sexual abuse case of all time, primarily due to the fact so many of his victims had the courage to come forward publicly. But the MSU scandal isn’t the largest sexual abuse scandal in academia nor will it be the last.
After the Nassar case became public, two other universities, the University of Southern California and Ohio State University, were forced to own up to their own incompetence and negligence. USC is dealing with the fallout from a sexual abuse scandal that also went on for thirty years, despite multiple reports from patients and nursing staff of inappropriate behavior by George Tyndall, a university gynecologist. Tyndall, who treated tens-of-thousands of female students, stands accused of improperly photographing students’ genitals and touching women inappropriately during pelvic exams.
USC didn’t suspend Tyndall until 2016 after a frustrated nurse reported him to the campus rape crisis center. An internal university investigation determined that Tyndall’s behavior during pelvic exams was “outside the scope of current medical practice” and amounted to sexual harassment of students. Rather than report him to the Medical Board, USC administrators gave Tyndall, who still maintains his innocence, a financial payout to resign quietly.
Last year OSU hired a law firm to investigate allegations that a former doctor had abused male athletes, including members of the Buckeyes’ famed football team. Seattle-based Perkins Coie recently issued a 232-page report that concluded Richard Strauss abused “at least” 177 male students between 1979 and 1997. The abuse occurred at various locations across the OSU campus, including examining rooms, locker rooms, showers and saunas in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Athletes were also abused at Strauss’ off-campus clinic and home where he insisted patients be seen for treatment of injuries and ailments. Strauss, who committed suicide in 2005, convinced the young men to strip naked - even when medical protocol didn’t require it - whereupon he groped them sexually.
The Perkins Coie report concluded that scores of Ohio State personnel were aware of complaints and concerns about Strauss’ conduct, some as early as 1979, but the university failed for almost four decades to take any meaningful action until it initiated the investigation last year. Similar examples of knowledge and inaction occurred at MSU, USC and Penn State, site of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Universities are similar to the Catholic Church: they provide unlimited access to potential victims, the perfect breeding ground for abusers. Furthermore, administrators adept at covering up the illegal activities of perpetrators make the Church and universities ideal sanctuaries for perpetrators.
The common denominator in every sexual abuse scandal noted above is adults who had a fiduciary responsibility to protect the health and safety of students – children, in many instances – prioritized their own reputations and livelihoods. Their shame, and the damage wreaked on their institutions and innocent victims, will remain for eternity.
Jordan Kobritz is a non-practicing attorney and CPA, former Minor League Baseball team owner and current investor in MiLB teams. He is a professor in the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland and maintains the blog, sportsbeyondthelines.com. The opinions contained in this column are the author’s. Kobritz can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.