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Ohio State President Says Richard Strauss Probe Nearing End

The Ohio State University President Michael Drake speaks during a vigil Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, following an attack on campus the previous day.
John Minchillo
Associated Press
Ohio State president Michael Drake.

Ohio State University president Michael Drake gave his annual state of the university speech on Thursday. While emphasizing the school's accomplishments, Drake acknowledged some of the scandals that rocked the university this year—including those of longtime doctor Richard Strauss and former head football coach Urban Meyer.

Ohio State's graduation rates are trending upward. Drake says the most recent four-year grad rate of 64.6 percent is about six points better than in 2015. And the school’s rankings for graduate and online courses are some of the best in the country.

“Eighteen of Ohio State’s graduate programs rank in the top 10 by U.S. News and World Report," Drake says. "Our online graduate nursing program is number one in nation among public while our online bachelor’s degree programs rank number three among all publics and privates."

He also points to high marks for veterans and LGBT students. 

Drake says plans to spend $45 million on need-based grants will bring total expenditures since 2015 to $150 million. He says one initiative, the Buckeye Opportunity Program, has helped 4,000 students attend the university. The program covers the shortfall in tuition and fees for Ohio students eligible for Pell grants.

But Drake notes the past year has also seen major challenges, including a number of suicides, the suspension of football coach Urban Meyer, and an ongoing investigation into former team doctor Richard Strauss. Strauss, who died in 2005, has been accused of sexual abuse by at least 150 students. 

“The investigation is nearing its end, and the university will move shortly to address the past and to do all that we reasonably can to support a better and safer future,” Drake says.

Several lawsuits accuse the university of ignoring concerns over Strauss, who worked at the university for two decades.

After starting the season suspended for failing to properly address domestic violence concerns about his assistant coach, Meyer retired from coaching following the Rose Bowl. This year he will take up a post in the athletic department.

Several students died after falling from parking garages over the last year, raising concerns about mental health resources on campus. Drake says the school has added counselors, made buildings safer, and started work on a mobile app.

“In fact, our team is in Cupertino, Calif., today working with Apple on developing that app,” Drake says.

Drake explains the school is also facing a completely different kind of challenge. With a significant portion of the university’s research tied to grants from agencies like NASA, the National Science Foundation or the USDA, the federal government shutdown is beginning to pinch. With offices closed, new proposal aren’t getting reviewed.

According to a university spokesman, just two weeks into the year, Ohio State generated about $3 million in expenditures it would normally send to a federal sponsor. The school says it can cover those costs temporarily.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.