Universities Need Better Safeguards
Unfolding sexual abuse scandals at Ohio State and Michigan State universities inevitably have drawn comparisons to the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State University. But the OSU and MSU cases, and another scandal at the University of Southern California, have far more in common with one another than with Penn State case and they call for a different kind of response. Sandusky was a pedophile who used his position as a former Penn State football coach to help groom his victims, adolescents rather than Penn State students to whom he gained access through his charity, the Second Mile. In the other cases, medical professionals used their authority and power over students to sexually abuse them. The OSU case is especially illustrative. More than 100 former male athletes claim that Dr. Richard Straus, who committed suicide in 2005, had sexually abused them. Many of those athletes were wrestlers who undoubtedly were able to defend themselves. But the case demonstrates that someone in an official capacity with influence over a person’s future, especially a doctor, holds enormous power. At MSU and U.S. Olympics gymnastics, Dr. Larry Nassar infamously abused scores of girls and young women. And at USC, hundreds of women say that they were sexually abused by Dr. George Tyndall, a campus gynecologist. University administrators should be able to expect medical professionals to adhere to the ethical standards of their profession. But these cases demonstrate that the schools must exercise greater scrutiny and establish procedures to safeguard students even when that should not be in question.