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OSU Board to discuss potential discipline for its president

Oregon State University is in Corvallis, Oregon.
Bryan M. Vance
Oregon State University is in Corvallis, Oregon.

The Oregon State University Board of Trustees will meet on Wednesday to discuss a report that detailed mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations at the university president’s former institution.

F. King Alexander was president and chancellor of Louisiana State University from 2013 to 2019 before stepping into his role as president of Oregon’s largest university last July.

Earlier this month, a law firm released a report detailing mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations at LSU while Alexander was at the helm — specifically that there were a number of allegations, many tied to the school’s football program, that were not fully investigated.

“The Board has received written comments and questions from members of the OSU community,” OSU Board Chair Rani Borkar wrote to the campus community. “We appreciate the thoughts of each person who has written us, and we recognize the serious impact of this report on survivors of sexual violence and harassment and their advocates. We also understand the profound impact this is having on all members of the university community, and on Oregon State University as an institution.”

The report detailed that LSU’s campus community felt Alexander was part of a culture that allowed sexual misconduct at the institution.

“These frustrations were aimed largely at Alexander whom community members felt did not prioritize this issue or meaningfully engage with individuals raising concerns,” the report said.

The OSU Board will discuss the report, as well as hear public comment at a meeting Wednesday afternoon. The board is also set to hold a confidential, executive session in which it will — following an Oregon law — evaluate Alexander’s performance and consider his dismissal or any disciplinary actions.

After that executive session, the board will return to a public session to decide any next steps and take any actions.

United Academics of Oregon State University, a union representing OSU faculty, wrote a letter to the university’s Board of Trustees last week urging the board to hold Alexander accountable.

“The Executive Council of UAOSU is deeply disturbed by the recent corroboration of President F. King Alexander’s role in protecting the head coach and star players of Louisiana State University’s football team,” Kathleen Stanley, union president, wrote on behalf of the union’s executive council. “In doing so, he prioritized athletics over protecting victims of sexual harassment and assault.”

Stanley wrote OSU has done work to regain the university community’s trust in its work combating sexual violence and misconduct, but that trust is now in jeopardy.

In his statement last week, addressing the report, Alexander said that Title IX and sexual misconduct allegations are addressed “much differently” at OSU than at LSU because of its framework of how misconduct is reported and investigated.

“[T]he news of President Alexander’s poor choices while at LSU has undermined the important, on-going work being done on our campus, the very work that has helped to create that institutional framework,” Stanley wrote.

Stanley and the union are urging the OSU Board to answer multiple questions including why it chose to hire Alexander and if it was aware of his past at LSU. The union is also urging the board to commit to open search processes in the future, so that leadership candidates can be more fully vetted.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Meerah Powell