Oregon State president put under probationary period
The Oregon State University Board of Trustees on Wednesday made the decision not to terminate University President F. King Alexander despite calls from campus community members to do so.
Instead, the board voted to put Alexander under a probationary period until June 1. Over that time period, the board said, Alexander must come up with a “concrete plan” to rebuild trust and relationships in the university community, among other requests.
Earlier this month, a law firm released a report detailing sexual misconduct allegations that were improperly reported or investigated at Louisiana State University — some while Alexander was president and chancellor of the institution, from 2013 to 2019.
Most notably, the report details sexual misconduct perpetrated by then-head football coach Les Miles against student employees.
During Alexander’s probationary period, the OSU board said, an outside, an independent consultant will review the recommendations within that report from LSU — in regard to its Title IX policies — and follow up on any outstanding questions from that report.
In the plan that Alexander must complete by the end of his probationary period, he must also identify ways to improve OSU’s policies and procedures and assess funding needs for Title IX and sexual assault survivor services.
Board Chair Rani Borkar began Wednesday’s board meeting by stating the trustees would not be discussing any changes to its closed hiring process — the process under which Alexander was hired, in which candidate names were kept confidential.
But, many community members during a public hearing session, still pressed the board on that.
“How did we arrive at this moment? And how do we prevent a recurrence? This moment is fundamentally the result of a flawed hiring process,” Kathleen Stanley, president of OSU’s faculty union, the United Academics of OSU, said Wednesday.
Other people expressed general disappointment, and in the case of Brenda Tracy, deep frustration. Tracy came forward publicly in 2014 to accuse four people, including two OSU football players, of a violent sexual assault.
“The acting president, President Ed Ray, immediately issued a public apology to me. He held himself and the institution accountable for a failure that was not his,” Tracy told the board Wednesday.
“How did we go from a man willing to publicly apologize to me to a man who is actively dodging accountability and responsibility for what may be the largest sexual assault scandal we’ve seen in this country?”
Tracy pressed the OSU board of trustees to make amends.
“I don’t know if that trust can be repaired, but I think it’s your moral obligation to try.”
She advised the board to take steps, starting with an action that several others have called for: “the immediate removal of President Alexander as the acting president, but that is just a start.”
While the examination of Alexander was prompted by problems related to sexual misconduct at LSU, Tracy noted that sexual violence at Oregon State “has never been adequately addressed.”
Alexander addressed the nearly 20 people who spoke during the public comment session — some of whom, like Tracy, were survivors of sexual violence.
“I am truly sorry here for survivors, and anywhere, for any pain caused to you by this issue that has surfaced in the last couple weeks. I also feel terrible for anyone who has experienced sexual assault, violence and harassment, which I am committed to eradicating from our community and society,” he said.
The pressure to remove Alexander is unlikely to disappear after the six-hour trustees meeting Wednesday given the loud calls for the president’s ouster, just nine months after he was hired.
Oregon State Sen. Sara Gelser also joined those calls for Alexander’s departure via Twitter.
The Democrat whose district includes OSU’s main campus in Corvallis tweeted Wednesday calling for the “immediate termination” of Alexander, speaking in support of students, sexual violence survivors, staff and faculty at OSU.
A group of past and current members of OSU’s student government, also called for Alexander’s resignation or firing in its submitted testimony. The group noted that Alexander did not put out a statement for nearly a week after the report was released and that he has not laid out any “actionable next steps” moving forward.
“We as past and current leaders on OSU’s campus will not stay quiet,” current Associated Students of OSU President Isabel Nunez Perez said. “It is clear that Alexander has breached the trust of the student body and the faculty union. If Alexander does not see the error in what he has done and resign, the Oregon State University Board of Trustees should terminate his contract and offer no severance or additional benefits.”
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