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Corvallis Lawmaker Calls On OSU To Keep Dorms Closed During Fall Term

Hal Hermanson

A Corvallis state lawmaker has called on Oregon State University to keep its dorms closed this fall and to encourage students to stay away from campus.

OSU announced recently that the bulk of classes at its main campus in Corvallis will only be offered remotely. That means many students can complete their studies at home. But the school says residence halls, the library and the rec center will be open for those who do want to return to Corvallis.

Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, urged the university’s Board of Trustees to rethink those plans. She said with most classes online, there’s no point in letting students live on campus. “Once they have arrived, it’s too late to undo it," she said. "The mitigation measures don’t matter in terms of that initial introduction of the virus into the community.”

Gelser said the university should also more aggressively monitor students living off-campus, and crack down on parties and other large gatherings that would potentially violate Gov. Kate Brown's social distancing guidelines.

The Trustees made no changes to the university’s framework for the fall term. The board will re-examine the plan monthly going forward.

The panel also received an update on the school's financial outlook. The school is facing a $217 million budget shortfall due to the coronavirus pandemic. That’s according to the school’s new president, F. King Alexander.

“I do believe next year will be even more challenging economically as we roll out of the pandemic and try to address the economic issues associated with this recession,” he said.

Alexander said there are many unknowns at this point. Those include the duration of the pandemic, how many students will choose to sit out the fall term, and whether or not any federal stimulus packages include money for higher education.

This was the first Board of Trustees meeting since Alexander became OSU president in July. He replaced Ed Ray, who retired after 17 years as OSU's president.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December 2018 and became News Director in March 2023. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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