OSU president resigns amid criticism over handling of LSU sexual misconduct allegations

Mar 23, 2021
Originally published on March 23, 2021 4:08 pm

Oregon State University President F. King Alexander is stepping down.

The OSU Board of Trustees during a meeting Tuesday morning accepted the terms of Alexander’s resignation — which includes a lump sum payment of $670,000 and payments for medical and dental insurance for a year.

Alexander will also resign from a tenured professor position at the university. His resignation is effective April 1. He will be on administrative leave in the meantime.

OSU trustees said the money for Alexander’s resignation will come from private funds, not tuition or tax dollars. Trustees also noted that it would likely cost significantly more to pursue terminating Alexander with cause, rather than just accepting his resignation.

The trustees also voted Tuesday to have OSU Provost and Executive Vice President Ed Feser step in and take over presidential responsibilities while the board works through the process of appointing an interim president. The board will be discussing the timeline and process for appointing an interim at a Wednesday morning Executive and Audit Committee meeting.

“When we adjourned last week, we believed it was possible for President Alexander to repair the broken confidence and trust in his ability to lead OSU,” Oregon State Board Chair Rani Borkar said Tuesday. “After listening to and hearing important input from diverse members of our community, we now know that rebuilding trust is no longer possible.”

Earlier this month, the law firm Husch Blackwell released a report detailing the mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations at Louisiana State University, where Alexander had served as chancellor and president from 2013 to 2019 before coming to OSU last summer.

Since the release of that report, people within the OSU community and beyond have been calling for Alexander’s resignation or firing.

“I’m sorry for any of the survivors of sexual assault and misconduct that this has brought back any pain,” Alexander said during Tuesday’s board meeting. “I offer my resignation to Oregon State University to allow us to move on. Students have and always will be my top priority.”

Multiple OSU board members also spoke Tuesday apologizing directly to survivors of sexual violence — many who shared their stories in a public comment session during the trustees’ last meeting.

“I want to accept the accountability of any additional pain that the board’s actions or that my actions had on the feelings of those who spoke the other day or who shared their point of view. There were many individuals who shared that they felt they weren’t listened to. To the survivors, I want to say, ‘I heard you,’” OSU Trustee Julia Brim-Edwards said Tuesday morning.

At that board meeting last week, instead of terminating Alexander the OSU trustees decided to put him on probation until June 1. In that time, he was tasked with creating a plan to rebuild trust in the university community and to identify funding needs for OSU’s Title IX and sexual violence survivor services.

Last week, the OSU Faculty Senate voted it had “no confidence” in Alexander, and called for him to resign. The faculty senate also conducted a similar vote for the entire faculty body. About 40% of OSU’s faculty responded — the majority of the responding faculty members also voted that they had no confidence in Alexander’s leadership.

“Simply stated, Dr. Alexander no longer has the confidence of the OSU community,” said Borkar, the board chair. “This broken trust was expressed not only by the vote of the faculty senate but by outpouring of thoughtful statements from students, alumni and survivors of sexual assault.”

OSU’s Board of Trustees, the governing body that initially hired Alexander, has also come under fire — with multiple people criticizing the closed, confidential process under which Alexander was hired.

Oregon Sen. Sara Gelser, whose district covers OSU’s main campus in Corvallis, tweeted Tuesday morning that the university’s next presidential hiring process should be open and transparent. Gelser had called for Alexander’s termination last week.

This is a developing story. Watch for updates.

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