OSU, Corvallis community members voice dissatisfaction with the board’s decision to place Alexander on probation

State Senator Sara Gelser  represents Senate District 8, which includes Corvallis, Ore.

Millicent Durand, News Contributor

Editor’s Note: Content warning—story contains mention of sexual harassment and assault.

The Oregon State University and Corvallis, Ore. communities have expressed anger and dissatisfaction following the board of trustees’ decision to not terminate OSU President F. King Alexander, but rather, place him on a probationary period.

Alexander is currently facing widespread criticism and calls for his resignation for how he allegedly handled Title IX violations as president of Louisiana State University, after the release of a report by law firm Husch Blackwell

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State Senator Sara Gelser, who represents Senate District 8, which includes Corvallis, Ore., has also called for Alexander’s resignation. She “strongly disagrees” with the decision made by the OSU board. 

“While I strongly disagree with the board’s decision, I also love my alma mater,” Gelser said.  “I will do whatever is necessary to support Oregon State University and the people that give it life.  However, should credible information come out to suggest president Alexander has been less than fully forthcoming about the role he played at LSU, it is my hope and expectation that the board will act expeditiously.”

Gelser also called for funding survivor-centered services.

“For survivors who expressed fear and distrust about president Alexander’s record on Title IX and campus culture, it must be painful to see the board entrust him with the development of a plan for survivor and sexual assault prevention services at OSU,” Gelser said. “The truth is, survivors and survivor advocates already have a plan—they are just waiting for the administration to fund it. It is incumbent upon president Alexander to operationalize that plan through the immediate allocation and prioritization of needed resources.”

Gelser also reiterated her support for survivors. 

“To all the survivors, students, faculty and community members who feel unseen and unheard, I am sorry for what you experienced today,” Gelser said. “It is my hope that in the future, responses will be more trauma informed and survivor centered.  I support your calls for accountability and concrete action. I stand with you as you demand to see evidence of real change.”

Brenda Tracy, a former OSU student, victims advocate and founder of SetTheExpectation, is a survivor of sexual assault during her time as an OSU student. In 2014, she sharedher story with The Oregonian. She sent a tweet Wednesday night after the board’s decision to place Alexander on probation.

“The @OregonState Board of Trustees have proven through their discussions today that they are completely & totally incapable of handling issues related to gendered violence. @OregonGovBrown we need to find another solution. This group is more harmful than helpful to survivors.”

Kate Brown, a fourth-year student studying Design & Innovation Management, said  Alexander “cannot regain the trust of the OSU community after what happened.”

“While I personally haven’t been affected by sexual assault on college campuses, I know too many people who have and the decision is very disappointing. At this point, I don’t feel confident in his ability to regain the trust of the OSU community,” Brown said. “I feel really sad and betrayed by this situation and I worry about the impact that this decision has on the community and survivors. I think that in the end I feel that the best decision for the community is for him to resign. It hurts survivors too much.”

Marvin Yonamine, a prominent fan of OSU Athletics, OSU Alumni and parent of three students who have attended OSU, said “the only honorable thing for [Alexander] to do now is to resign.”

“I am more than an OSU athletics fan, I am a fan of the whole university that includes athletics. I am not one to make knee-jerk reactions or join a mob to say I don’t like something. Being a man of science, I take in facts first before making a decision on things,” Yonamine said. “Yesterday, the OSU Faculty Senate voted no confidence in president Alexander. That tells me that the leaders and a majority of our university [professors have] no confidence in him. This is very serious,” Yonamine said. “When your staff has no confidence in you, how can you lead them? I believe that with all the evidence from the LSU report, they should have let him go. Thus, I do not agree with the board’s decision. I truly believe there was a cover up at LSU and some high-up members should have lost their jobs there.”

Yonamine said he is also concerned about the impacts to the university’s reputation.

“With the [professors’] vote of no confidence, I believe that enough damage has been done that [there is] no way he can continue to lead our university. He should resign because there is no way to get buy in from those teaching under his leadership,” Yonamine said. “Without the [professors], you got nothing. He can not fundraise for the university or get major donors to give to OSU as much as he could without this controversy. Too much damage has been done this past week for him to repair things. Perception might not always be [the] truth, but the mood at OSU is not good now. I love OSU sports, he might be a big backer of sports, but without our academic support, we got nothing.”

Khawater Hussein, student member of the OSU Board of Trustees, said she is dissatisfied with the decision to put Alexander on probation, adding that the decision is “delaying the inevitable firing of president King by saying that we still have ‘gaps in our knowledge and understanding.’”

“I believe I have all the information I need to make a decision, taking into account various sources that seem to agree that president King doesn’t have what it takes to lead our university in accordance with our goals and values,” Hussein said. “This does take into account that we are in a pandemic and he may be stunted in his ability to show all that he can do. He has had plenty of chances to show that he meets the expectations of an OSU university president, and he has missed the mark. I voted no to the motion [to place him on probation] because I am dissatisfied with us pushing our decision until later and don’t think there’s much to gain.”

The Survivor Advocacy and Resource Center, as well as the We Can Do The Work campaign, did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.