Petition to change OSU donor practices circulating

Adam Figgins, News Contributor

Oregon State University staff and faculty created a petition calling for the university to change their donor practices in response to the $50 million donation earmarked for Reser Stadium’s renovation.

Former OSU President F. King Alexander announced early February that an anonymous donor had donated $50 million dedicated to rebuilding Reser’s west side. This donation is the largest amount given to OSU to date.

This renovation will include a complete rebuild of the stadium’s western side where a welcome center will be placed. There will also be new health care facilities and added meeting spaces. The renovation will cost $153 million in total. 

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After this donation was announced, concerned OSU staff, faculty and professors drafted a letter and petition called “OSU change your donor practices,” expressing disappointment with the acceptance of this donation. The main point of the letter was to call for change in how OSU attracts and handles donations.

As of April 9, the petition has over 1,000 signatures, with a goal of 1,500 signatures.

Elizabeth Sheehan, an associate professor at OSU in the College of Liberal Arts and a member of the United Academics of Oregon State University, helped write the letter along with other staff. Sheehan said she would like to draw attention to both the solicitation and reception of donations at the university.

“The reality is that the OSU foundation devotes a lot of time and energy to soliciting and cultivating donations, and so this gift probably reflects OSU’s fundraising priorities as much as a particular donor’s will,” Sheehan said. “With respect to reception, we tried to draw attention to the fact that receiving this donation has involved committing a significant amount of funds derived from the legislature and tuition to renovating and expanding the building.”

The UAOSU also released a letter addressing confusion in regards to OSU’s priorities surrounding donor solicitation.

“We urge OSU’s administration to reverse its decision to direct university funds to this project and to prioritize OSU’s core educational, research, and outreach missions,” said the Executive Council and Representative Assembly of UAOSU. 

Another university staff member that wishes to remain anonymous also commented on the petition and donation.

“In our opinion, this is a bad look for the university in the middle of a pandemic when so many of our students are struggling with home and financial situations; that’s making going to university an [incredibly scary and risky] proposition right now,” the employee said.

Jess Ariola, a third year OSU student said if this money had been donated a year ago there wouldn’t be upset with the donation.

“I know 50 million dollars is a massive amount of money but I think that people donate money to the university and the football program all the time and it’s never received a huge amount of backlash, it’s only receiving that because of the pandemic,” Ariola said.

Steve Clark, vice president of University Relations and Marketing responded on behalf of the university and explained that E&G funds will not be directed towards funding Reser. 

E&G funds are received from the legislature and from tuition. Some staff were concerned that E&G funds were being directed towards the renovation.

Planning for the stadium renovation has been in place since 2015, and funding began in 2019. Renovation for the stadium has been part of OSU’s 10 year capital forecast starting in 2017 and ending in 2028.

In terms of other donations the OSU foundation raised $150 million in three years by June 2020. This money was donated for student success initiatives, fellowships and scholarships.

“I would hope that [the community is] pleased that donors feel so positively about all of OSU that they are pledging significant donations to the university, to OSU priorities that are part of the university’s well-publicized strategic plan, and to serve the needs of OSU faculty, staff and students,” Clark said.