Alexander placed on administrative leave until resignation date; Edward Feser appointed as interim president

Edward Feser, OSU provost, has been appointed interim president until an acting president can be appointed. In addition to being provost, Feser is a professor of public policy. 

Millicent Durand, News Contributor

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

Clarification: Alexander was paid a sum of $670,000 to terminate his contract with the university. Part of the agreement was for Alexander to waive all claims against OSU so that he is unable to sue the university, and for his medical benefits to continue for one year. According to Trustee Patricia Bedient, it would cost a lot more for the university to fight Alexander in court.

The Oregon State University Board of Trustees moved to place OSU President F. King Alexander on administrative leave until April 1, 2021, the date his resignation becomes effective, and appointed Edward Feser as interim president until an acting president can be appointed.

These decisions follow a board of trustees meeting where it was revealed that Alexander submitted his resignation after facing mounting criticism in regards to how Title IX cases were handled at Louisiana State University during his tenure as president there.

Alexander’s resignation comes after heavy pressure from the Associated Students of OSU, the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, United Academics at Oregon State University, and the Faculty Senate to resign. Prior to Alexander’s resignation, the OSU board chose to place him on probation during a board of trustees meeting on March 17, to much criticism

Before today’s vote, Alexander apologized to survivors. 

“I’m sorry to any of the survivors of sexual assault and misconduct that this had brought back any pain. I offer my resignation to Oregon State University to allow us to move on. Students have and always will be my top priority,” Alexander said. “Their social and economic well being is why many of us have committed a lifetime to public higher education. I’ve been fortunate to serve 20 years as a public university president because my values and commitment to the next generation of students and their ability to make society a much, much better place and I pledge to continue to do so as I go forward, as well as working with public higher education nationwide.” 

Edward Feser, OSU provost, was appointed interim president until an acting president can be appointed. In addition to being provost, Feser is a professor of public policy. 

In an email sent on March 23, Rani Borkar, chair of the OSU Board of Trustees, called Feser “a seasoned leader.”

“We are confident that OSU and the university community will be well-served while the board considers its options regarding interim leadership,” Borkar said in her email. “He is strongly committed to shared governance, and OSU’s promise to be a welcoming community that has safety as a top priority while fostering inclusion, equity and diversity. He is a champion for students, faculty and staff.”

Alexander came under fire after law firm Husch Blackwell published a 262-page report on LSU’s handling of Title IX allegations.

The report details the many alleged failings on the part of LSU during Alexander’s tenure, detailing incidents regarding former LSU Football Coach Les Miles, and former LSU football player, Derrius Guice.

Page 47 of the report alleges that Miles “attempted  to  sexualize  the  staff  of  student  workers  in  the  football  program,” and “ demanding  that  he  wanted  ‘blondes  with  the  big  boobs’  and  ‘pretty  girls.’”

Alexander was LSU’s president from June 2013 to December 2019. Following the 2013 allegations, no action was taken against Miles until 2016 when he was fired by LSU during Alexander’s tenure.

Page 50 of the report alleges that Alexander was notified of Miles’ behavior in June of 2013, and even received a recommendation to fire Miles from LSU Athletics director Joe Alveda. 

The transcript of an alleged email, sent by Alveda to both Alexander and the LSU counsel, appears on page 50 of the report. “I believe that he is guilty of insubordination, inappropriate behavior, putting the university, athletic [department] and football program at great risk,” Alveda wrote in the email to Alexander regarding Miles. “I told him not to text, call or be alone with any student workers and he obviously didn’t listen.”

Alexander was also said to have “adopted” Guice during his time at LSU. It was alleged the Guice used his “close” relationship with Alexander to allegedly coerce his victims. Alexander clarified that Guice was “adopted” from a mentorship program for at risk African-American youth, not literally adopted. 

“Our job…was to mentor these African American youth to stay in school…to teach them and coach them about how to take the ACT, to get them into college, and then, to just check on them four or five times a year to see how they’re doing in college,” Alexander said. “Derrius [Guice] was one of the many. I had a number of others I mentored because I was also the faculty advisor for the student NAACP, which I had been both in Long Beach and at LSU. So we identified a lot of students at risk when they got there, and we mentored them the best we could.” 

Guice is mentioned several times in the Husch Blackwell report. Page 93 of the report recounts a 2016 incident of a student accusing Guice of sexually assaulting her. Page 95 of the report states that LSU did not move  forward with an investigation.

“It didn’t matter if Derrius played football or not,” Alexander said. “He came from a rough, rough area in Baton Rouge, where I believe there was a murder a night.”

Guice went on to play in the NFL, being drafted by Washington in 2018, before termination of his contract after being arrested and charged with various crimes related to alleged domestic violence.

Alexander denies he knew of these allegations against Guice during his time at LSU. 

“I don’t know the dates when that came out, but I knew of nothing Derrius did wrong of any illegal activity until the Washington [football team]—the incident that happened in the Washington [team] involving physical violence.”

Alexander was criticised for using the former name of Washington’s football team during the meeting, which is widely seen as offensive towards Indiginous Americans.  

Borkar said the board thinks “rebuilding trust is no longer possible.”

“When the Board of Trustees adjourned last week, we believed it was possible for president Alexander to repair the broken confidence and trust in his ability to lead OSU. After listening to and hearing important input from diverse members of our community and reflecting on our own values and experiences, we now know that rebuilding trust is no longer possible,” Borkar said in her email. “In response, over the weekend, the board scheduled to meet this morning as we learned president Alexander no longer had the confidence of the OSU community. This broken trust was expressed not only by the vote of the Faculty Senate but by an outpouring of thoughtful statements from students, alumni and survivors of sexual assault.”

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