Update: Students create petition calling for president’s resignation, UAOSU “deeply disturbed” by Alexander investigation findings

F. King Alexander, Oregon State University’s president.

Millicent Durand, News Contributor

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

OSU students have created a petition calling for the resignation of Oregon State University President F. King Alexander.

The petition was made March 12, 2021, by Meghan Dwelle, an OSU student.

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The petition accuses president Alexander of not taking “claims [of Les Miles’ misconduct] seriously,” and “essentially sweeping [misconduct claims against Les Miles] under the rug.” 

“F. King Alexander should immediately resign from his position as president, and the board of trustees must reconsider their vetting process, and search for a replacement,” the petition states. “Failure to do so is an endorsement of sexual violence, and any claims to the contrary wish to downplay the seriousness of what occurred under Alexander’s leadership.”

At the time of publication, the petition had 142 signatures on Change.org. 

The petition calls Alexander’s hiring a “direct insult” to OSU sexual assault survivor Brenda Tracy

“The hiring of F. King is a direct insult to Tracy and all of the work she has done to protect women in universities,” the petition said. “She has noticed the inaction of OSU and addressed it in a brief tweet stating ‘I hope the Oregon State Board of Trustees is paying attention. Speaking of… have any of them made a comment yet??’. The silence of OSU’s administration, even after being repeatedly emailed by students at OSU, speaks volumes.”

Meanwhile, the United Academics of Oregon State University, Oregon State University’s faculty union, released a letter on March 10, 2021, that said they are “deeply disturbed” by a recent report compiled by the law firm Husch Blackwell which describes alleged inaction on the part of OSU President F. King Alexander to take action against former Louisiana State University Football Coach Les Miles during his time as president of LSU. 

“The Executive Council of UAOSU is deeply disturbed by the recent corroboration of President F. King Alexander’s role in protecting the head coach and star players of Louisiana State University’s football team,” the union said in the letter. “In doing so, he prioritized athletics over protecting victims of sexual harassment and assault.”

The union also said Alexander “has done nothing to ameliorate our disgust at his inaction or to address the unsavory aspects of his leadership at LSU.”

Alexander sent out an email Monday, saying that he was “deeply saddened” over his handling of the case, and promised that it “will not occur at Oregon State University.”

However, UAOSU had serious questions for the university board, who did not make a public statement until March 11, a day after the letter’s publication, in regards to how Alexander was hired, and that the board believes that the hiring process was “badly bungled.” 

“There are a number of questions that members of the Board must answer. How did you come to hire F. King Alexander? Did you know of his past problems and choose to ignore them and hide them from the public? Were you misled by the expensive headhunters you employed to manage the search? Were you misled by Alexander himself? Did you ask about any past issues he may have had in his previous position and, if so, what was the response?” the union asked in the letter. 

The OSU Board of Trustees’ response was sent out as a university-wide email the next day at approximately 8:55 p.m., written by the board’s Chair Rani Borkar, and Vice Chair Kirk Schueler. 

“We also understand that there are questions about the Board of Trustees’ presidential selection process in 2019, and questions regarding what information was available to the board at the time of president Alexander’s evaluation and selection. The search included significant candidate due diligence review to assist the Board of Trustees and the 15-member presidential search committee,” the Board wrote in the email. “This due diligence included criminal history checks; media and public record searches; and on-and-off list reference checks with faculty, administrators, trustees and others.”

The board said “there was nothing discovered” during their hiring process, but the union expressed other concerns as well. 

“Oregon State University has worked to regain the trust of the university community following our own problems with sexual violence,” the union said. “Trust is the cornerstone of making our university a safe and welcoming environment for all. Trust that when victims come forward, their experiences will be heard and addressed; trust that we can count on our administration to be honest and forthright; trust that victims will be protected by those in positions of authority.”

The Board did address this, saying “we assure members of the Oregon State University community and our stakeholders that OSU continues to prioritize supporting survivors and serving as a national model of Title IX prevention, response and investigation. These priorities are unequivocal and are held by the board and all university leaders,” the board wrote in the statement, adding that they were committed to creating “an environment free of sexual violence and harassment for all students, faculty and staff.”

However, UAOSU wants to hold Alexander accountable, the letter said.

“In his message to the university, president Alexander stated, apparently without irony, that the things that happened at LSU couldn’t happen here because we have a more robust institutional framework. But the news of president Alexander’s poor choices while at LSU has undermined the important, on-going work being done on our campus, the very work that has helped to create that institutional framework.”

This is an ongoing story that will be updated as more information becomes available.