A day after Oregon State University President F. King Alexander faced a barrage of criticism during a six-hour Board of Trustees meeting, he and the board continue to face pressure.
In preliminary results, the OSU Faculty Senate on Thursday expressed “no confidence” in Alexander’s ability to lead the university and is calling on him to resign. The Faculty Senate also voted expressing no confidence in the university’s Board of Trustees and called for the board members to resign as well.
The Senate noted that the results are preliminary because it still needs to go through emailed votes as well as confirm all votes were cast solely by faculty senators.
This comes after the OSU Board of Trustees made the decision Wednesday evening not to terminate Alexander, despite various calls from community members to do so.
Earlier this month, the law firm Husch Blackwell released a report detailing the mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations at Louisiana State University — some of which occurred while Alexander was president and chancellor of the institution, from 2013 to 2019.
Despite objections from students, OSU employees and other community members to Alexander’s tenure, the OSU trustees voted to place the president on probation until June 1.
In that time, he’s charged with creating a plan to “rebuild trust” in the university community. The board also assigned him to identify ways to improve OSU’s policies and assess funding needs for Title IX and sexual assault survivor services.
An outside, independent consultant will also be reviewing the LSU report as well as following up on any outstanding questions from that report.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, who appoints the members of OSU’s board, said in a statement on Thursday that she supports the Board’s independent review process, “but if it confirms that President Alexander did not uphold his ethical and legal responsibilities to protect the safety of students at LSU, I expect the board to take decisive action to remove him.”
“In Oregon, we must hold our university presidents to the absolute highest standards for leadership and accountability,” Brown said. “Not only are they responsible for leading our academic institutions, but they also have the responsibility to ensure the safety of all students under their care. It is my expectation that a university president take action when students come forward with allegations of sexual assault, stalking, or other serious criminal acts.”
The trustees heard from nearly 20 people on Wednesday during a public comment session, many of who called for Alexander’s termination or resignation, and some who were survivors of sexual violence.
“[W]e heard from students, staff and faculty concerns about a lack of trust in the Board,” Board Chair Rani Borkar wrote in a statement to the campus community late Wednesday night. “We acknowledge the need to rebuild OSU community confidence in our leadership as OSU’s governing body.”
Many of the people who spoke at the board meeting said Alexander was avoiding responsibility and not taking accountability for the events that occurred during his tenure at LSU.
President Alexander released a statement late Wednesday night directly addressing those concerns.
“I know that there was more I could’ve done at LSU given the power of my office and the expectation of community members. As university president, I should have sought every opportunity to hold others accountable,” Alexander said in a video. “I stand with and support survivors of all forms of sexual violence and affirm the work of our advocates. As your president, I assure you I will work to rebuild trust, listen and learn, work alongside you to address the challenges and opportunities before us.”
Still, many say it will be an uphill battle for Alexander to rebuild trust.
“The Board of Trustees has proven through their discussions yesterday that, as a group, they are incapable of responsibly handling and/or addressing issues related to gendered violence,” sexual assault survivor and advocate Brenda Tracy wrote in a tweeted statement on Thursday. “The Board of Trustees had the opportunity to right a wrong and instead they made the decision to make it worse.”
Tracy came forward publicly in 2014 to accuse four men of sexual assault — two of whom were football players at OSU at the time. She spoke at the board meeting Wednesday urging for Alexander’s dismissal, and stated that the board had lost the community’s “faith and trust.”
Distress over the board’s decision to retain Alexander, for the time being, is also echoing within the university community.
Along with the OSU Faculty Senate’s votes of no confidence on Thursday, the faculty union — the United Academics of Oregon State University — expressed disappointment in the board’s decision.
The union said in a statement on Thursday that the OSU Board of Trustees committed “institutional betrayal” by failing to act.
“A period of probation does not begin to meet the need for accountability and restored trust,” the UAOSU Executive Council wrote. “How can the President rebuild trust he never really earned in the first place? "
The union reiterated how survivors of sexual violence have been retraumatized by the past weeks’ events, and how the OSU Board’s inaction may potentially affect the retention of students, faculty and staff.
In regard to the Board’s plan for Alexander, the UAOSU Executive Council said the only part it agrees with is the need to address adequate funding for Title IX and survivor support programs.
“However, shifting the focus to a review of OSU programs ignores the voices coming from all corners of OSU and beyond asking for Alexander’s resignation,” the union’s executive council wrote. “Many of these same voices are stepping forward with concrete recommendations to improve and expand our programs to meet OSU’s needs — we believe action should start there instead of handing these ideas to Alexander to claim as his own at the end of his probation.”