Oregon State University has some big leadership questions ahead of it. The first step it’ll tackle is a recommendation for an interim president, which the university is planning to come in the next few weeks. The longer-term step of hiring a permanent president will be further out. And that process will follow an outside review of the closed search that brought in the former president who resigned last week under pressure from faculty, student groups, elected officials.
OSU President F. King Alexander resigned from the university following criticism over how he had handled sexual misconduct allegations and Title IX reporting at his previous school — Louisiana State. OSU Provost Ed Feser has since stepped in as acting president.
The Board of Trustees discussed considerations Friday for the interim president search process, including inviting input and soliciting nominations from the OSU campus, and reaching out to various OSU groups and stakeholders.
The board plans to solicit nominations for an interim president through the end of next week. The week of April 12, the board hopes to announce a recommendation, host a university forum and consider an appointment.
Trustees plan review of Alexander hiring process
Before beginning in earnest a search for a permanent president, Oregon State is conducting an outside review of the last search that resulted in hiring Alexander. That confidential search process, with candidate names kept secret, has been highly criticized by students, staff, faculty and others in the campus community — including during Friday’s Board meeting.
“If this board hopes to regain the trust and backing of the OSU community, an open search is imperative,” Amanda Granrud, a faculty member, said during the public comment session Friday. “OSU recently garnered national attention, and not the good kind. To learn nothing from that and to repeat the same, or similar, hiring process for our next president would be dismissive, irresponsible and indefensible at best.”
OSU Board Chair Rani Borkar acknowledged the lack of trust much of the campus community feels toward the trustees — who are responsible for leading the presidential hiring process.
“We know that trust and confidence must be earned,” Borkar said. “And we are committed to re-earning what has been lost over the last month.”
“We look forward to hearing from faculty, students, staff, university leadership and the community as we consider nominations for the interim president, and as we begin the review of the last presidential search process and look to set the course for the next search,” she said.
Whichever agency ends up reviewing the Alexander search process will look into both the OSU Board’s and the search firm’s due diligence in performing background checks on Alexander. According to a draft scope for the services, the agency will be expected to deliver a final report to both the trustees and the public by June 15.
Hiring a search firm to run the permanent process may not happen until next year.
Trustee Patty Bedient, who’s leading the interim search process, said the interim president could be appointed for 12 months, maybe longer.
“This would give the board time to review the last search process, set out a proposed process for the next search and gather feedback, and then implement the search,” Bedient said.
Bedient said she has already received 250 responses from people about the interim search process; at least half of those responses have come from faculty members, and most of the nominations people have given are internal to the university.
It is unclear whether the interim president will also be allowed to be in the running for the permanent position.
OSU approves tuition increases
Also at its meeting Friday, the OSU Board approved tuition increases for the coming school year of 2.5% for continuing undergraduate students and 4% for new undergrads.
Only two board members voted against the increases — trustee Julia Brim-Edwards and student trustee Khawater Hussein.
The rate for continuing students will cover inflationary costs, while the higher rate for new undergraduates will cover inflation as well as longer-term university investments toward focuses like technology, OSU officials explained.
Both Hussein and Brim-Edwards pointed to the pandemic as reasons for not supporting the increases.
“This would be a really reasonable proposal in a normal year, but I think just what I’m seeing is just these huge social impacts in the social and emotional health of young people, and then the economic impacts on top of that,” Brim-Edwards said. “I’m having a hard time reconciling what would be a normally reasonable proposal with where we’re at currently.”
The board also improved increases for graduate students of 1.5% for Oregon residents and 4.5% for out-of-state graduate students, as well as various increases for mandatory and incidental fees that go toward student health, building fees and other services.
Those increases reflect recommendations from the board’s Finance and Administration Committee.