The Oregon State University Board of Trustees is meeting Friday to consider appointing the Vice President of OSU Cascades as interim president of the entire university.
The search process for an interim president began shortly after F. King Alexander, resigned as president last month after ongoing pressure from the campus community. Alexander and the board of trustees faced strong criticism following the release of a report that detailed mishandled sexual misconduct allegations at his former university — Louisiana State.
The OSU Cascades Vice President, Rebecca “Becky” Johnson, was nominated through a process that solicited input from OSU community members and stakeholders over the last few weeks.
“In case you’re worried that I’m only concerned with OSU Cascades, I want to assure you that I’m a true believer in Oregon State University and its mission of teaching, research and service throughout all of Oregon and beyond,” Johnson said at a university forum on Wednesday.
Johnson has been at OSU since 1984, starting her career as an assistant professor in the college of forestry.
Johnson said as she stepped into leadership roles over the year, she continued working closely with OSU faculty members and the Faculty Senate.
“I believe strongly in shared governance,” Johnson said. “And I believe that decisions are made better when more voices are heard.”
Board of Trustees Chair Rani Borkar ultimately made the decision to choose Johnson as the final nominee for the interim position.
“Dr. Johnson has demonstrated remarkable leadership through more than a decade of growth, challenges and success at OSU-Cascades,” Borkar said in a statement. “She brings more than 30 years of experience at OSU — as a faculty member, associate dean in the College of Forestry and as the university’s vice provost for academic affairs and international programs.”
If the board votes to approve Johnson for the position, she will begin May 1 and serve as interim president for about a year or until a permanent president is chosen.
Johnson acknowledged Wednesday that a big part of her job, if appointed, would be rebuilding trust.
“We need to establish trust and confidence in university leadership,” Johnson said. “This starts with listening authentically to the diversity of views, values and concerns from internal and external stakeholders.”
If Johnson is appointed, she would be the first-ever woman to serve as president of OSU since its founding in 1868, according to the university.
Johnson said she is currently living in Bend, but if she gets the interim position she will resign from her role at OSU Cascades, and she and her spouse will relocate to the university president’s residence in Corvallis.
The board is still working on the timeline and approach for hiring a permanent president. That process will come after an outside review of the closed search that brought in former president Alexander. It is unclear if Johnson will be allowed to be in the running for that permanent position.
After the university forum Wednesday afternoon, Board Chair Borkar urged OSU students, faculty, staff and members of the public to submit feedback on Johnson’s nomination any time before 5 p.m. Thursday. That feedback will be provided to the board in advance of its consideration of Johnson Friday.