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OSU trustees break silence on F. King Alexander's involvement in LSU Title IX scandal

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F. King Alexander and Rani Borkar

Oregon State University Board of Trustees Chair Rani Borkar, left, introduces King Alexander as the university's next president at a board meeting on the Corvallis campus in Decmber 2019.

The Oregon State University Board of Trustees remained silent on a report implicating OSU President F. King Alexander in Louisiana State University’s Title IX scandal that was published March 5 until almost 9 p.m. Thursday night. The statement came nearly 24 hours after the OSU faculty union released an open letter calling on the board to break its silence.

The faculty union, United Academics of Oregon State University, released an open letter late Wednesday night addressing the board and expressing concern about Alexander.

“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 letter says. “In doing so, he prioritized athletics over protecting victims of sexual harassment and assault. President Alexander’s tepid mea culpa to the OSU community minimizes his responsibility and has done nothing to ameliorate our disgust at his inaction or to address the unsavory aspects of his leadership at LSU.”

Mike and Joe address the situation involving Les Miles and LSU.

During a meeting of the Select Committee on Women and Children at the Louisiana Legislature Wednesday, Alexander was singled out as a responsible party for the culture of sexual abuse that existed at Louisiana State University during his tenure there as president from 2013 through 2019. Morgan Lamandre, the legal director for STAR, a sexual assault advocacy group in Louisiana, testified that Alexander personally overturned LSU Title IX rulings that involved sexual assault survivors she represented.

Board of Trustees Chair Rani Borkar and Vice Chair Kirk Schueler sent a statement to Mid-Valley Media late Thursday night via Steve Clark, vice president of university relations and marketing at OSU. The statement was also sent via email to the entire university community.

The Board of Trustees acknowledged the findings of the investigation released by Husch Blackwell last week that detailed LSU’s failure to act on Title IX compliance recommendations during Alexander’s tenure as president at the school.

“Consistent with the fundamental values of the university, the OSU Board of Trustees will fully evaluate this report and its findings with President Alexander, and report back to the OSU community,” the board wrote in the letter.

The Board of Trustees statement did not acknowledge the testimony in front of the Louisiana Legislature Wednesday, nor promise any action beyond their pledge to “fully evaluate” the Husch Blackwell report.

“While we take pride in OSU’s Title IX programs, we recognize the requirement for constant improvement, and the Board of Trustees holds itself, the university’s president and all members of the community to a shared responsibility for promoting and contributing to an environment free of sexual violence and harassment for all students, faculty and staff,” the board wrote in the letter. “This includes the responsibility to report sexual misconduct; for OSU’s Title IX Office of Equal Opportunity and Access to thoroughly and promptly respond to all reports; and for the entire OSU community to support and care for survivors.”

Victor Reyes, UAOSU secretary and INTO OSU instructor, said the union felt it was important to speak truth to power.

“If the Board of Trustees and our president are unwilling or incapable of accepting accountability, we need them to understand that this is unacceptable from our perspective,” Reyes said. “It’s important for us that we let our community know that we stand with survivors of sexual harassment and assault.”

Reyes described the response from the university as “mediocre,” saying the lack of response from the Board of Trustees since Alexander was more directly tied to the unfolding scandal is unacceptable.

“Alarmingly, you, as the Board of Trustees have yet to publicly acknowledge the depth of the problem created by this hire (of Alexander),” the Wednesday letter said.

The letter, signed by UAOSU President Kathleen Stanley on behalf of the executive council, also listed questions for the board pertaining to Alexander’s hire.

“Did you know of his past problems and choose to ignore them and hide them from the public?” they asked in the letter. “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?”

Mid-Valley Media attempted to reach every Board of Trustees member Wednesday at phone numbers or email addresses listed for them. Darald Callahan, Julie Manning, Preston Pulliams, Kirk Schueler and Mike Thorne responded to the inquiries, and they each directed questions to Clark. Borkar did not return several calls to phone numbers listed for her Wednesday or Thursday.

The statement the trustees eventually released Thursday night said they did not uncover anything about Alexander’s role in the LSU scandal during their hiring process. The board also said it felt Alexander has “acknowledged” he was accountable.

“President Alexander’s communication this week to the OSU community acknowledged that he was ultimately accountable as LSU’s president,” the Board of Trustees letter said. “This accountability is consistent with OSU’s values.”

Reyes said something needs to be done to hold the Board of Trustees and Alexander accountable, but said it’s impossible to know just what those accountability measures should be without the board first being more transparent and answering questions.

Alexander’s hire was not an open process, something the faculty union raised as an issue in the letter. The letter called on the Board of Trustees to commit to open search processes for all future hires.

Oregon State retained executive search firm Witt/Kieffer to assist with the search process that led to Alexander’s hire. In addition to the Board of Trustees and Witt/Kieffer, Borkar appointed a presidential search committee to “assist the board in its comprehensive search for the next president.”

Andrea Haverkamp, president of the Coalition of Graduate Employees, said the lack of comment from the Board of Trustees was “cowardly” Thursday afternoon. Haverkamp also said the board needs to release all documents that were found in the process of hiring Alexander.

“This is just yet another in a series of decisions by a smarmy and cowardly group of the Board of Trustees who wants to run Oregon State like it’s a private business and as their own country club,” Haverkamp said of the board’s lack of comment and transparency in the wake of recent reports about Alexander’s role in the LSU Title IX scandal.

Haverkamp said Alexander needs to take immediate action to improve funding, staffing and training for survivor advocacy at Oregon State. She said there are systemic issues at OSU that need to be addressed, regardless of leadership.

In a Coalition of Graduate Employees meeting with Alexander in December, Haverkamp said the union brought up specific issues with university trainings on sexual assault and harrasment, at which time Alexander said he would put union officials in touch with the proper personnel to assist in updating it. Haverkamp said Alexander has yet to follow through on the promise.

She said recent information about Alexander is “cause for concern.”

“It is a monstrous legacy,” Haverkamp said of Alexander’s time at LSU. “They’re heinous actions that are morally reprehensible.”

Haverkamp also took issue with Alexander’s statements since the March 5 report, which she said Alexander used to focus on himself and his own sadness. Haverkamp said she believes people can grow and change, but that it requires action, and that Alexander is positioned to take action to improve survivor resources at OSU.

She said the time for platitudes is over.

“We need numbers,” Haverkamp said of increased funding and personnel. “We need policy changes. We need actual reform at Oregon State University. If someone is feeling quote-unquote sad, then do something.”

Brenda Tracy, a sexual assault survivor and advocate who was once employed by Oregon State as a sexual assault consultant, was reached by phone by Mid-Valley Media after the Board of Trustees released its statement Thursday and said the messaging of the statement is “horrible.”

“I think this statement is ridiculous,” Tracy said. “As an Oregonian, I’m embarrassed. This is a week late; other people close to this story are already taking action … I think this press release should have said, ‘We’re going to part ways.’”

K. Rambo can be contacted at 541-812-6091 or k.rambo@lee.net. Follow on Twitter via @k_rambo_. Jarrid Denney can be reached at 541-521-3214 or via email at Jarrid.Denney@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @jarrid_denney.

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