SEIU 503 members at Oregon State University made the following statement on the revelations regarding President F. King Alexander’s conduct at LSU:
SEIU503 supports survivors of sexual and interpersonal violence. Issues of sexual and interpersonal violence do not only impact survivors and their families and loved ones, but they also impact the larger community.
OSU has a responsibility to create a welcoming and safe community, not just for our students, faculty, and staff, but for the larger community in the mid-Willamette Valley, and statewide where our campuses and Extension offices are located. OSU has a responsibility to create a campus and community culture where people are not afraid to come forward when they experience or witness untoward or unjust events, especially sexual and interpersonal violence. OSU has a responsibility to create a culture where those who have experienced these issues and others are not intimidated or prevented from coming forward and are not blamed for not disclosing their experience.
We find President F. King Alexander’s leadership incredibly disappointing, especially in how he has handled himself and the events that occurred under his leadership at LSU. OSU’s stated commitments to support survivors and hold abusers accountable ring hollow when actions of top leadership do not reflect these values.These actions don’t reflect the mission, vision and values of OSU.
It is obvious that at LSU, athletics and profits were prioritized over the experiences and trauma of those who came forward to bring light on the sexual and interpersonal violence that had been happening and continued to occur. Similar situations have occurred at OSU, and if we truly want to prevent this from happening again, it must start by having administrators who lead by example.
SEIU503 demands accountability from OSU. How is it possible that trustees either did not learn of Alexander’s record at LSU, or learned of it and chose to hire him? The OSU community deserves answers. As a start, OSU must commit to transparency in hiring and selection of top leadership and hold them to OSU’s stated institutional values.
Given the statutory role of the Governor’s office in employing a university president, we request a review, overseen by Governor Kate Brown’s office, that focuses on how the board makes the following determinations:
- How the search committee is chosen?
- How the search firm is chosen?
- Why was the search confidential?
Additionally, we want a plan from the Board of Trustees on how they plan to include classified staff in the Board’s future search and selection process for Vice President, Vice Provost or higher ranking positions at the University. Classified staff are the frontline staff at OSU and with other workers make the university run. We need to have a seat at the table with other represented groups to help choose the leadership at this university.
We endorse CGE’s call for full funding and staffing of the SARC and their full resolution that calls for an external audit of EOA and the ability for staff to report back problems and obstacles they encounter when they file complaints with EOA. Classified staff use EOA regularly and report problems with lengthy, complicated processes that don’t serve them consistently.
SEIU 503 calls on the board and President Alexander to take responsibility for harm done. Please act with transparency to salvage confidence in OSU’s institutional commitment to an equitable community where people can work and learn free from gender-based violence.
In the future it will be important not to repeat these steps in future hires of individuals at OSU.
Finally, uncovering these tragic circumstances at LSU only underlines the flawed decision-making that occurs at Oregon State University behind closed doors. Top management and the Board of Trustees need to value the safety, health and welfare of all. To demonstrate change, please implement the requests here. We also ask that you reinvigorate your response to the pandemic. Classified staff are not being included in shared governance but they are bearing the brunt of the pandemic with reduced hours and increased workload. Please institute wider testing and make vaccines accessible earlier to frontline staff who are suffering from exposure and illness due to COVID. Prioritize COVID funding for students and frontline staff, student services, not new debt service on remodelled stadiums. Show your commitment to a new vision of OSU that centers safety and equity first.