Oregon State President Out

F. King Alexander offered his resignation days after Oregon State's board opted not to terminate him. Since then, the board chair at his former employer, Louisiana State, disputed several of his claims about handling sexual misconduct there.

March 24, 2021
 
Courtesy of Oregon State University
F. King Alexander is resigning as president of Oregon State University.

F. King Alexander will no longer be president of Oregon State University after the university's Board of Trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to accept his resignation. The board also voted to place Alexander on administrative leave, effective immediately, until April 1, when his resignation will take effect.

Alexander is one of three higher education officials to step down from his post following the release of a report by the law firm Husch Blackwell. The report detailed Louisiana State University’s mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations and Title IX procedures while Alexander was president there. Les Miles, LSU's former head football coach, “mutually agreed” to part ways with the University of Kansas two weeks ago. Jeff Long, the University of Kansas athletic director who hired Miles to be head football coach there, has also stepped down.

Oregon State will pay Alexander $630,000, the same amount as his annual salary, in a lump sum within 30 days of his resignation, plus an additional $40,000 for relocation expenses. The university will also continue to pay for Alexander's current health and dental benefits, per the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA, through March 2022.

His exit package is small compared with the one for Miles, who will be paid nearly $2 million by the University of Kansas. Miles was at the center of many -- but not all -- of the high-profile allegations covered in recent reports LSU released publicly. Miles has denied allegations against him, which include that he attempted to kiss a female student in a car and suggested they go to a hotel together or visit his condo. He continued to coach at LSU for several years after LSU's athletic director at the time recommended firing Miles in 2013 in a letter addressed to Alexander.

Oregon State's board first met March 17 to discuss potential actions in response to the Husch Blackwell report. It voted to put Alexander on probation. Over the past week, many students and employees called on the board to remove Alexander, and the university's Faculty Senate passed a vote of no confidence in Alexander and the board.

“After listening to and hearing important input from diverse members of our community and reflecting on our own values and experiences, we now know that rebuilding trust is no longer possible,” Rani Borkar, chair of the Oregon State board, wrote in a statement about Alexander’s resignation. “This broken trust was expressed not only by the vote of the Faculty Senate but by an outpouring of thoughtful statements from students, alumni and survivors of sexual assault.”

Robert Dampf, chair of the LSU Board of Supervisors, sent a letter Monday to the Oregon State board that blasted Alexander and contradicted statements Alexander made at last week's Oregon State board meeting.

“Perhaps in the past, an administrator or coach could leave a university and feel comfortable in the knowledge that any mistakes at a prior university would remain there in secret,” Dampf wrote.

Alexander told Oregon State board members that the only input he had into the Husch Blackwell report was providing written answers to 13 questions. During last week’s board meeting, he talked about several actions he wished had been included in the report, including an increase in the number of Title IX investigations under his leadership, increased spending for LSU's Title IX office and educational campaigns so that students knew where and how to report sexual misconduct.

In his letter, Dampf disputed this characterization of Husch Blackwell’s investigation.

“In actuality, Dr. Alexander was twice invited to be interviewed and instead communicated through Oregon State’s general counsel that he would only accept questions in writing,” Dampf wrote. “Husch Blackwell consented when it was the only way to get answers from Dr. Alexander, but stated their preference for a live interview.”

Alexander also defended his reputation on Title IX issues by saying he established a Title IX office at LSU and that Title IX concerns were the chief reason the Greek system at LSU was suspended for a year.

“We took Title IX so seriously that because of Title IX violations, sexual assault misconduct and hazing, we shut down the entire Greek system for an entire year,” Alexander said last week.

Dampf wrote that LSU had Title IX coordinators on each campus prior to Alexander’s arrival, and that the Greek system was shut down “in response to an unfortunate death, and not in response to Title IX concerns.”

Dampf also took issue with Alexander’s attempt to distance himself from the culture at LSU.

“I feel confident that I can speak not only on behalf of my university, but also for my state, in saying that I am beyond offended by Dr. Alexander’s arrogant and condescending comments about Louisiana’s culture, our state, and our university,” Dampf wrote. “When sharing his opinion that Louisiana State has a different moral standard than Oregon, he omits the fact that he enthusiastically counted himself as one of us for almost seven years.”

Alexander spoke briefly during Tuesday’s board meeting.

“I’m sorry to any of the survivors of sexual assault or misconduct that this has brought back any pain. I offer my resignation to Oregon State University to allow us to move on. Students have and always will be my top priority. Their social and economic well-being is why many of us have committed a lifetime to public higher education,” Alexander said. “I have been fortunate to serve 20 years as a public university president because of my values and commitment to the next generation of students and their ability to make society a much, much better place. And I pledge to continue to do so as I go forward as well as working with public higher education nationwide.”

Even before Alexander was hired, the closed search process used to select him had been controversial. Several Oregon State employees criticized the search process during last week’s board meeting. In her statement, the Oregon State board chair, Borkar, promised the board would be more transparent moving forward.

“First, the responsibility and accountability for selecting and evaluating the president rests with this board. I pledge to work with the Board to review past procedures and to learn and improve from this experience. We can do better, and we will do better for OSU,” Borkar wrote. “Second, looking ahead, I will ask the Board to consider what best represents an inclusive selection process for future presidents that is informed by what we have learned from this experience and reflects the culture and values of OSU.”

The board's executive and audit committee will meet this morning to discuss next steps for assessing the university's Title IX reporting and survivor services. It will also discuss responding to feedback and questions from the Faculty Senate, as well as a process for selecting an interim president. In the meantime, Edward Feser, university provost, will serve as acting president.

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