Oregon State University’s Board of Trustees on Tuesday unanimously accepted President F. King Alexander’s offer to resign amid a cascade of outrage stemming from his role in Louisiana State University’s sexual misconduct scandal.
Alexander’s resignation is effective April 1, but he will be on administrative leave until then. His resignation comes with a settlement agreement that will pay him an additional year’s salary, around $600,000. The money will come from OSU’s foundation, as opposed to its general fund.
Alexander was president of LSU from 2013 to 2019 during a time when the school systemically mishandled reports of sexual misconduct by students and by head football coach Les Miles, according to a report by law firm Husch Blackwell that was publicly released this month by LSU.
LSU hired Husch Blackwell in November after an investigation by USA TODAY found that officials in the university’s athletic department and broader administration repeatedly ignored complaints against abusers, denied victims’ requests for protections and subjected them to further harm by known perpetrators.
Alexander began his tenure at Oregon State University in July 2020. He spoke briefly at the meeting Tuesday and offered his apology to survivors for any pain they may have suffered.
Several board members also apologized to survivors and others who were angered by what they saw as indifference to their feelings last week by the board. Lamar Hurd, a Portland Trail Blazers TV analyst who holds an at-large position on the OSU board, spoke through tears.
“I know people have been hurting,” said Hurd, who had to stop several times to compose himself. “In cases of sexual assault and misconduct and violence and things of that nature, I know that triggers a lot. I know all too often it gets overlooked. I just want to make sure you guys know it wasn’t overlooked.
“I’m just sorry for the pain people have had to endure,” Hurd added. “This isn’t what Oregon State is about or wants to be about.”
OSU Provost Edward Feser will hold presidential powers until the board is able to appoint an interim president. The OSU board chair will begin a search for an interim president by soliciting diverse, well-qualified candidates and consulting with a number of groups including faculty leadership and others.
Alexander’s resignation comes less than one week after the OSU board voted 12-2 to put him on probation rather than fire him, after the Husch Blackwell report became public and implicated him in LSU’s institutional failings.
The board also said it would hire an outside consultant to further investigate the problems at LSU, and asked Alexander to come up with an “action plan” to rebuild trust with the Oregon State community.
But that decision only escalated anger at Alexander, who was criticized by people both at Oregon State and in the Oregon statehouse for refusing to take accountability for the failings at LSU. Immediately after the board decision, the OSU Faculty Senate issued a vote of no confidence, and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, who appoints board members, also expressed her displeasure.
“When we adjourned last week, we thought it was possible for President Alexander to repair the broken confidence and trust in his ability to lead OSU,” OSU board chair Rani Borkar said Tuesday before the board’s executive session to consider whether to accept Alexander’s resignation, which he offered Sunday.
“After listening to and hearing important input from diverse members of our community, we now know that rebuilding trust is no longer possible. Simply stated, Dr. Alexander no longer has the confidence of the OSU community.”
Alexander is the fifth person to face consequences in the aftermath of USA TODAY reporting that revealed widespread failings in the way LSU handled sexual misconduct and gender violence complaints.
The University of Kansas announced March 8 that it was parting ways with football coach Les Miles, who outside investigators found had inappropriate relationships with female student workers while he was at LSU. The departure of Kansas athletic director Jeff Long, who said he didn’t know about the allegations against Miles when he hired him in 2018, was announced two days later.
Two administrators in LSU’s athletics department who Husch Blackwell found did not properly report Title IX complaints also have been disciplined. Executive deputy athletic director Verge Ausberry and senior associate athletic director Miriam Segar were suspended, Ausberry for 30 days and Segar for 21.
Alexander has insisted he did nothing wrong when he was at LSU, and defended himself vigorously during last week’s public meeting. But on Monday, the chairman of the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors sent a letter to OSU’s board, saying that Alexander had not been truthful in his testimony.
Alexander had misled OSU about his willingness to be interviewed for an investigation into LSU’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations under his watch, LSU Board Chairman Robert Dampf wrote.
Alexander told the board last week that the law firm Husch Blackwell never interviewed him for its investigation into LSU’s handling of sexual misconduct and dating violence, which finished in March and focused on systemic failures that occurred on Alexander’s watch.
Dampf pointed out that Husch Blackwell asked to interview Alexander twice. Oregon State’s general counsel, however, responded on Alexander’s behalf and said he would only take written questions.
“In the pursuit of truth, Husch Blackwell diligently collected information amounting to 2,500 documents totaling 75,000 pages and more than 60 interviews with LSU employees plus 27 community outreach interview sessions with 10 participants per session,” Dampf wrote. “But they had only one and a half pages of responses from Dr. Alexander.”
Alexander also claimed at last week’s hearing that he had built LSU’s Title IX office from nothing to having seven Title IX coordinators, one for each LSU campus. And he took credit for shutting down a problematic fraternity due to Title IX violations.
Dampf noted in his letter, however, that the Title IX coordinators were hired before Alexander’s arrival in 2013, and the fraternity was shut down because a pledge died during a hazing ritual, not because of Title IX issues.
Prior to his tenure at LSU, Alexander was the president of the University of California at Long Beach from 2006-2013. Before that, he served as president of Murray State University in Kentucky from 2001-2005, replacing his father, Kern Alexander, who had led school for seven years before stepping down in 2001.
The OSU board’s executive and audit committee will now assess the university’s Title IX reporting and survivor services, as well as respond to feedback and questions received from the Faculty Senate.
“The last few weeks have been a very difficult experience for all of us, the entire OSU community,” Bokar said at the closure of the meeting Tuesday. “We will learn from this experience, yet we will not let it divide us. Let us heal together. Let us rededicate ourselves to excellent in teaching, student success, research discovery and service engagement.”
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