Dear Members of the OSU Community,
I write you with a heavy heart and sense of self acknowledgment.
An external review issued Friday regarding Louisiana State University’s response over the past decade to reported sexual violence involving student-athletes addresses serious gaps in responding to and preventing sexual misconduct, addressing Title IX concerns, and providing care and personal support to those affected by misconduct.
This review includes matters that took place while I served as LSU’s president, and I am deeply saddened by the experiences of survivors of sexual misconduct detailed in this review. This review also offers essential information for all colleges and universities nationwide — including Oregon State University.
Title IX is a fundamental priority at all universities, and I am fully in support of regular reviews that assist any university in improving how it addresses misconduct.
My commitment to preventing sexual misconduct is deeply personal and decades long. This includes creating LSU’s first internal Title IX office in 2016. As LSU’s president, I required that all reports and concerns of sexual misconduct be provided to the university’s central Title IX office instead of the university’s longstanding practice of being addressed by an outside law firm. Similar to other universities at the time, LSU was moving quickly to implement new practices for responding to and investigating complaints. In the face of significant budget cuts, we were able to initiate the Title IX program and put important policies and education programs in place. Given the experiences of survivors documented in the LSU report, I acknowledge we should have moved faster in more fully staffing and increasing the budget for the Title IX office and its efforts.
While LSU’s president, information that I had received throughout my tenure was that any complaints regarding sexual misconduct and Title IX violations were fully investigated and the results were appropriately documented. I am disheartened to learn that this report indicates that guidance from the university on how to report Title IX cases was not clear and consistent; that cases were inconsistently managed; and that some individuals did not follow directions, policies and requirements for misconduct reporting.
Within my first few weeks as LSU’s president in 2013, members of the university’s Board of Supervisors, the outside attorney advising the university, the university’s General Counsel and I were presented with the results of an inquiry into concerns of sexual misconduct reported by students involving then LSU Head Football Coach Les Miles that began in 2012 before I arrived. At the time, we were told by attorneys that there wasn’t evidence that could support termination. Though not substantiated to support termination, the results of the initial inquiry into Coach Miles were inconsistent with my and LSU’s community values and should have been acted on further. In hindsight, beyond limitations that were put into place between the coach and students, I now regret that we did not take stronger action earlier against Coach Miles, including suspension leading to further investigation and dismissal for violations of university policy, before I ordered him terminated in early fall 2016.
At Oregon State University, Title IX and sexual misconduct are addressed much differently.
OSU’s commitment to fostering a university community free of misconduct starts with the OSU Board of Trustees and the Office of the President. Employees are expected to report any violation of law or university policy they become aware of, including harassment, sexual misconduct, discrimination and other illegal unethical conduct. A link on the OSU Home Page prominently provides a clear pathway for reporting sexual violence, seeking assistance and reporting other concerns. At OSU, annual communications make it clear that concerns of sexual misconduct are to be reported to the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Access (EOA).
EOA is an independent office and reports directly to the president. Within its Title IX responsibilities, it includes eight staff members, three of whom investigate misconduct concerns and reports, and others who engage in training university faculty, staff and students regarding Title IX and sexual misconduct. The executive director of EOA reports annually to the OSU Board of Trustees regarding the university’s efforts related to sexual harassment and violence education, prevention, and response. Meanwhile, OSU’s Office of Audit, Risk and Compliance independently reviews compliance with Title IX and other state and federal laws, as well as investigates reports made to the university’s Hotline, and provides reports four times a year to OSU’s Board of Trustees.
I assure you that OSU will continue to improve its sexual misconduct and Title IX response, prevention, education and services for those affected by misconduct. The university also will provide regular reports to the entire university community, including the Faculty Senate and student leaders within the Associated Students of Oregon State University and the Associated Students of Cascades Campus.
As president, I require accountability by myself and each of you to adhere to OSU’s policies and state and federal laws, including Title IX. No one will be excused from this requirement: student, student-athlete, faculty, staff member, coach, university administrator or university supporter.
Going forward, I ask that each of us commit to address sexual misconduct in society wherever it takes place by reporting what we may hear or see, and seeking support and providing compassion for those affected by misconduct or harassment.
F. King Alexander