OSU community members,
I write you regarding the university’s efforts to improve public safety services on our Corvallis campus, including licensed law enforcement.
OSU considers the safety of all students, faculty, staff and visitors as a top university priority. As you may recall, university leaders and the OSU Board of Trustees decided in spring that public safety services on the Corvallis campus should include well-trained police officers, who are university employees and whose work each day supports the university’s educational mission and community values.
Here is an update on OSU’s efforts to advance public safety.
- Numerous meetings with stakeholder groups involving faculty, staff and students have been held this summer to gather input regarding public safety needs, concerns and values. These meetings have engaged university administrators, including myself, and public safety leaders. I greatly appreciate this community input as it helps inform and guide our path forward.
- Edgar Rodriguez, OSU’s interim associate vice president for public safety and chief of police, has decided to leave his position at OSU effective Aug. 21, 2020.
While at the university, Chief Rodriguez made significant progress with the development of our OSU police department and we are thankful for his efforts. We wish him the best as he pursues new opportunities.
I have directed that we begin a nationwide search to fill the permanent Associate Vice President for Public Safety and Chief of Police position. Until such time that this position is filled — or an interim appointment is made — Paul Odenthal, senior associate vice president for administration, will oversee the operations of the Department of Public Safety, including the current recruitment of sergeants and officers.
- The university’s public safety advisory committee made up of students, faculty and staff continues to meet regularly and provide review and recommendations on public safety programs and best practices on other campuses.
As you know, our contract with the Oregon State Police to provide licensed law enforcement services on our Corvallis campus ends on Dec. 31, 2020. Let me be clear about our plan to replace our contract with OSP: we will have a university-employed and directed police force serving the Corvallis campus and that serves the university’s educational mission and community values.
The safety and security of our campus requires us to be able to respond to criminal activity promptly with appropriately trained and equipped police. In order to protect our students, faculty, staff and visitors, we must be able to deter and intervene in criminal acts and properly investigate those acts. OSU’s public safety staff cannot adequately provide these services, nor can local law enforcement agencies.
OSU’s Corvallis campus police force will follow the best practices and standards for community policing within higher education. We will hire outstanding people and train them to operate in accordance with our educational values and policies. We will hold our force accountable to those values and policies, and we will fund, hire and train staff to prioritize student, faculty and staff engagement, transparency, inclusivity, equity, crime prevention and partnership with campus and area social and health services.
We also recognize it is important to appropriately fund wellness, mental health and other social services for our students, faculty and staff. An evaluation of campus mental health, wellness and other support programs is underway. Once completed, we will move to expand these services and increase collaboration among public health, student support services, police and public safety programs to improve how we address campus underserved community needs.
I understand and respect that some members of our university community hold different views about law enforcement than the approach I have described.
As we move forward, I ask that we continue to share our views on how OSU public safety programs can serve the university’s mission and values, and the safety of the OSU community. The opportunity to build a wholly new public safety program and police department will take all of us working together to get it right.
F. King Alexander