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Calls increase for Oregon State president to resign over handling of sexual harassment claims

F. King Alexander was hired at Oregon State University last summer, but he previously led Louisiana State University for seven years.

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Calls are growing for Oregon State University to fire its president for the way he handled sex assault investigations while he was president of Louisiana State University (LSU).

F. King Alexander was hired at Oregon State last summer, but he previously led LSU for seven years.

In 2013 when Alexander worked at LSU, the school's athletic director recommended that Alexander fire football coach Les Miles because of allegations of inappropriate behavior with female students.

But Alexander decided not to. He claimed there wasn't enough evidence.

Miles was eventually fired from LSU three years later, but it wasn't because of the allegations of inappropriate conduct. 

Miles went on to coach at the University of Kansas, until a few days ago when he was fired over the allegations that took place at LSU. 

Last summer, Oregon State hired Alexander saying they found "the best of the best." Then in November 2020, a USA Today investigation found that LSU mishandled sex assault claims for years. Not just about Miles, but about athletes and other students who were accused of attacking women on campus.

The report sparked an investigation into how the school handles sexual violence and Title IX claims. The investigation found the school, while Alexander was President, did not handle those claims correctly. Those findings were released earlier this month.

While all of this has been unfolding, Alexander has been in charge at Oregon State. OSU says he passed a background check and they spent a lot of time looking into him and didn't find anything concerning.

A lot of people are calling for Alexander to be fired from Oregon State including activist and sexual assault survivor Brenda Tracy. Tracy has been an outspoken advocate for victims since she shared her story a few years ago of being gang-raped by four men in the 1990s, including some players on the Oregon State football team. 

She says it seems like OSU is trying to protect President Alexander.

"He knows what he did. So, he knew what was potentially going to come out," Tracy said. "If all this stuff hadn't come out, that's my issue or one of my issues, is none of these discussions were being had when he came here to interview."

President Alexander released a statement on OSU’s website saying he wishes he had taken stronger action against Coach Miles and that sexual misconduct is handled "much differently" at OSU.

Tracy is worried about the trust lost with this kind of leadership choice.

"I don't know what kind of leadership President Alexander can provide if this is his history, and he's not even really being accountable for what has happened or admitting to his failures early," Tracy said. "I would think that in general, students would feel really uneasy about who can I trust? Where can I go? Am I going to be believed? Is my report going to be handled properly? Are people able on this campus to do their jobs? It's not good. It's not good."

For right now, the Board of Trustees at Oregon State says they're going to fully evaluate the report from LSU and its findings and they'll report back to the community.

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