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Fact check: Dan Ryan story about UO Portland campus safety concerns misses key detail

Portland City Commissioner twice last week repeated a story about the UO Portland campus in Old Town being closed, but that's not the case.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan twice last week told an anecdote to illustrate how dire he said the public safety situation in Old Town Portland has become.

Ryan recounted learning that the University of Oregon’s Portland campus was the only one of the school’s facilities statewide to not reopen with the start of the new school year. He said the school kept the campus closed because of safety concerns around their Old Town building. 

But according to the University of Oregon, the story isn’t quite as cut and dry as Ryan made it seem.

A university spokeswoman told KGW that Portland campus did indeed open for in-person classes with the beginning of the fall term, contrary to the story Ryan told. But she clarified that the university did halt plans to add more staff at the Portland campus. 

Ryan first told the story during a city council session on Sept. 29 where commissioners were discussing renewing a contract for downtown security providers Downtown Clean and Safe: 

“I was at a meeting with leaders at University of Oregon. They were celebrating the opening of their campus and the other locations around the state,” Ryan explained during the public meeting. “The one location that did not open last week is their campus in Old Town and it was all due to safety concerns.”

He repeated the story the next day during an interview with KGW’s Laural Porter:

“You go to a meeting in Eugene and they’re celebrating all the opening of the campuses across the University of Oregon but one and that’s in Old Town. Not because of COVID, because people don’t feel safe,” he said. 

University spokeswoman Kay Jarvis clarified what is happening with the Portland campus. 

“The University of Oregon’s Portland campus is open for in-person classes,” Jarvis said.

Both Jarvis and Ryan himself explained that Ryan attended a recent board meeting of the UO Alumni Association where he heard comments from university administrator Mike Andreason about the Portland campus.     

In a statement on Thursday to KGW, Ryan equivocated a bit more than he did the week prior, saying Andreason told him “only one campus was not fully reopened – the campus in Old Town – and that delay was due to staff safety concerns.” 

Jarvis added more context: “As a member of the UO Alumni Association Board, Mr. Ryan heard comments from Mr. Andreasen who was speaking in regard to University Advancement staff, 15 of whom work out of the Portland campus. Prior to the pandemic, there were plans to double the number of Advancement employees in those offices. That plan has been paused.”

The contradiction in Ryan’s story was first reported by The Oregonian, which described Ryan’s story “bogus.” 

But Ryan maintains the point of his story is accurate. 

“The story is 100 percent true about U of O safety concerns,” he said. “The only story here is that the University of Oregon is struggling to fully reopen due to safety concerns in Old Town."

Jarvis said that the university has added additional safety measures at the Portland campus.

“Safety and security is a top priority for the university,” she said.