The Oregon State University Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to put university President F. King Alexander on probation for the sexual misconduct scandal that happened under his watch while he was president at LSU, and it’s probably not a coincidence that seven of the 14 voting members on OSU’s board are women.
LSU’s Board of Supervisors hasn’t budged as Louisianians have demanded the firings of LSU employees who sat on allegations of sexual assault and domestic violence, and it’s probably not a coincidence that only two of the 16 members of LSU’s board are women.
The board has one student member. The other 15 members are there because Gov. John Bel Edwards wants them there.
When Edwards was asked Thursday if he should have appointed more women, he said, “Looking at it today, I wish I had. I was probably much more intentional about diversity on the board as related to race than gender. I think everybody that I have appointed to the board are really good public servants, and that they do a fine job on the board for LSU. That board does not represent the gender diversity that it should. And that’s just the simple fact of the matter looking at it today, especially in light of what has been transpiring over the last few weeks.”
It’s not enough for Edwards to say that he wishes he had appointed more women. He has the power to reshape the board. And it’s contradictory to say that the board is doing a fine job and that the absence of women is suddenly more glaring.
The argument in last week’s column that women matter meant that they shouldn’t be assaulted and those who hurt them or help the people who hurt them be held accountable.
But arguing that women matter also means that they shouldn’t be looked over when appointments and hiring decisions are being made. LSU enrolls more women than men. There’s no reason its board should have seven men for every woman.
Edwards is standing by the decision of LSU to suspend and not fire two athletics administrators who kept to themselves reports that football players had attacked women athletes. He said “the people who most obviously needed to be fired are no longer there.” We can assume he means Alexander and former football coach Les Miles.
It’s not the way it has to be, but it’s more often the case that women get more upset about sexual assault and crimes against women and are more vocal in demanding that women be protected and perpetrators and enablers be held accountable. It’s certainly been that way in Louisiana. Tigers Against Sexual Assault, a student group led by women, staged a protest at LSU the first schoolday after the law firm Husch Blackwell released an investigative report that found that LSU did not take crimes against women seriously.
The same week that women at LSU led that protest, the Louisiana Senate Select Committee on Women and Children held a 10-hour meeting that ended with its members releasing a statement expressing “deep and profound disappointment and dismay over Louisiana State University’s continued refusal to meet the legal and moral requirements of an adequate and satisfactory response to reports of sexual harassment and abuse made by women enrolled in the university. Failure to heed and support these students who were victims of unwanted and unwarranted sexually related incidents that were both debilitating and with long lasting effects is both inexplicable and inexcusable.”
And before Oregon State University’s board met Wednesday, the mostly Republican Louisiana Legislative Women’s Caucus sent OSU’s board a letter stating that the caucus is “frustrated and angered by the numerous insensitive and grievous responses of Dr. F. King Alexander and others in the handling of the sexual assault complaints from students while he was serving as president of Louisiana State University… . We have no confidence that he will protect your students, because he chose not to protect ours.”
Oregon State’s board voted 12-2 to put Alexander on probation and hire a consultant to review the LSU report. A member who opposed that motion said the contents of the report are already clear and advised against “kicking a decision down the road.”
A statement from the Oregon governor’s office Thursday says if the board’s review “confirms that President Alexander did not uphold his ethical and legal responsibilities to protect the safety of the students at LSU, I expect the board to take decisive action to remove him.”
That’s unambiguous intolerance for a university official’s indifference to sexual crimes.
Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, is a woman.