CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University Board of Trustees on Friday approved the university’s COVID-19 plan for the coming academic year and discussed steps OSU is taking to address impacts to the university’s budget.
Trustees also heard updates on OSU’s efforts to advance support for Black students, faculty and staff, and the university’s public safety programs, including licensed law enforcement services on its Corvallis campus.
The university’s projected overall budget shortfall has grown from $124 million to $217 million across the university’s statewide operations since May. This includes all operations of the university, including OSU’s campuses in Corvallis and Bend; OSU’s statewide public services; restricted funds; and all of the university auxiliary units, including athletics and housing and dining services.
OSU’s budget challenges reflect responses to evolving pandemic conditions occurring locally, throughout Oregon and nationally. This week, the Pac-12 Conference postponed all sports competitions through the end of 2020 and OSU announced that 90% of this fall’s Corvallis campus instruction and approximately 50% at OSU-Cascades in Bend will be delivered remotely.
“We are managing this budget at a time nationally that offers a great deal of uncertainty,” said Board Chair Rani Borkar. “In the weeks and months ahead, the board will continue to work with university leaders as OSU responds to the pandemic and the impacts to the budget evolve.”
The university is taking multiple steps to address the budget gap. These include reduced spending on facilities improvements, services and supplies; reduced personnel costs through delayed hiring, a temporary salary reduction program, workshare layoffs and leaves-without-pay in lieu of layoff; and the strategic use of reserve funds. A salary reduction program for 43 university administrators and head coaches was implemented on July 1. The university may announce a salary reduction program for academic faculty and professional faculty in the weeks ahead that could be implemented on Sept. 1.
Trustees unanimously approved the university’s COVID-19 “Safety and Success” operational plan that is designed to align with guidelines issued by local and state health authorities and the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission.
The plan focuses on furthering the health and safety of the university community and locations where OSU operates statewide. The plan outlines guidelines on how the university will instruct students, conduct research, house students, and engage in OSU Extension programs and outreach.
It provides for flexibility based on the status of COVID-19 in the communities where OSU operates and health directives from local and state health authorities. Until a viable vaccine or effective treatment is available, OSU anticipates maintaining lower on-site density, physical distancing and other prevention measures, including a face covering requirement and expanded testing, tracing, isolation and quarantine.
OSU President F. King Alexander said that the university’s plan and its implementation continues to adapt as the pandemic evolves. He said it was essential for OSU to communicate its plans this week.
“We needed to give our faculty, staff and students a heads up now on how they could prepare for fall term over the next four to six weeks,” Alexander said. “Our plan is a living document and the key is to be flexible as we implement it. We are going to be watching in the weeks ahead as other universities across the nation open and watching to see how testing nationally is going. We have a month ahead to watch, learn and adjust our implementation.”
Prior to voting on the COVID-19 plan, the board heard from five community members who shared concerns regarding the university’s instructional plans, operations, numbers of students on campus and student activities in the Corvallis community this fall.
During the audio-only web conference meeting required by COVID-19 physical distancing measures, the board also heard updates about OSU’s plan to establish a university-run police department and an initiative to advance support for Black students, faculty and staff.
The university plans to transition from law enforcement services provided by the Oregon State Police to a university-run police force on Jan. 1. Community engagement is a key element in developing the new police force. The university has held sessions with key stakeholder groups and an informational webinar open to the OSU community. More sessions are planned in the weeks ahead.
The culture of the new police department will center on trust, accountability, transparency and engagement. The department will focus on the success of all students and employ practices of education and restorative justice, while enhancing communication, engagement and building community partnerships.
Alexander said OSU will increase university student counseling, mental health and support services, while the university manages its police force in keeping with the university’s educational mission and community values. Presently, OSU contracts with the Oregon State Police for law enforcement services.
OSU Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Charlene Alexander updated the board on university engagement with student, faculty and staff groups at OSU seeking to advance support for Black students, faculty and staff. Led by the Office of Institutional Diversity, OSU efforts are focusing on three areas: increasing recruitment of Black and other underrepresented faculty and staff; addressing bias incidents that occur in classrooms; and increasing support for Black faculty and staff.
In other actions Friday, the board:
The board received public testimony from seven faculty, students and community members regarding Black Lives Matter, disarming OSU’s Corvallis law enforcement personnel and providing more funding for counseling and other student services.
About Oregon State University: As one of only two universities in the nation designated as a land, sea, space and sun grant, Oregon State serves Oregon and the world by working on today’s most pressing issues. Our more than 32,000 students come from across the globe, and our programs operate in every Oregon county. Oregon State receives more research funding than all of the state’s comprehensive public universities combined. At our campuses in Corvallis and Bend, marine research center in Newport and award-winning Ecampus, we excel at shaping today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders.