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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Managing OSU growth related to student conduct problems

Oregon State University Corvallis neighborhood housing projects, Gazette-Times, Jan. 1, 2012, p. A6

PHOTO: Oregon State University Corvallis neighborhood student housing projects and student conduct problems are summarized in front-page newspaper story by Bennett Hall, "Under construction, Is cure Worse than disease?" Gazette-Times, Jan. 1, 2012, p. A1, A5-6, illustration by Don Boucher, Mid-Valley Sunday.

The small town of Corvallis, Oregon, population 50,000, is home to more than 25,000 students attending Oregon State University. For decades the enrollment was capped at 15,000 students, until recently, mostly because of the Oregon state legislature's budget limits. Similar to many state universities, Oregon has always subsidized the tuition of in-state students. The subsidy has changed over the years. For example, when Nobel laureate Linus Pauling attended OSU in the early 20th Century, tuition was free for in-state students. Over the years tuition rose and state subsidies were cut to the point that the current OSU President Ed Ray adopted a strategy of growing the student population to better fund the University.

Oregon State University has had several periods of growth over the last century. The small town of Corvallis has experience growth pains and has taken years to adjust after each increase in student enrollment. New houses and roads are built, leading to the need for new schools and city services, which have often meant an increase in property taxes and nuisances such as more car traffic and rowdy students living nearby.

The latest growth spurt initiated by OSU President Ed Ray has generated many angry citizen complaints over previously quiet neighborhoods being turned into parking lots with houses rented to students who park their cars blocking the street and who hold noisy parties.

During discussions of how OSU could help manage this problem, OSU President Ed ray told the press that he didn't think he could do anything about student conduct off campus. I was surprised to hear this because I knew he was wrong. Therefore I was happy to see him publically announce he could do something (See Ed Ray, "Ed Said: Keeping it smooth between Town and gown," Oregon Stater magazine of the OSU Alumni Association, Winter 2012, Vol. 97, No. 1, p. 8-9) off campus by using the existing student conduct code. (See Oregon University System, Oregon State University Student Conduct Code - (PDF))

This prompted my following letter the editor:

Oregon State University President Ed Ray wrote in a recent column, which is regularly printed in the winter edition of The Oregon Stater, OSU Alumni Association's glossy magazine, "One of the things we need to look at is enforcement of our student code of conduct, which -- I was pleased to learn -- we do have the ability to enforce off campus." (See for full text and for text of the OSU student conduct code.)

Many college student protesters of the Vietnam War learned a hard lesson after so-called liberal U.S. Supreme Court justices ruled that colleges could rationally punish a student's conduct with only an administrative process, even if it violated the U.S. Constitutional rights of free speech, due process and being proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

I believe all OSU student conduct code enforcement should be directed toward holding immature college students responsible for their behavior, before they leave the ivory towers of OSU, while simultaneously educating them on how the real world holds adults responsible.

OSU could better focus on doing this education by also funding a real Corvallis police department precinct, similar to other universities, instead of using only deputized campus security officers.

As a Corvallis resident and a large benefactor of OSU, I fully support Ray's growth strategy, and I agree that OSU needs to be more aggressive in enforcing the student conduct code.

Thomas Kraemer, Corvallis

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "Letter: OSU should step up enforcement of its own student conduct code," Gazette-Times, posted Dec. 15, 2011)

Also, see the following links: