An email sent by Oregon State University President, Edward Ray, on Oct. 23 announced that the Oregon State Police had chosen to terminate their contract with OSU—sparking both negative and positive reactions among students.
The decision came shortly after fourth-year OSU student Genesis Hansen’s arrest on Oct. 13 by OSP officer Kelly Katsikis, with some perceiving the encounter an exhibit of racial bias and excessive force by police.
Ray addressed the situation via email on Oct. 18, saying that OSU may reconsider their contract with OSP.
“We will continue to emphasize the need for law enforcement authorities to de-escalate situations involving OSU students. Let me be clear, this matter is sufficiently troublesome that unless its resolution is satisfactory to OSU, we will reassess the value of continuing a campus law enforcement service agreement with Oregon State Police,” Ray said in his email.
OSP’s decision to terminate the contract spurred various reactions among students, with active discussions being held on the social media sites Reddit and Facebook.
Business administration major and second-year OSU student, Connor Smith, posted on Reddit— after viewing police body camera footage of Hansen’s arrest—that he thought the case was “mishandled” and OSP was pulling their troopers after the way OSU treated them.
“I felt that OSP felt OSU didn’t have their back,” Smith said. “If you’re doing any sort of contract, be it business, personal or safety, you want the person you’re in contract with to have your back.”
Smith said he is concerned public safety will be negatively impacted after OSP leaves.
“I mean, last year we had like what, two bomb threats? One was in the library and one was somewhere else. Schools are getting shot up and places are getting shot up,” Smith said. “I feel like it’s good to have a good state-run police force on campus. I think it’s a great asset and the fact that it won’t be here anymore is sad.”
He said the absence of the state-run police force will endanger a lot of students as problems like sexual assault on and off college campuses are widespread. Smith thinks it’s important to have a dedicated law enforcement agency to tackle such issues.
Cheyenne Jones, a mathematics major and third-year student at OSU, said she thought ending the contract was a smart move; it was a good choice for both sides to be able to re-evaluate the situation, especially in light of how many of these sorts of incidents have occurred recently.
She supported OSU in its decision to undergo investigations in the case of Genesis Hansen’s arrest.
“I think that it’s in OSU’s better goal to have the back of the student because that’s who they’re here for. They’re not here for the police, they’re here for the students, and to make the students feel safe,” Jones said. “And they have done that time and time again, including when ICE was threatening to be here [at OSU].”
Jones does not worry for public safety because OSU will still have continued support from police. She said she does however understand that some people may be wary about working with public safety just because of Hansen’s arrest.
There are currently 12 OSP officers working at OSU. This number includes one lieutenant, one sergeant and ten troopers. OSP helps maintain campus safety through traffic enforcement, peace enforcement, crime prevention and investigative services.
They also provide security for OSU’s nuclear reactor. One OSP officer is available at all times to provide an immediate armed response to all alarms. During off-duty hours, officers perform routine surveillance and report any abnormalities.
OSP Public Information Officer, Timothy Fox, said OSP does not contract with any other public university in the state of Oregon. He said that proactive policing generally
deters criminal behavior.
Steve Clark, vice president for University Relations and Marketing, said public safety is a top priority at OSU and is achieved through both campus culture and commitment.
“Public safety at OSU is provided through a variety of programs and agencies, including the Oregon State Police, OSU’s own 36-person Department of Public Safety, the Corvallis Fire Department, a community policing grant and mutual aid agreements with the Corvallis Police Department, the OSU Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards, the Survivor Advocacy and Resource Center, University Housing and Dining Services staff, and a variety of education, prevention and Student Affairs initiatives,” Clark said via email.
Clark reassured that OSU will continue to remain one of the country’s safest universities after their contract with OSP ends.
“We will continue to assure that our Corvallis campus is among the nation’s safest campuses. Safety is enhanced by all community members who are observant, and when they ‘see something, they say something,’” Clark said.
As for future safety concerning the nuclear reactor on campus, Clark said the future law enforcement involved with OSU will be fully equipped to deal with safety.
“OSP will remain on campus through June 30, 2020, and after that date, we anticipate that the licensed law enforcement partner we seek to work will be fully trained according to federal nuclear public safety requirements,” Clark said via email.
OSP has worked with OSU since the mid-1980s and will continue to fully serve until June 30, 2020.