Bend Group Sees Conspiracies in OSU Cascade Expansion

oregonstatecampusConstruction of a new four-year university has begun at OSU’s new Cascades campus in Bend. The OSU satellite school, a project 30 years in the making, had been postponed for one year by a group of local citizens opposed to the new campus.

Truth in Site comprises 800 locals campaigning against OSU’s urban expansion in Bend, Oregon’s largest city without a four-year university. Despite the fact that OSU received over $1 billion in funds, TIS is convinced that Oregonians do not support the expansion of OSU-Cascades. However, all TIS has accomplished to date is delaying construction at OSU-C.

The Bend City Council, City of Bend Planning Staff, and Land Use Board of Appeals have all rejected appeals from TIS, while governors and lawmakers in Oregon have supported the campus expansion for decades. On the same week that construction began, TIS appealed to the state’s Supreme Court. OSU has continued building, despite the appeal.

OSU-C is building a 10-acre plot off Southwest Century Drive. Currently, the campus consists of just one building, but the new construction plan includes at least three structures, including a three-story academic building, residence hall and dining complex, a coffee shop, and student stores.

OSU is considering additional construction on 46 acres of adjacent land. Until recently, only upperclassmen could attend OSU-C, but this fall the school will allow enrollment for freshmen, and when construction is complete nearly 2,000 students will be able to attend. OSU officials expect further expansion of the campus to eventually allow 3,000 to 5,000 students by 2025.

Truth in Site’s official website and Facebook page both present several arguments against construction of the new campus. TIS’ biggest concern appears to be that an increase in enrollment will cause traffic congestion and limit parking spaces for Bend citizens. OSU, however, has mediated this issue with public transportation, promising a donation of $300,000 to Bend’s city bus system, Cascades East Transit.

TIS stands equally against any construction executed on the neighboring land, upon which exists a pumice mine and, according to TIS, a “toxic landfill.” According to all statements given by OSU regarding a possible purchase of this land, the pumice mine is safe to build on. No toxic landfill exists anywhere in the area, though a small scrapyard composed of construction rubbish from an old building site can be found on the adjacent plot. Perhaps, in this pile of old rubble, TIS found inspiration for its claim of a toxic dump, even if no actual toxic substance could be found there.

TIS goes on to claim that, during initial planning, OSU rejected offers for other land sites. OSU representatives say these offers were fabricated by TIS, who calls those who side with OSU “wimpy,” stating that the expansion is a dangerous conspiracy. “You will be shocked by the facts that we have uncovered that OSU-C doesn’t want you to know,” TIS wrote to their supporters.

The main point TIS appears to ignore is the positive impact that OSU-C’s expansion will have on education in both Bend and Oregon as a whole. Developing a new four-year university augments the state’s 40-40-20 plan for improved state-funded education, and could bring important educational, economic, and cultural benefits to the region, adding to the quality of life of all of Bend’s citizens.

Whether or not Bend taxpayers, Truth in Site, or OSU officials agree on the matter of OSU-C, the expansion of OSU’s new satellite school is ultimately about ensuring further educational opportunities for young people in Central Oregon.

By Kiki Genoa