In a surprise move just months after the college began grappling with campus safety options, the new police chief hired by Oregon State University (OSU) to launch a private police force is gone.
An email sent to the OSU community by President F. King Alexander on Aug. 13 revealed that Edgar Rodriguez has resigned from the associate vice president for public safety and chief of police positions at the university, effective Aug. 21.
The idea of a campus force has been met with concern, and some have argued that a campus police department is unnecessary and potentially dangerous for students, particularly students of color. Steve Clark, vice president of university relations and marketing at OSU, told The Advocate that Rodriguez is resigning due to personal reasons.
Clark said, “We are appreciative of his contributions since joining the university this spring.”
He continued, “A national search to fill this position will be launched immediately. In the meantime, Paul Odenthal, senior associate vice president for administration, will lead the OSU Department of Public Safety. The selection of OSU’s next police chief will be aided by a university search committee and decided by Mike Green, vice president of finance and administration.”
Rodriguez did not respond to a request for comment.
Disarm OSU, an extension of Oregon State’s Young Democratic Socialists club, has been working for the past few months to convince OSU administration to defund and disarm its police force. Their main concerns include OSU’s extended contract with Oregon State Police, the safety of marginalized communities on campus, the negative outcomes of having armed officers on campus, and the cost of a private police force.
The group claimed, “The Disarm OSU campaign team had worked hard to be included in several meetings with Edgar Rodriguez and were beginning to forge a working relationship with him, although there has been a consistent lack of transparency and lack of willingness on OSU administration’s behalf to properly communicate with concerned community members. With the shift from Edgar Rodriguez, our team expects to see the few commitments made by OSU carried forward via interim chief, Paul Odenthal.”
Disarm OSU accused the university of failing to follow through with multiple commitments, saying they are concerned with how these will be taken care of, given OSU’s alleged lack of transparency and Rodriguez’s decision to resign. The commitments made by the university that they are concerned about are as follows.
- To publicly respond to Disarm OSU’s demands on Aug. 14 or 15 and that this response would include concrete actions by the university. The group claims that as of Aug. 17, they had not received a response from OSU or any commitments to change.
- To involve at least one member of the #WeCanDoTheWork or #DisarmOSU campaigns at administration discussions about the university response to their demands. Disarm OSU claims that Odenthal made a commitment to include a member of one of their campaign team members at these talks, but the university’s vice president and chief diversity officer, Charlene Alexander, has since denied them this opportunity.
- To make information available and accessible as soon as possible on public forums.
- To communicate with concerned community members about “the makeup of the CORE committee, having the head of public safety and chief of police seek Disarm OSU’s input on expanding/elaborating the ‘Transition Plan’ document, and post this document in an easily accessible place on the OSU website.” The group claims they have not been able to find this Transition Plan document on the website to date. “If OSU hasn’t publicly posted this document yet, they blatantly lie about intending to do so, and if they have, it is inaccessible even to those who are actively looking for it, meaning this crucial information isn’t reaching the community,” they claimed.
The group also said the university has made a commitment to release budget information for the new police force publicly by Aug. 30. They are waiting to see if OSU follows through with this.
Rodriguez’s reasons for resigning continue to be unclear to the public, but Clark and university administration seem to be confident as they begin a new search to fill the position. Some community members continue to worry about OSU’s plans for public safety, and now are concerned with how a new employee will affect the course of these plans.
By Cara Nixon