OSU interim president aims to rebuild trust following Alexander controversy

Oregon State University has had an interim president for nearly two months, and Becky Johnson said her transition into the role has gone well.

Posted: Jun 24, 2021 11:58 AM

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Oregon State University has had an interim president for nearly two months, and Becky Johnson said her transition into the role has gone well. Johnson took over the reins in May following the controversial departure of former president F. King Alexander.

“The biggest challenge is the fall term and bringing people back to campus,” Johnson said. “We want people to feel safe and we want them to have the kind of experience that that they were expecting when they enrolled at Oregon State University.”

Johnson started as an assistant professor in the early 1980s but most recently moved from Bend where she was vice president of OSU-Cascades. At OSU-Cascades, she oversaw a period of growth where the school transitioned to a four-year university and tripled enrollment to nearly 1,400 students.

RELATED: OSU BOARD OFFICIALLY NAMES REBECCA JOHNSON INTERIM PRESIDENT

She’s capping off a long career in academia with another big challenge as she helps prepare the main OSU campus for in-person learning this fall.

While Johnson tries to navigate this new territory of returning to the classroom, she’s also blazing her own trail in other ways. She’s the first woman to ever hold the title of OSU president.

“It doesn't matter that it was me, but it's nice that we finally have broken that barrier,” Johnson said. “Hopefully, it won't even be a thing in 10 or 15 years from now. It won't be something that people pay attention to because we will have had women presidents.”

She said she hopes her appointment as president creates a ripple effect that brings more women into leadership positions.

Johnson took over at time of controversy for OSU. Former president F. King Alexander resigned amid allegations he mishandled Title IX complaints while at Lousiana State University.

RELATED: OSU BOARD ACCEPTS ALEXANDER'S RESIGNATION

“I think there does need to be more trust here at OSU after what we went through last spring, and it can be difficult,” Johnson said.

Post-pandemic, she’s planning a large outreach campaign to build back that lost trust.

“I’m hoping once everybody comes back to campus this fall, I can get out to every college and talk to faculty, talk to the students, have them get to know me again and get to know what their concerns are,” Johnson said.

Johnson will be the interim president for about a year and said she does not plan on applying to become the permanent president.

“This is really about how can I make this job be so attractive for the next person that we will get an incredible leader to come,” Johnson said.

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