Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Oregon State Administrator Believes that she's above the law

Hello all,

I have been invited to guest blog here by Zak Johnson for this one blog post, and I appreciate his faith and invitation enormously.

As many of you know, Jeff Maxwell is a veteran Marine who was recently arrested at Western for legally carrying a firearm on campus. While the charges were dropped, his campus punishment was not. To boot, it seems that Jeff has since lost his GI Benefits for not breaking the law. Jeff then applied to Oregon State University where he was accepted. Oregon State later rescinded his acceptance.

Now I found out about this from the following press release made by the Oregon War Veterans Assoication here. At the time, I was unable to confirm anywhere else that this press release was true.

However, I'm both an alumni and a former administrator/employee at Oregon State and the Oregon University System. So I know a little about navigating the administration on campus. Because of that, I called and tried to speak to Michelle Sandlin, the Director of Admissions. At the time, she was not in, so I was connected to the Assistant Director of Admissions (whose name is Alicia Ortega). Sidenote: OSU's directory has her listed as Associate Director, while various other publications and reports have her listed as Assistant Director or Senior Assistant Director. So I'm not sure which is truly the correct title. I will use OSU's from this point forward.

I'll finally get to my point: The Associate Director told me two important things. First, she claimed that the acceptance was rescinded due to the fact that Maxwell had made a mistake on his application in that he had not listed Western as a previous place of schooling. While this sounds like political air-cover to me, it is certainly plausible, and OSU is certainly within the letter of its policy on that issue.

The other far more interesting thing that the Associate Director told me is that she personally believes that it is O.K. for university administrators to violate a students' civil liberties in order to ensure their safety. I have to admit, it didn't surprise me that she believed that, but it almost knocked me over that she was willing to actually say it to an Alumni and former employee of the university system.

So there you go! A senior administrator partially responsible for deciding who is allowed to attend a major public university personally believes that she should be above the Constitution (state or federal) in order to ensure students' safety. I don't know what the readers of this blog think, but in my mind that is exactly the logic that lead to the imprisonment of some 110,000 Japanese-American citizens in World War II. I can't say I'm a fan of the idea.

On the 21st of April, I met with Larry Roper (Vice Provost for Student Affairs). While he told me that he certainly disagreed with that view, I have still not heard what has actually been done to address the situation at Oregon State. You may, of course, make your own judgements.

I'm not usually a politically partisan person. I like to keep a low profile. But in this case, I seem to have stepped in something unpleasant. I know that I will be making former colleagues at OSU unhappy, and may even be making powerful enemies. I certainly hope that not to be the case, but I felt it important to air this issue, because I don't believe that administrators should be able to enforce their own views on students or faculty to a degree where they believe that can act outside of the law, even when they feel the cause is just (where have we heard that recently?).

It is truly shocking that OSU is so blatantly willing to circumvent civil liberties in search of illusory safety. I hope that readers here will express themselves to congress critters and OSU administrators alike.


Zak Johnson said...

Thanks, Jason. Concerned readers should be sure to contact their Oregon state legislators about this latest bureaucratic power grab. This is exactly why state gun laws--as well as "rules"--need to be decided exclusively by the elected officials.

The Different Drummer said...

Thanks for letting us know about this, Jason. It's really unfortunate that this person has not educated herself about campus safety even though she is willing to violate the law to protect it. If she had she'd realize she's doing the complete opposite by denying Jeff his application.
I imagine Jeff really doesn't want all this attention, but he's done a great job of exposing the animosity many in high places at Oregon's universities feel toward gun owners and the laws that protect them.
It's up to us to make sure no one else is punished for being a responsible, law abiding citizen. I look forward to updates on his situation and what we can do to help!