Breaking Down Fall Term’s Top News Stories
Three stories stood out this term because of their impact on the policy and direction of UO.
A sexual assault investigation of a former UO basketball player prompted a U.S. senator to write a letter investigating the school’s policies. Students interrupting a speech led to a national conversation about free speech. And UO announced the design and leader of the Knight science campus. We ranked these the top three stories of the term because of the attention they brought to the school, including Sports Illustrated and the New York Times. But The Emerald played a role in breaking and covering these stories. We’ve summed them up here, but will also continue to cover them when next term begins.
Designing the Knight Campus
The plans for the University of Oregon’s new Knight Campus for Accelerated Scientific Impact were revealed to the public on Oct. 27.
Construction on the new campus begins in 2018, and it is expected to open in 2020. The campus is expected to attract acclaimed faculty to the university and create undergraduate and graduate research opportunities.
The UO received a $500 million donation from Phil and Penny Knight in October 2016, as well as $50 million in state bonds to fund the project.
On Nov. 20, UO assigned Robert Guldberg, a Georgia Tech professor and leader in scientific research, to be the executive director of the new school. Guldberg will start in September 2018.
“One of my primary interests has been trying to deal with the challenge of taking the exciting discovery of what’s in the labs, and making sure it’s getting out into the real world. If we don’t do that, in a way, that research doesn’t really have an impact,” Guldberg said in an interview with the Emerald.
For the past nine months, the architects created designs for the cutting-edge facility, which connects two glass towers across Franklin Boulevard with a transparent sky bridge.
In January, UO hired Portland-based Bora Architects and New York-based Ennead Architects to design the new campus. The university sent them across the country along with faculty and researchers to gain inspiration from other leading university designs.
“The building wraps in around itself. It’s highly transparent and has double height with mezzanines that brings everyone much closer together,” said architect John O’Toole of Bora Architects.
According to Patrick Phillips, the acting executive director of the Knight campus, an entire wing of the building will be dedicated to graduate internship building and undergraduate research. The goal is to expedite research to impact not only the local community, but the world.
The university purchased a plot of land across the river from the main site of the Knight campus for $3.2 million too, for an estimated 150,000-square-foot building.
Bigby-Williams Sexual Assault Investigation
Echoes of the national dialogue regarding sexual assault can be heard at UO. The ongoing story regarding the Kavell Bigby-Williams sexual assault investigation caused Oregon democratic Senator Ron Wyden to raise concerns regarding the school’s handling of the case.
The alleged sexual assault took place on Sept. 17, 2016, near Gillette College in Wyoming, where Bigby-Williams attended before transferring to UO in fall 2016. After receiving a complaint from the alleged victim’s friend that said she was upset, acting out of character and had large bruises on her neck, Northern Wyoming Community College District Police Department opened an investigation into the incident on Sept. 19.
Despite transferring to UO, the case followed Bigby-Williams, and police in Gillette asked UOPD to conduct a follow-up interview on the incident. On June 19, two days before an Emerald story revealed that he played the entire season while under investigation, Bigby-Williams announced his transfer to Louisiana State University.
Following the story, Bigby-Williams made a statement to Gillette police, contending that the sex was consensual, and he did not know she was sick or drunk. Gillette Police closed their investigation into the alleged sexual assault in July after the county attorney declined to press charges, citing “the victim’s wishes and some of the circumstances surrounding the case facts.”
In late October, Sports Illustrated published a piece by former Emerald sports editor Kenny Jacoby, who broke the news of the initial investigation, calling into question the UO’s handling of the investigation. On Nov. 6, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden raised five questions regarding the university’s procedures and handling of the case in a letter. Wyden asked UO President Michael Schill to inform him of the actions taken during the investigation, which revealed the potential mishandling of the investigation.
“If these reports are accurate, they raise major questions about the university’s commitment to creating and maintaining a safe campus environment,” Wyden wrote.
One week later, Schill responded to Wyden’s letter, saying the university chose not to pursue a conduct investigation against Bigby-Williams out of respect of the survivor’s wishes and that the school followed proper protocol. Schill said that the UO’s procedures regarding sexual misconduct are “guidelines” for how the school responds to reports of said behavior, but they are not strict policies.
Schill invited Wyden to a discussion with him, general counsel Kevin Reed and the university’s Title IX team led by Darci Heroy. The next day, Wyden accepted Schill’s invitation.
“I love my alma mater and want to get this fixed as soon as possible — a goal that of course means I would meet with President Schill,” Wyden said.
A meeting between Wyden and Schill is being arranged, according to UO spokesman Tobin Klinger.
Students Protest Schill’s Speech
At Schill’s “State of the University” speech on Oct. 6, a group of about 45 protesters overtook the stage to voice a wide range of grievances with the UO and its administration.
On Oct. 30, at least 13 of the students were charged by UO administration with student conduct code violations for their alleged actions during the protest.
This story has drawn national attention and sparked controversy on campus for the ramifications it may have on free speech and protest.
Here is a timeline of the events:
Oct. 6, 2017: Hundreds are in attendance for Schill’s “State of the University” speech. Protesters from the UO Student Collective take the stage just minutes into the introduction. Five minutes later, administration announces the speech is suspended. Hundreds of attendees leave the EMU Ballroom while protesters chant and yell their grievances with the UO administration. A few hours later, the group of protesters releases a list of 22 demands for UO administration. Administration releases a video of the speech in a campus-wide email that afternoon.
Oct. 23, 2017: Schill releases an opinion piece in the New York Times titled “A Misguided Student Crusade Against ‘Fascism,’” in which he discusses his issues with the protest.
Oct. 30, 2017: Thirteen students are charged with two violations of the UO student conduct code: “disruption of university” and “failure to comply.” Katy Larkin, the UO associate director of investigations, notifies students in an email of their alleged participation in the protest. The students are given two options to resolve the charges: accept responsibility and meet with administration to discuss their concerns — resulting in no sanctions — or contest the charges and have an administrative conference with a “decision-maker” to determine if they were responsible for the charges in question.
Nov. 2, 2017: The UOSC meets to discuss what actions they would take in response to the charges and what option they will choose. Members decide to wait until Monday to inform UO administration of their decision.
Nov. 3, 2017: The Emerald reports that one of the 13 students charged was not at the protest. Lola Loustaunau, a graduate student from Argentina, said she is not a member of the UOSC and was at home on a Skype call with a friend at the time of the protest. The friend confirmed that they were on a Skype call at that time and Loustaunau also provided the Emerald with screenshots of her computer with timestamps of the call.
Nov. 6, 2017: A letter signed by UO Senate President Chris Sinclair and three other leaders of prominent UO groups is released in response to the student conduct code charges. The letter asks Schill to “cease the punitive measures against students” and participate in a dialogue with them.
The letter lists seven problems with the email from Larkin that had informed the students of the conduct code violation charges. The UOSC also announces that they will express their concerns with this process at the Nov. 15, UO senate meeting.
Nov. 9, 2017: Charlie Landeros, a vocal member of the UOSC, has the first administrative conference of the students charged for involvement in the Schill speech protest.
Nov. 12, 2017: Landeros releases a statement via Facebook, criticizing the process UO took when charging the protestors. In the statement, Landeros asks for some of the same rights criminal defendants have during a trial.
Nov. 13, 2017: Landeros is found responsible for the first charge, “disruption of university,” and presented with two sanctions by UO: a letter of reprimand and a requirement that they write an essay explaining what they did wrong and what they learned. Landeros will appeal the decision.
Nov. 14, 2017: The UOSC releases a statement via Facebook announcing they will present a resolution to the UO Senate asking for their support in getting the conduct code charges dropped.
Nov. 15, 2017: Members of the UOSC present a resolution to the UO Senate and speak about their issues with the UO and the student conduct code charges.
Nov. 20, 2017: Loustaunau attends her administrative conference with Larkin where she presents a slideshow of evidence showing she did not attend the protest. Loustaunau was told her indication of “going” on a Facebook event was a factor in the decision to charge her as well as photos and videos gathered from the event. Loustaunau is told by Larkin that the charges against her will be dropped.
Nov. 29, 2017: The UO senate splits the resolution presented by the UOSC into two parts and approves the first section that asked the senate to support the UOSC members who were charged with the violations. The second part proposes the UO senate urge the UO administration to deny hate groups and white supremacists a platform on campus and has not yet been voted on.
Nov. 29, 2017: The Emerald reports that some members of the UOSC were denied representation for dealing with the student conduct code charges from the UO Office of Student Advocacy because it was “a conflict of interest.”
What’s Next: The majority of students charged with conduct code violations that chose option two are still waiting to have their administrative conferences to determine if they were responsible for committing the violations. Landeros is attempting to appeal the sanctions they received.