BEND, Ore. - The location of OSU-Cascades west Bend campus is moving forward. Oregon State University President Ed Ray made the comments in his State of the University address at the Tower Theatre Wednesday night.
"We are committed to do our best to mitigate adverse impacts, particularly in the near-campus neighborhood," Ray said.
He added if problems arise, the university will work with the parties involved to resolve the issue.
"If we meet bottlenecks to respond to responsible expansion, we will slow down the growth of campus enrollment," Ray said.
Later, in a sit down Q&A, there was a candid moment where he talked again about neighbors' concerns over the Westside campus.
"It's just odd to me that when people anticipate what might happen as a campus expands, they almost act like these are aliens from Mars," Ray said.
He went on to say that 99.9 percent of students are here to learn and grow. But it's the 1/10 of 1 percent that cause problems.
"They are not knuckleheads because they are students," Ray said. "They are knuckleheads who happen to be students. Shame on us if we don't deal with them effectively, through dispensary processes -- and we will."
Another question from the audience: "Could OSU-Cascades relocate to the north side of Bend?' (A reference to the city's mostly-empty Juniper Ridge site.)
"For the sake of consistency," Ray said, "I was asked by a reporter on the way in here tonight, and the simple answer is no."
In fact, Ray referred to his Big Apple roots when NewsChannel 21 asked about the Truth in Site group's vow to raise $50,000 and place legal obstacles in OSU-Cascades' path to build at the site it's bought.
"I grew up in New York City," he said. "So one of the things I tell people is that when somebody gets in my face, I get homesick. ... The notion that someone is going to intimidate me is a non-starter."
Ray said later during his address that he wants to see a similar community coalition as the one that began two years ago in Corvallis to address campus concerns.
"Just think of the success we could have enjoyed by collaborating more fully much earlier in our history in Corvallis," Ray said. "Bend deserves such success."
Here's more of what Ray told the audience, as provided in prepared remarks from OSU-Cascades:
Ray pledged to launch a new Collaboration Central Oregon initiative through which OSU-Cascades will work with community, public and private partners to identify and achieve educational, cultural and economic outcomes, and address campus growth concerns.
The OSU president praised the Bend community for its long-term vision in bringing higher education to Central Oregon and for its support in the evolution of OSU-Cascades to a four-year campus.
In the past two years, Gov. John Kitzhaber and the Oregon Legislature have provided key funding, he said, and more than $4.6 million in private donations has been raised to help expand the campus.
Ray addressed the concerns of some Bend residents about the growth of OSU-Cascades, emphasizing that the proposed campus site will gradually grow to an enrollment of 3,000 to 5,000 students by 2025 – but not any larger.
"At no point will there be more than 3,000 to 5,000 students on the planned 56-acre campus," Ray said. "We will not let the campus grow any faster than we are able to address and accommodate important matters such as student housing, traffic, quality of life, sustainability and land use.
"We are committed to do our best to mitigate adverse impacts – particularly in the near-campus neighborhoods," Ray added. "If we meet bottlenecks to responsible expansion, we will slow down the growth of campus enrollment."
(But speaking to NewsChannel 21's Matt McDonald live before his address at the Tower Theatre, Ray also made clear that there are no plans to reconsider where the campus will be located, despite a new group's efforts to derail those plans.)
Ray described the proposed Collaboration Central Oregon initiative as a process through which the university, neighbors, community and business leaders, and public and private partners can identify and agree on important outcomes that need to be achieved – and outline a road map to reach those goals and milestones.
"Frankly, we launched such a process 2 1/2 years ago in Corvallis – almost 143 years after OSU was founded," Ray said. "Just think of the success we all could have enjoyed by collaborating more fully much earlier in our history in Corvallis. Bend deserves such success."
Ray said the success of OSU-Cascades is the result of such collaboration, and he pointed to a host of partners including the city of Bend, Deschutes County, Central Oregon Community College, Bend Park and Recreation District, Central Oregon employers and citizens, and campus neighbors.
Meanwhile, Ray said, the state of the university is excellent. He pointed to The Campaign for OSU, which successfully raised more than $1 billion and far exceeded its original goal of $625 million. OSU-Cascades has benefited from the campaign, gaining:
- The Tykeson Endowed Faculty Scholar for Energy Systems Engineering – the first endowed chair for OSU Cascades;
- A new hospitality program that will be the only four-year hospitality degree program in the state;
- Numerous targeted scholarships that will be critical to attracting a diverse student body.
Ray also announced that OSU's College of Business is now offering a hybrid MBA degree program, combining online classes from Corvallis with two class sessions each term in Bend.
The OSU president, who recently completed his 10th year on the job, shared some highlights of university success over the past decade.
Oregon State's overall enrollment has increased by 53 percent and now stands at more than 29,000 students, including the nearly 1,000 at OSU Cascades.
The average high school grade point average of entering freshmen at OSU is 3.57, and 21 percent of the enrollment is comprised of U.S. minority students – an increase of 50 percent.
Research funding has increased by almost 70 percent to a total of $263 million last year – totaling more than all other Oregon University System institutions combined.
Ray cited a number of examples of how the university is making a difference, including OSU Extension staff members in Central Oregon who have reached more than 10,000 youths and their families through the Oregon Family Nutrition Program; the creation of the OSU Advantage for linking businesses in Oregon with OSU researchers and students; a new effort in forestry to utilize wood in construction of taller, environmentally friendly buildings; and the selection of OSU and partners in Alaska and Hawaii to operate one of six national sites for unmanned aircraft systems.
"These initiatives are not by accident," Ray noted. "They are the result of hard work, strategic planning and unrelenting focus in key signature areas where Oregon State University excels."