Oregon State University President Ed Ray’s message to the OSU community on the status of pitcher Luke Heimlich and his decision to step away from Beavers Baseball and not participate in the NCAA College World Series:
To the Oregon State University community,
I am writing regarding recent media coverage of events involving a member of the Oregon State baseball team Luke Heimlich.
The tragedy of sexual assault in our society is both horrific and heartbreaking. I have heard from many individuals who personally – or through loved ones – have experienced the distress of sexual assault. There is no closure. Survivors live with that horror the rest of their lives, but hopefully they can heal and recover. This story has triggered a great deal of sorrow and pain in other victims of sexual assault and among their loved ones. In the midst of all of this, my heart goes out to the young girl in this matter, who was the victim of wrongdoing.
I have taken time this week to think through these complex issues and to give Luke the time and space he needed to determine how he wished to proceed. I believe he made the right initial decision for himself and for the team last Friday when he recused himself from pitching for the team in the NCAA Super Regional.
Yesterday, Luke decided that he would no longer represent the university this year as a member of the baseball team. As such, he will not participate in the NCAA College World Series nor travel with the OSU baseball team to Omaha. I concur with this decision as to do otherwise would certainly serve as a disruption and distraction to the team due to the significant public scrutiny that this matter has attracted. As well, I am mindful of the need for providing safety for all concerned that otherwise might be at risk during times of heightened emotions.
If Luke wishes to do so, I support him continuing his education at Oregon State and rejoining the baseball team next season.
At Oregon State University, we are in the business of transforming lives and creating opportunity for each student. I have always believed that education is a path to a more meaningful, responsible and productive life for everyone. I believe that every individual should have the opportunity to get an education. Therefore, I have long supported the guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Education to allow individuals to register for college admission without revealing a prior criminal record, except in specific circumstances.
The position that OSU has taken on criminal records in regards to admissions is consistent with the U.S. Department of Education Fair Chance Higher Education Pledge signed by universities and organizations nationally, such as Columbia University, Cornell University, New York University, the University of California System, the University of Washington, Google, Starbucks, Xerox and many more. In September 2016 alone, there were 61 higher education signatories to this pledge representing 172 individual campuses serving more than 1.8 million students. Certainly, individual universities have their own specific registration requirements in troublesome cases where public safety considerations may be involved. Clearly, OSU is not an outlier in its admissions policies.
For purposes of employment or volunteer work with OSU, background checks are required for anyone – including students – seeking critical or security-sensitive positions – such as working with minors. Separately, OSU also receives reports through the Oregon State Police (OSP) in Salem of registered sex offenders (RSOs) who attend our university. Upon being notified by OSP, Oregon State’s departments of Human Resources, Student Affairs and Public Safety share that information on a need-to-know basis with those OSU managers who meet with the student and otherwise take actions to mitigate any community risks that might result from an RSO attending the university. For example, RSOs cannot live in OSU residence halls on campus, and are prohibited from working with or having unsupervised contact with juveniles. We also require students with criminal backgrounds to reveal this history if it involves crimes that would limit where a student would be allowed to study such as within a College of Education school counseling degree or teacher preparation programs. Students in these kinds of programs are specifically background checked by other public agencies before having certain types of access with minors off campus.
While at OSU, Luke has been in good academic standing, his participation as a student-athlete has been positive, and his presence on the team has been in compliance with existing OSU policies.
Moving forward, I will discuss with university colleagues a review of our policies. This review should consider the possibility that some offenses and situations are so serious that we should no longer let such a student represent the university in athletic competition and other high-profile activities sponsored by the university by virtue of their offense. Such individuals could still enroll as a student in the university with appropriate risk mitigation. Any potential change in existing admission criteria will be implemented for students entering the university beginning in fall 2018.
The safety and security of OSU’s students will always be our paramount concern, and we will continue to review our policies to ensure that they are aligned with the best interests of the OSU community.