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SOU president starts monthly video message series

Students Kayla Dumore, left, and Cameron Kolpak meet with Southern Oregon University's new president Rick Bailey. file photo
Rick Bailey talked about the future of COVID-19 response and ‘safe spaces’ for free speech

Southern Oregon University’s new president Rick Bailey released a short online video message updating the campus community on some of the issues he has been focusing on over the past month.

The video, found on SOU’s YouTube channel, is only the second one since Bailey introduced himself to the campus community Jan. 15 and promises to be one of many monthly updates straight from the school’s leader.

“Thank you for tuning in,” Bailey told listeners.

He started by talking about the university’s response to the pandemic amid a drop in coronavirus cases. Bailey said the same “science and common sense” that SOU used in March 2020 at the pandemic’s beginning will be the same logic for a move to “an endemic.” A committee has been formed to “look at options about how we’re going to do that,” he said. The group will work with the state and local health departments to guide its decision-making.

Bailey also talked about “safe spaces” — a term that’s become common in higher education when it comes to freedom of speech. Although he did not allude to specific instances when SOU might or might not have been a “safe space” in the past.

“That’s incredibly important for student success and what we owe our students is a diversity of ideas,” Bailey said. “Is there a limit to that? Yes. Let me be very clear — We don’t tolerate hate. We don’t tolerate prejudice. We don’t tolerate intolerance. But we should welcome a variety of options.”

He also brought up partnerships and collaborations.

“In my experience, almost every good thing that I can point to as a success that I have had as a president in the past happened because we partnered or collaborated with someone else — someone outside the institution,” Bailey said. “One of the things I think about is, who can we partner with to benefit SOU?”

He asked the campus community to think about how existing partnerships can be strengthened and what new ones can be made.

Bailey closed by talking about Black History Month and one of his favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

“I am not a scholar of Dr. King’s work, but I think that arch doesn’t bend toward justice organically,” he said. “It bends toward justice when people like Dr. King and so many others actually put their shoulders into that arch and moved it.”

In an email to the Mail Tribune, Bailey talked about why he started the monthly video message series.

“I wanted to find a way to share information with all of Southern Oregon University's stakeholders ... so that we can cultivate a free flow of ideas,“ he wrote. ”The goal is for it not to just be a one-way transmission, but the start of a productive conversation. I can tell you that so far, the feedback has been fantastic.“

That feedback includes “outstanding” ideas on new partnerships, as Bailey requested in the video message that people provide him.

In terms of leadership style, the new SOU president hopes the videos “show a sincere commitment to moving forward as a team in a positive, collaborative way.”

Bailey was president of Northern New Mexico University from 2016-21 before the SOU Board of Trustees selected him in November to succeed Linda Schott.

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.