Art Robinson in campaign TV ad last year
A group of prominent Oregon State University alumni are rallying behind a professor and three doctoral students whose father, a former Republican congressional candidate, believes they are suffering political payback, threatening their academic careers.
Art Robinson, who unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio for Oregon’s 4th District seat last fall, has alleged that Oregon State administration and faculty members in the nuclear physics program began threatening to terminate his son Joshua Robinson just two days after the Nov. 2 election.
Robinson said he was warned by OSU Nuclear Physics Professor Jack Higginbotham that faculty administrators at the university were “working to make certain that Joshua, his sister Bethany and, if possible, his brother Matthew never receive Ph.D. degrees in nuclear engineering from OSU, regardless of their examination, academic and research performance.”
Now, a group that includes former OSU class officers, former alumni association officers, alumni with engineering degrees and major alumni donors has pledged support for the Robinsons and Higginbotham.
Art Robinson, an accomplished chemical scientist who homeschooled his six children after his wife died in 1988, says the university is trying to strip Higginbotham of his faculty position and his research grants.
The leadership of the OSU alumni support group includes Kenneth W. Noteboom, William H. Rieckmann, Michal Rieckmann, Jim Schaeffer, Jane S. Schaeffer and Dave Socolofsky.
The group has offered OSU a scholarship and an equipment fund to pay for the Robinson students’ Ph.D. work. They also have offered to pay any significant legal fees incurred “should the OSU administration pursue a logical, timely, efficient, and least costly method of resolving the issues with minimum harm to the students’ education, Professor Higginbotham, and the reputation of the university.”
Art Robinson said, however, that the offers have been ignored by the president of OSU, Edward Ray, and faculty administrators.
As WND reported, Joshua Robinson claims he was barred from access to a four-year-old Ph.D. project that has earned praise from prominent scientists and an award.
The Corvallis-based university has denied the charge and previously issued two statements denying Art Robinson’s claims.
OSU rally Wednesday
Meanwhile, Linn County Republicans are organizing a rally Wednesday at the Oregon State University Memorial Union Quad beginning at 2:30 p.m. in support of the three Robinson students and Higginbotham.
Art Robinson is scheduled to speak at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday at the Linn County Republican Women’s meeting at Pop’s Branding Iron restaurant in Albany, Ore.
Robinson said OSU President Ray “still refuses to speak with the Robinson students or with me, even though he has been free with his criticism of us behind our backs.”
“Will President Ray have the courage to attend this rally and speak for himself? I have challenged him to debate the matter on the Quad on Wednesday at 3 p.m.,” Art Robinson said.
Joshua Robinson’s sister, Bethany, a four-year Ph.D. student with a 3.89 grade-point average, says she has been told her thesis work will be terminated. In addition, Art Robinson says his son Matthew, who has a 3.91 grade-point average, also could lose his graduate work.
Higginbotham, who also is president of the OSU Faculty Senate and director of the Oregon NASA Space Science Consortium, has not made any public statements.
Robinson previously said Higginbotham’s “career now potentially in ruins, he is fighting back in hopes of saving himself and the positions of the students and staff who depend upon him at OSU and who may also lose their careers as collateral damage in these astonishing events.”
In a statement, the university said it could not comment on any matters regarding a student, because federal law requires that it receive the student’s permission. Joshua Robinson, however, issued waivers granting the university permission to release information to WND and other news outlets. But the university’s public affairs office contends it is still bound by federal law to not disclose personal information about students.
OSU also said it “will not comment on other allegations made in the Robinson posts other than to say the claims made therein are baseless and without merit.”
Responding to Simmons, Art Robinson previously told WND in an email that his son “has given full releases to OSU and several news agencies to discuss his affairs” but the university “continues to issue general falsehoods” and “refuses to discuss the specifics of their reprehensible actions.”
“They want to cover up the truth,” he said. “Besides their treatment of the Robinson students, their unprincipled actions toward Professor Higginbotham are reprehensible. They wish to cover this up. They are trying to manage this day by day – but the truth will eventually prove impossible to conceal.”
Robinson said he has been battling the university since November but only last month decided to make the conflict public.
“I considered an immediate public exposure of this plot and warned the faculty of this possibility, but instead my family and I decided to try to prevent a scandal at OSU and save the students within the confines of OSU,” he explained. “We fought these unprincipled academics on their own ground and held them off for four months. That effort is, however, now failing, and Joshua and Bethany are both slated for dismissal from the department of nuclear engineering very soon.”
Robinson, backed by the tea party movement, drew widespread grass-roots support last fall before losing to DeFazio 54.5 percent to 43.6 percent. DeFazio won his previous election with 82 percent of the vote.
Robinson drew enthusiastic crowds throughout the district, with observers remarking they hadn’t “seen a campaign like this for a generation.”
As WND reported, DeFazio ran against his own party in 2010 and characterized Robinson as an extremist, unfit for the geographically large southwest Oregon district that includes the left-leaning state university towns of Eugene and Corvallis along with conservative rural communities.
Robinson believed signs were pointing toward a possible upset in 2010. But he claims a TV and radio “smear campaign” – based on outright lies and fabrications – cast enough doubt about him to cause some independents to reconsider their support.
Robinson said that with experience under his belt, he plans to challenge DeFazio again next year.