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Art Robinson, who ran against U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio for the 4th Congressional District seat in November, said Monday that Oregon State University faculty members are trying to expel his three children from the university as a matter of "political payback."

"OSU is a liberal socialist Democrat stronghold in Oregon that received a reported $27 million in earmark funding from my opponent, Peter DeFazio, and his Democrat colleagues during the last legislative session," Robinson wrote in an e-mail sent to the media and his supporters. The e-mail sought an "outcry" against what he contends is an unfair attempt to expel three of his children from OSU.

While saying it cannot comment on specifics at this time, OSU issued a statement Monday saying there is "no factual basis" for Robinson's allegations, which OSU termed "baseless and without merit."

Robinson, a chemist and developer of homeschool curricula from Cave Junction, made the claims in an article posted on www.worldnetdaily.com Monday, and on the newly created website oregonstateoutrage.com.

Three of Robinson's six children are in the graduate program in OSU's School of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics. Robinson said two of his children, Joshua and Bethany, recently have been given unfair deadlines to complete their Ph.D. projects, and he believes they are in danger of being expelled due to untrue allegations swirling in the department.

He said his children's problems with the school's faculty began after the Nov. 2 general election, when Robinson lost to DeFazio, a 12-term incumbent. He announced his plans to run against DeFazio again in 2012 right after the November election, telling supporters to save their lawn signs.

Robinson said faculty member Jack Higginbotham has been ostracized because he tipped off Robinson about the university's alleged plans to expel Joshua and Bethany. Higginbotham is a professor of nuclear engineering, president of OSU Faculty Senate, the director of the Oregon Space Grant and a project mentor to Robinson's son Matthew.

Robinson named Kathryn Higley, who heads the School of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics, as the one who attacked Higginbotham. Robinson also said Higginbotham told Joshua that he was in danger of losing his job. Robinson also contends that the deans of OSU's College of Engineering and President Ed Ray are not intervening on his children's behalf.

"All (Higginbotham) did was try to protect my kids," Robinson said by phone Monday. He said that none of his children have left OSU, by choice or by expulsion, and that Higginbotham still is on the OSU faculty.

Higginbotham referred all questions to OSU spokesperson Todd Simmons.

OSU released a statement Monday, saying the university cannot comment on Robinson's children due to federal privacy laws. But the release nevertheless cast doubt on Robinson's allegations.

"The university has found no factual basis for the accusations made against those faculty members," it read. "OSU will not comment on other allegations made in the Robinson posts other than to say the claims made therein are baseless and without merit."

Contact reporter Gail Cole at 541-758-9510 or at gail.cole@lee.net.

UPDATE, 3/8 noon:

When asked to comment on Robinson's allegations, a representative for Rep. Peter DeFazio's office issues this statement Tuesday:

"Congressman DeFazio is a strong advocate of the University of Oregon, Oregon State University, Portland State University and Oregon Institute of Technology, along with the five community colleges in Southwest Oregon. He has helped deliver tens of millions of dollars to these institutions for their federal priorities. Whatever academic issues Mr. Robinson's children are having with OSU, they have nothing to do with Congressman DeFazio's advocacy for these institutions."

UPDATE, 3/8, 1:15 p.m.: Oregon State University on Tuesday issued this response to Robinson's allegations:

Political candidate Art Robinson published material this past weekend with regard to the status of two of his adult sons and one adult daughter who are graduate students in Oregon State University’s Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics.  Robinson made a number of allegations with regard to the students’ experience at OSU and further allegations regarding the university’s relationship with U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio.

Federal law prohibits institutions of higher education from discussing matters concerning our students with anyone other than the student himself or herself without the express consent of the student involved. Given that, OSU will not comment on any allegation regarding the Robinson students or share any personal information concerning them other than the limited “directory information” allowed by law to be shared.

Robinson’s material singles out several individual faculty members for criticism. The university has found no factual basis for the accusations made against those faculty members. OSU is proud of its education and research programs and faculty in Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics and of department alumni, many of whom hold leadership positions in government and private sector organizations.

OSU will not comment on other allegations made in the Robinson posts other than to say the claims made therein are baseless and without merit.

As a leading public university ranked highly for its graduate student success as well as research and instructional efforts in the Dept. of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics, OSU is dedicated to excellence in its teaching, service and research missions. OSU graduate students enjoy a wide range of resources to facilitate their success academically and personally. University processes for graduate students who are experiencing difficulty in school or with personal matters are well established and readily available to every member of our graduate student body.

The relationships between graduate students and OSU faculty are highly collaborative, involving adult-to-adult communication and scientific problem solving. In each of those relationships, expectations for each party reflect the time-tested academic traditions of America’s more than 3,000 institutions of higher education.

OSU graduates nearly 1,000 graduate students each year, about one-third of whom earn doctoral or terminal degrees. For many generations, those students have typically progressed to success in the private sector, careers in public service or work within academia.

Finally, OSU works closely and routinely with elected officials at the federal, state and local level, as well as their staff members.  In all of these dealings, the university adheres to the highest ethical and professional standards and follows all appropriate laws governing the conduct of public universities and their representatives with governmental representatives. Any allegation to the contrary is unfounded.

Todd Simmons, OSU spokesman

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