Phil Knight on Lariviere’s plan

12/6/2010: From Alan Brettman in the Oregonian, via Alex Tomchak Scott’s excellent Commentator digest. Worth reading: Knight’s take is that Lariviere wants to privatize UO and raise tuition.

Q: What’s next to elevate the status of the University of Oregon? 

A: I think the athletic department is really the best marketing tool that the University of Oregon has. I think the university’s athletic department has really been upgraded over the last several years. You look at this year and the university has a chance to be national champions in football, women’s track and field, in baseball and in golf. That’s never happened, ever. To continue that is something you’d like to do and I know the president of the university (Richard Lariviere) is trying to upgrade the whole university. In another part of your paper we’re talking about his battles with the Legislature to do that. So, I’m hopeful that’s as successful as well. 

Q: What conversations have you had with Lariviere about next steps to improve the university? 

A: Oh, I talk to him on a regular basis. I spoke with him a couple of days ago. He was mostly talking about — his view is the next step to upgrade the academic side of the university is to get the Legislature to go along with his plan, which is a little bit complicated, but it’s to take a step — I hate to use the word because it’s an oversimplification — but to take a step toward becoming more of a private university. I think the state provides about 7 percent of the funding now, so basically it is a private university that’s hamstrung by public policy. 

Q: What kinds of things could he be able to do if that plan is implemented? 

A: Well, the simplest one is that he can set his own tuition. He’s hamstrung in the sense he can’t charge more tuition than the Legislature will let him do for in-state kids. So he loses money on every state kid that enrolls in the University of Oregon and he makes money on every kid that comes from out of state. So, increasingly, it’s become the University of California at Eugene. That’s the result of the current Legislature’s policies. 

Q: Did Lariviere consult with you before he made his pitch before legislators in October for funding the university with $800 million in state-issued bonds? 

A: He told me he was going to do it. I didn’t have much say. 

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