Lariviere on the UO Board and public records

4/1/2013: From an interesting piece by Brent Walth in the Oregon Quarterly in Fall of 2010:

The UO board would have the real power—control over tuition and spending, the power to hire and fire the president, and to OK any major initiative or donor-driven project.
Lariviere says a local board could work well, as long as it doesn’t become beholden to the president, big donors, or other political influences—such as, he says, campaign contributors who want a governor to stack the UO board in a particular way. He’s right—but these are big ifs. This plan increases the chances that the kind of political influences he describes—for good or ill—could affect the operations of the UO. 

Perhaps the biggest ask Lariviere is making is in seeking greater public trust in the UO.
Lariviere makes this request as he tries to turn around the UO’s image that has been scorched in headlines about secret deals, million-dollar buyouts, and a history of cloaked relationships with major donors. In short, Lariviere is asking for Oregonians’ trust at a time when the UO is trying to overcome what he acknowledges is a history of mistrust—capped off in April by the controversial $2.3 million buyout deal of former Duck athletic director Mike Bellotti, which exposed sloppy and cozy dealing within the UO. The University has faced similar criticisms about its reputation for excessive secrecy, especially in regard to what some perceive as foot-dragging when it comes to responding to public-records requests. My colleague at The Oregonian, columnist Steve Duin, wrote that the UO had “adopted a code of secrecy worthy of the KGB”—especially around UO athletics and Phil Knight ’59, chairman of Nike and the University’s megadonor. 

Lariviere says the Bellotti mess (he actually used a barnyard epithet instead of the word mess) helps to make his point about transparency and accountability: He believes a board dedicated to running the UO would have demanded more transparency in the first place and never allowed the University’s athletic director to work based on a handshake deal. Similarly, he has already responded to criticism about public-records foot-dragging by creating a public records ombudsman who will track and make posts on the Internet about the way in which the UO deals with every public records request it receives. Lariviere says it might take years to rebuild the trust the UO has lost. “The legacy of mistrust is pretty deep,” Lariviere says. “I don’t understand it. I understand there is mistrust. I don’t understand what gave rise to it or why the policies were in place that gave rise to mistrust.”

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