OUS staff opposes UO restructuring plan

6/25/2010: The OUS Board’s Governance and Policy Committee met yesterday to consider increasing the independence of the institutions by appointing university specific boards and ceding power to them. This is a key compenent of Pres Lariviere’s restructuring plan. Their meeting materials are here. Presumably this committee will make a report to the full board later.

My take away from this report is that the board’s staff is *very* opposed to the proposals that Lariviere and Wim are pushing. Not surprising, given that this would reduce their power and budget. On the other hand they really like the idea of more independence from the state – as long as the money and control devolves to them, and not to the institutions. Among the decisions made to date:

Board will enter into performance agreements with and allocate state funding to
universities based on their individual missions, programs, and other factors with the aim to use the entirety of the System’s universities and programs to fulfill the performance required by the state. The performance measures for each campus are likely to be different from one another.

New funding:

Staff Recommendation: The Committee might explore further the following three possibilities: use of corporate kicker for an endowment; use of income tax associated with university research to support that research; tying the higher education appropriations to those of K-12.

However this section makes clear that the OUS Board has no intention of giving up authority to the institutions as Lariviere’s plan envisions – quite the opposite:

Regarding local boards and increased independence:

a.    State Board of Higher Education continues as governing board 

b.    State Board can delegate authority to local boards as it deems fit as long as clarity of responsibilities and accountability are maintained

In such a system, the State Board of Higher Education remains a public body and would continue to be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state senate. An alternative is to have a statewide elected board (as is the case in Nevada). This step does not seem necessary at this time but would make the status of the Board more akin politically to that of the locally elected boards of the community colleges.

The Board might have to be expanded slightly because of workload demands on its members and to help ensure geographic, demographic, and skill diversity. A board of fifteen members is suggested.

This proposal continues to operate the seven universities and their programs and branches as a single System. This is done to enhance the value of the changed status and to ensure that resources can be allocated and programs allotted with an eye toward meeting statewide goals rather than to meet the needs of individual institutions. In this model, the institutions are means to achieve the statewide public goals of the Board within the public policy framework that the Board establishes and in fulfillment of the Board’s agreements with the state, and not as stand-alone entities with their own independent agendas.

The underlying premises of the proposal for a new compact between the Oregon University System and the state involve conveying to the Oregon State Board of Higher Education all the authority it now enjoys, but as a new public entity. The Oregon State Board of Higher Education also would have the authority to determine whether, when, and under what conditions and circumstances it would delegate some of its authority to local boards. The composition of those local boards and their respective authority can be determined by the State Board of Higher Education. Clear authority is essential if accountability is to be achieved.

A more complete (but not exhaustive) listing of possible responsibilities in a construct that does not involve local boards follows. Obviously, the State Board, if authorized to do so in the enabling legislation, could delegate some of its responsibilities or the responsibilities or campuses to local boards.

The Lariviere / Redding bond proposal:

In order to meet the state’s needs for higher education, means of stabilizing or increasing public funding must be found. President Lariviere has proposed that the state issue general obligation bonds and pay the debt service using the state’s current appropriation for the University. The University would match the principal amount of the bonds (about $800 million) with private donations and use the investment earnings from the bonds and the donations to pay for university operations. Although there have been legal, financial, and political issues raised in opposition to this proposal, it remains one alternative that could increase the resources available to at least one Oregon public university. Under current state debt policies, there is not sufficient bonding capacity to extend this approach to other universities in Oregon. Further, the ability of other universities in the System to find sufficient donations to match the state bonds is doubtful and may never eventuate.

So, it’s a turf was between Pernsteiner and Lariviere. My money is on Lariviere.

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