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Randy Geller sells UO into servitude

12/8/2011 with updates. Maybe President Lariviere made a mistake when he fired Melinda Grier. Her longtime assistant and now GC Randy Geller is about to cost us a lot more than the $2.3 million payoff to Bellotti. Geller’s proposed new policy giving him total control over access to legal advice by UO administrators, faculty, staff, students, and volunteers (i.e. alumni, and arguably the UO Foundation) is here. This explicitly includes the UO Senate, the Faculty Assembly, the President of the UO Senate (currently Rob Kyr), ASUO, and the President of ASUO, currently Ben Eckstein. Read it all:

 Authority of the General Counsel

The University of Oregon (University) may receive legal representation, services, and opinions only from the General Counsel and attorneys authorized by the General Counsel. The University may not receive “pro bono” or no cost legal services from anyone other than attorneys authorized by the General Counsel.
Legal advice and opinions rendered by anyone other than the General Counsel or an attorney authorized by the General Counsel are null and void except to the extent declared otherwise by the General Counsel.

The traitorous part is hidden in the definitions:

“University of Oregon” or “University” means the University as an organization, all individuals acting in the course and scope of University employment or authorized volunteer service or in the performance of University duties, and all units of the University. The Associated Students of the University of Oregon is a unit of the University. The President of the Associated Students of the University of Oregon when performing his or her official duties is an individual acting in the course and scope of University employment or authorized volunteer service. The University Senate and Assembly are units of the University. The President of the University Senate when performing his or her official duties is an individual acting in the course and scope of University employment or authorized volunteer service.

So, no one associated with UO will have the right to an attorney – unless that attorney is Randy Geller. If, say, the USDOJ office of civil rights comes to you with questions about discrimination by, say, the UO administration, you have to go to Geller. If you are, say, the President of UO and you want to talk to the UO Foundation’s lawyer about, say, independence from the OUS Board, you have to talk to Geller first. 
Geller was Melinda Grier’s Associate General Counsel when the Oregon AG John Kroger investigated her office and found it had provided UO with “deficient legal representation”. Comforting?
Geller’s cover letter and vitae for the UO general counsel job, from his application last year, is here. It took a petition to the Oregon DOJ to force Randy to give this up. As of 1/1/2012, Randy works for Pernsteiner:

This policy is dated 6/15/2011 – before SB 242 even passed the Oregon Senate. Geller and the UO’s “Executive Leadership Team” then hid it from us for more than 5 months. Cold. So, who’s on that team?


  1. Anonymous 12/08/2011

    This is outrageous on several grounds
    1) UO hashad in house counsel for generations and no savvy person would take job as provost or pres unless they sd a person with legal expertise to watch his or her back. OUS will both sell anyone down the river and grind absolutely everything useful to a halt.
    3) if we were to have a person with suc power, I’d want someone I’d at least trust with my daughter’s lemonade stand. geller is the person who prohibited buying a student a glass of milk and a cookie after class or at a fall reception. certainly anyone esp on the tech transfer side and vp research cannot be happy with this. yet another example the problem with OUS! how is this policy reviewed and approved? i presume the board? a real confidence builder

  2. Anonymous 12/09/2011

    The UO is not a separate legal entity. The legal entity is the State Board of Higher Education. Consequently, the board must reserve in itself the sole discretion regarding legal representation of the legal organization. If you were on the board, you would/should not delegate legal decision-making to be controlled/directed by a department/division without significant oversight and the ability to withdraw that delegation at your discretion. It is a consequence of the legal structure, not a discretionary item.

    I am no attorney, but I think the language that causes you so much angst may just be there to protect you…to allow your actions while in those positions to be covered and/or defended by the university, so that you are not personally liable for those actions. Again, I may be, likely am COMPLETELY wrong on that.

  3. Anonymous 12/09/2011

    1. How do other multi-campus universities handle this? 2. Does Berdahl read UOMatters? If he knows about this, hopefully he’d be smart enough to include it in his contract negotiation if it’s a problem.

  4. Giving the University and the Chancellor’s Office sole authority to designate who may give legal advice to the Associated Students is simply begging for a legal conflict of interest, considering President Eckstein’s desire to mess with the EMU renovation on an ongoing basis and to pick a fight with the athletic department.

  5. Anonymous 12/09/2011

    I’m no labor activist, but with this attack on the Faculty and the Senate, it sure sounds like the faculty need a Union.

  6. Anonymous 12/09/2011

    This illustrates why SB 242 was flawed and why each institution must be a separate legal entity. This has all been a carefully orchestrated power-grab by one of Oregon’s political elite networks, accomplished by co-opting everyone from students to legislators.

  7. Anonymous 12/09/2011

    Yeah, but where has United Academics been in all this? One mild statement right after Richard got fired. A faculty union is not the way to go, even if we do have to find some other way to lawyer up.

  8. Anonymous 12/09/2011

    Like an ANON above, the Old Man is no lawyer, and he also has no hesitation in expressing his opinion. On occasion, the UO’s past GCs appear to have offered advice to Prexy that was ordered up to cover Prexy’s intended actions rather than to provide Prexy with best legal advice. (We call these “John Yoo Opinions”.) This behavior is understandable when GC is beholden to Prexy for his/her income. A GC appointed by the Board (whatever you may think of that) might be better able to serve the UO than one who is tied to Prexy’s apron strings.

  9. Anonymous 12/09/2011

    For what it’s worth, by comparison it appears that the University of California system has a single Office of General Counsel. Campus chancellors (those crazy Californians reverse the titles “president” and “chancellor” so a UC chancellor is like our campus President and vice versa) are each assigned a chief counsel, but the campus chief counsel is employed by the systemwide Office of GC.

    Their FAQ says that persons represented by the UC OGC may not retain outside counsel for university business. The FAQ and bylaws also say that the OGC represents all employees doing uni business, including their Academic Senate, but it doesn’t say anything about volunteers or students.

    So what appears to be different about OUS in comparison at least to UC is the inclusion of students and volunteers, not the consolidation of counsel into a single office for a university system or coverage of the Senate.

    All that being said, this is just some anon trying to read a website and org chart and draw some inferences. And UC is obviously much different than OUS, starting with the fact that they don’t know the difference between a president and a chancellor. So perhaps the comparison is not ideal.

    The question of whether Geller is sufficient/deficient to carry out such a role (or really any lawyering job) and perhaps deserves to get Beaned by UOMatters is, of course, a separate matter.

  10. Anonymous 12/10/2011

    We don’t know the right answer for a good structure for legal advice and oversight, but that’s a reason to look at best practices, as anon above does, not to have ous yahoos decide, though I might prefer even them to carpet bag union yahoos

  11. Anonymous 12/12/2011

    Old Dog notes a potential upside to legal counsel provided by OUS. In the Frohnmayer/Moseley regime, ONLY the President and the Provost had access to the GC, by decree of those two guys. If the Senate, or anyone else, wanted advice, they had to beg for permission or go buy it somewhere.

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