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Why UO lost to board, while UVA won

Kevin Kiley of IHE has the story, read it it all:

“[The Oregon state board] can say, ‘For the good of the system, the matter is closed,’ “ Kyr said. “But it can’t say ‘We did this for the good of the university’ without extensive prior consultation with the faculty, which was missing with the firing of President Lariviere.” Unlike Virginia, where faculty members could argue that the board’s decision was in fact bad for the campus, which they arguably understood well, Oregon faculty members were not given enough essential information to discuss statewide priorities, Kyr said. In fact, one of the criticisms of some state officials was that Lariviere was so focused on his campus — to the delight of professors there — that he didn’t understand the larger state context. 

But the faculty’s success at the University of Texas, which also has a systemwide board and no campus governing board, shows that the Oregon faculty’s failure cannot entirely be attributed to that. 

Others say that Lariviere might not have had the same kind of support among faculty members that Powers and Sullivan enjoyed. Friedman, who worked with Lariviere when the latter was dean of the College of Liberal Arts at UT-Austin, said Lariviere had a tendency to alienate faculty members. During his tenure at Oregon, Lariviere angered faculty members by failing to get athletics spending under control.

Others chalk up the Oregon faculty’s failure to the fact that the faculty simply wasn’t as organized and cohesive as at the other universities. Unlike Virginia and Texas, the Oregon faculty doesn’t have a single unified body to represents its interests. The University Senate includes students and university staff, not just faculty, and thus represents a broader range of interests. The Oregon vote also took place around Thanksgiving, when many faculty members weren’t paying close attention to university news. 

Kyr said that the leadership debate, and the ensuing search for a new university president, was an opportunity for the chancellor, the state board, and the faculty to discuss the proper role of faculty in governance. He said that the Presidential Search Committee included diverse faculty voices, and that the selection of University of California at Irvine provost Michael R. Gottfredson as the new president reflects an emphasis on shared governance. “I’m confident that if new problems arise, we now have the means for achieving better communication through consultation and through new forms of collaboration between the university, the Chancellor, and the state system,” Kyr said. 

Many say the Oregon faculty’s failure in the leadership debate helps explain why the faculty, in January, began the process to create a faculty union, a relatively rare occurrence at major research universities in recent decade. The faculty approved the union in March. “At Oregon, I don’t think there was a sufficiently organized, unified voice of the faculty, which is one years the University of Oregon faculty are now being unionized,” Snyder said.

I’d say Lariviere lost because he pissed off and embarrassed the governor with the raises – particularly the administrative ones, like for Bean and his BMW. Other than the raises, he was not particularly popular with the faculty – until we had to make a choice between him and Pernsteiner!

As to why we got a union, it had more to do with the years of faculty neglect and incompetent administration than Lariviere’s firing. Look at the student faculty ratio, the cuts in F and A rates, mismanagement in many (most?) important administrative departments, repeated no-search appointments of old friends, expensive special deals for retiring administrators like Moseley, Frohnmayer, etc. And Lariviere left Jim Bean and Frances Dyke in charge of the day to day, which didn’t inspire a lot of confidence. Bean’s sabbatical – another slap in the face. Then the interim President, Bob Berdahl, turned out to be a petty tyrant in thrall to Dave Frohnmayer of all people, who spent a lot of time trying to weaken faculty governance. The union won because enough faculty reluctantly decided we could run the place better than they could. We will see if that’s true.


  1. Old Man 07/16/2012

    Re: “At Oregon, I don’t think there was a sufficiently organized, unified voice of the faculty, which is one years the University of Oregon faculty are now being unionized,” Snyder said.
    Timing was unfortunate. The new UO Constitution formalizes Faculty influence like no other Constitution. However, after years of having their own way, it took time for JH to get on board, and after years of seeing the Senate ignored, it took time for the Faculty to appreciate the power that the Senate now holds. RL’s ratification of the Constitution, the Faculty’s overwhelming support of it, and MG’s expressed support for robust, shared governance gives hope that the Faculty, if they are willing to put in the effort, can truly promote the creation of the University they would like to have.
    Re the composition of our Senate: In my years of watching the Senate operate I have seen no sign that its non-faculty members have been a drag. On the contrary, some of the most thoughtful input has come from these members of our community. In any case, since the Senate is composed mostly of faculty members, any failure of the Senate to represent Faculty views can be attributed to inadequate Faculty input. If Faculty get on board, the Senate can be an effective governing body. When/if it occasionally fails, the Assembly of the Statutory Faculty is empowered to put in back on track.

  2. Canis Minor 07/16/2012

    Amen…well said…I wonder how widely these perceptions are held?

    Canis Minor

  3. Anonymous 07/16/2012

    The UO faculty lost because the SBHE is unanswerable to any constituency except the governor. A local board would have had to listen to local protests (as at UVa) and could not have hidden behind the interests of the “all Oregonians,” i.e. the interests of a dysfunctional “system,” i.e. the personal whims of George Pernsteiner, who was evidently able to manipulate the salary situation in such a way that forced the governor to fire RL.

    As much as I’d like to blame the clueless opportunistic ASUO leadership for failing to see the bigger picture, the UVa students were likewise equivocal when it came to Sullivan. And as much as I’d like to blame RL for failing to clean house internally, the UO statutory faculty did a pretty good job of convincing the outside world that it was foursquare behind him: there’s nothing UVa’s Senate did that the UO faculty didn’t try too.

    I don’t know how Powers survived at Austin — system board + Texas politics should by rights have done him in.

    As for the union’s success at UO: I largely agree with UOMatters. But I think UOMatters does the community a huge disservice by focusing on Bean’s sabbatical and BMW. I could care less about those. Better to focus on his lack of any apparent interest in teaching and research and his opaque managerial style.

  4. Anonymous 07/16/2012

    Dog says

    yes I agree with UOmatters – the collective disenfranchisement of the faculty was reaching an all time high and therefore the Union seemed like a reasonable recourse. Afterall, how could it be worse? And, I too would like to see this blog more focused on issues of substance rather than BMW’s … Personally, I believe our Provosts present and past have simply abdicated their mission of being chief
    ACADEMIC officer. They have been too consumed with a) creative budget management and b) insulating themselves with layers of “fossilized shit” (credit here to UOmatters) …

  5. Anonymous 07/16/2012

    If the UO Senate had more respect or credibility, perhaps that voice would have mattered.

    • Old Man 07/16/2012

      The Senate will have the respect and credibility given it by its Members. Unlike in the past, the Senate now has a Constitution through which it can make its weight felt. If that doesn’t attract strong membership, the cause of shared governance is lost.

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