Senator Hass discusses UO Board at noon on OPB

The current draft of SB270 includes a faculty member, but only as a non-voting member.

Some recent contributions to the campaign fund of Higher Ed Committee Chair and Senator Mark Hass, courtesy of a curious reader:

1/11/13:  American Association of University Professors $250
1/10/13:  Nike, Inc & Affiliates $1,000
10/18/12:  Phil Knight $5,000
9/27/12:  Nike, Inc & Affiliates $5,000

$250 just doesn’t buy much these days, does it.

On balance though, I’m going to change my mind on this, and agree with President Gottfredson. It’s a bad idea to have a voting faculty member of the Board. I’m not sure what his reasons are, but mine is that it would be a fig leaf. The governor would just appoint some toady, and then the Board would forever be claiming “we made this decision with the full support and vote of our token faculty stooge.” With the bill as amended the jock-sniffers and friends of Nike’s sports marketing machine that are going to end up running the show anyway are going to bear full responsibility for their decisions and the consequences for UO – good or bad.

President Gottfredson’s 4/11/2013 testimony to the legislature. Shouldn’t that be “shared governance”?

Current draft of SB270:

Andy Stahl’s letter to Haas:

Dear Senator Hass, 

I write as a UO/OSU alum and son of long-time (1959-present) UO genetics professor Frank Stahl (co-founder of the UO’s world-class Institute of Molecular Biology).  I have also served on a local school board (Crow-Applegate-Lorane) and, in my professional capacity, am a practical student of government reform and accountability. 

I am sympathetic to the possibility of financial conflicts-of-interest, in particular in regard to collective bargaining, that present themselves with faculty/employee representation on the independent board.  For that reason, many states (albeit not Oregon), bar school district employees from service on their own boards.  In my experience, I have seen the wisdom of that policy. 

I am equally sympathetic to the faculty’s prerogatives in university governance.  Simply put, the enterprise of higher education works best when faculty are empowered.  Oregon has scant few advantages as we recruit against the rest of the world for the best and brightest faculty.  Certainly not salary.  Certainly not benefits.  One of our selling points could be an effective voice in self-governance that ensures academic inquiry is promoted by a University administration that works for the faculty — not the other way around.  That’s what the UO offered in mid-20th century.  It is what attracted my father to Oregon at a time he could have gone anywhere (for which I am grateful!).  In turn, he was able to recruit superb colleagues (e.g., George Streisinger, founder of the UO’s world-famous zebrafish research institute) by promoting the university community’s collegiality.  Those characteristics have eroded beyond recognition today.  The UO is an intellectually poorer place as a result. 

I suggest the following modifications to the current bill might reconcile these goals:
1)  Ensure the independent board’s hiring of the university’s president is subject to the faculty’s advice and consent; 2)  Ensure that the board does not interfere in the university’s day-to-day operations by retaining or strengthening existing state law that vests with the faculty (led by the university president) with the overall governance responsibility for teaching and research.

Advice-and-consent is a well-proven policy that has survived over 200 years in our national Constitution.  No CEO of any large organization can prosper, not can the institution, without substantial support from “above” and “below.”  Faculty advice-and-consent in the hiring of the university president will help establish the respect and buy-in necessary for leadership. 

The responsibility for the internal day-to-day governance of a university should rest with those who have to carry it out — the faculty.  The board should not meddle in such matters. 

In closing, the independent board legislation is too important a matter to get wrong.  If it takes more than a single legislative session to hammer out, so be it.  There is no rush to judgment that compels this legislature to pass a bill that lacks a consensus among the people with the most at stake.  I hope these suggestions are helpful.  Please do reply if you wish any clarification or to discuss these matters. 

Andy Stahl

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2 Responses to Senator Hass discusses UO Board at noon on OPB

  1. Kitkat says:

    My feeling is that there needs to be a faculty member on the board simply to avoid the creation of a metaphorical moat between the board and faculty (as too often seems to surround Johnson Hall). Just having a faculty member physically present at board meetings will prevent talk of the faculty as “them”. Board members will be naturally disinclined to say things about the faculty, even behind closed doors, that they wouldn’t say in the face of a faculty member.

    This could be accomplished even if the faculty member is non-voting. But I fear that without a vote, the faculty member will be treated as advisory “staff”.

    I cannot myself imagine why the student member should have a vote and the faculty member should not. But I think the argument for having a student member and a faculty member boil down to this same argument: there’s no particular power in one vote, but a lot of negativity avoided by their presence and participation.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Agreed. Much more important to make sure the Board cannot muck with internal Faculty Governance than it is to have a token vote that won’t represent any real influence.

    Also, saw this and thought of you, UO Matters guy:

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