Remember the Hat Day: November 21, 2011

11/21/2019: Your periodic reminder that UO Board of Trustee Chair Chuck Lillis has yet to deliver on the promise that an independent UO Board would benefit UO’s academic mission and our students. Apparently this is the fault of the faculty union, PERS, and of course China. I’m sure he’ll give more excuses at the next BoT meeting, Dec 9-10.

8/15/2019:  Former UO President Richard Lariviere has just announced that he will retire from his job as Pres of Chicago’s Field Museum next year after completing what seems to have been a successful rescue mission, if you’re into dinosaurs.

If you are interested in public higher education and what happened during Lariviere’s brief two years at UO, you should start by reading this article from Brent Walth in the Oregon Quarterly, about why he came to UO. The Around the O link is broken, but here’s the gist:

Lariviere recalls having dinner one night with two major UO supporters, who were then trying to woo him to accept the University’s presidency. Lariviere says he was intrigued about coming to the UO but was not yet convinced. At one point, one of the donors turned to the other and asked, “Shall we talk to him about the freedom movement?”

Lariviere perked up. His dinner companions told him the UO’s current relationship with the State of Oregon—the very relationship that spawned and fostered the University for more than a century—was a wreck. The state’s repeated cuts to Oregon’s public higher-education system and the UO in particular had gone so far that the University might as well be private. Lariviere says he told his hosts he didn’t want to take the UO private. They told him they wanted to keep the UO public but find a way to bring it the financial stability it now lacked. “That,” Lariviere says, “was something I could get behind.”

 … The plan has already run into opposition in the legislature. That’s not surprising, given that the plan—at its core—is about power. Lariviere’s plan would give the University more power than it’s ever had to control its own fate. Under his plan, the UO would be overseen by its own board, appointed by the governor. The board would have final say over major UO decisions, such as hiring top officials, its budget, and setting tuition.

This did not work out well.

2018: Is UO better off now than it was in 2011? Better off than if Kitzhaber hadn’t fired Lariviere? Better off with our independent Board of Trustees? I don’t know. The Board has not delivered yet.

I do know that I continue to be amazed and inspired by how then Senate President Rob Kyr and the faculty, students, and UO supporters handled Lariviere’s firing and the subsequent chaos.

2017:  I think nostalgia for Lariviere peaked under Mike Gottfredson, and has fallen to historical lows under Mike Schill. Here’s the post from 2015, with a few updates:


Break out your hats and mark the day. On November 21st 2011, three four five six years and four five UO presidents ago, OUS Chancellor George Pernsteiner and Board Chair Matt Donegan came down to UO with their ultimatum and told Lariviere to resign, for trying to implement his “New Partnership” plan to combine $1B in state bonds and $800M in private donations to create a sustainable funding model for UO, run by an independent UO Board. The endowment income would have, in theory, produced enough income to more than replace the state’s annual appropriations, and have allowed UO to keep in-state tuition low.

He also ignored the governor’s call for a pay freeze, and passed out a round of secret raises to faculty and staff. Lariviere refused to leave, so they fired him, on instructions from Governor Kitzhaber. Nigel Jaquiss broke the news on the 22nd.

Six years later, where are the principals in this sad event?

UO President Richard Lariviere: Now president of Chicago’s Field Museum, and apparently well on his way to completing a turnaround of that troubled institution.

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Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber: Resigned after getting caught trying to destroy his email archives, and found guilty of violations of Oregon ethics law.

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OUS Chancellor George Pernsteiner: Still living at Treetops and using Oregon students’ tuition money to pay for his kids’ maid service. Just kidding, the croissant chancellor went on to a $300K sinecure as president of SHEEO, a little known non-profit higher ed policy group in Colorado. He’s now retired from that, and is on the board at Bridgeport, a scandal ridden for-profit university system.

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OUS Board Chair Matt Donegan: After a very nasty divorce he sold his timber business, then sent out some feelers on restarting his political career. The response was not good, and he’s dropped out of public life to work on counting his money.

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(Bridget Burns and Chuck Triplett at the 2011 Mac Court meeting.)

OUS Board Secretary Chuck Triplett: Triplett’s role in setting up the secret discussions that led to the board’s decision to fire Lariviere may never be fully known, unless I can get my hands on the OUS digital email archives. Meanwhile he has parlayed his $72K job for Pernsteiner into a $130K job for UO, and then a promotion from Scott Coltrane. All without an affirmative action compliant search. He’s currently JH liason to the UO Senate – an appointment made without consulting the Senate with which he is supposed to liase. He’s currently UO liason to the HECC, the putative replacement to OUS.

Pernsteiner’s Chief of Staff Bridget Burns: She and Triplett were quite the team. After OUS collapsed she set up a consulting business, which just got a $9.8M grant from the DoE. According to her website,

… she led the successful legislative effort to free Oregon’€™s seven universities from state agency status, for which she received the national award for innovation in government relations from colleagues spanning the national higher education landscape at AASCU, APLU, AACC, and CASE.

Wow, and to think Mark Haas and Mike Gottfredson have been claiming all the credit for SB 270.

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UO Senate President, Protector and Defender of the University, Slayer of Chancellors, and Professor of Music Robert Kyr: “Mr. Pernsteiner, answer the question as a human being would answer it.”

Kyr is now back at his regular job, composing and teaching music theory.

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28 Responses to Remember the Hat Day: November 21, 2011

  1. Dog says:

    all the data exists to actually demonstrate how this happened and I suspect differing proportions of majors has something to do with this and increasing student load per quarter is the most straightforward manner and that can be easily verified from the data.

    Of course, JH will never prove their case with data but simply say that this is all due to improved advising — turkeywash

  2. Anonymous says:

    “…yet to deliver on the promise that an independent UO Board would benefit UO’s academic mission and our students. ” Meanwhile, over at the beloved AtO, “Graduation rates at the University of Oregon have reached an all-time high, with 60.7 percent of students graduating in four years… In 2014, the four-year graduation rate was 49.9 percent.” Let’s see, (60.7-49.9)/49.9 = 21.6% increase in graduation rate within a five year period. I’m impressed; when the goals were established, I remember thinking that these goals were not reachable.

    Sometimes, reading AtO and UOM feel like channel surfing between Fox News and CNBC. I wish that we could be better than that.

    • honest Uncle Bernie says:

      Anonymous — I too saw the plug about the much-improved graduation rates. And though I am often critical of Schill and company here, I have to say that appears to be a really impressive accomplishment. UO should be publicizing it way outside the readership of @UO or whatever it is called. The faculty should take pride in it, too (and claim much of the credit). It was not all due to the legions of new advisors (hired at considerable expense). In my department, we have taken some of the steps mentioned in the puff piece — and they have worked!

    • Dogmatic Ratios says:

      One of the first things I heard Mike Schill say on arrival, was that he wanted to change the kind of students we get — less distracted by life, more focused on getting a degree quickly. Hence the emphasis on a bigger course load, living in dorms, and other initiatives. Graduation rates are ‘improved’ more easily through selective constraints than on the performance of educators. To restate: the UO graduation rate does not necessarily correlate with educational quality. Since the administration doesn’t care, here’s an exercise for the student: analyze the available data (good luck!) to demonstrate either (a) students are getting a better education here, and this makes them endure, or (b) we are now getting more students with the institutionally-external means and motivations to finish.

      • Anonymous says:

        I just don’t see how you can achieve a 10 p.p. increase in graduation rates purely by changing selection of students. Undergraduate student quality has improved, but not that much… Meanwhile the courses I teach haven’t gotten any easier, and no one has asked me to pass more students.

        Surely the main reason must be getting students to take 16 credits instead of 12, and maybe reducing switching of majors. If so these changes are real $$ in savings for students.

  3. charlie says:

    Bottom of the PAC12 for academics, increased debt for non-academic purposes. The financial efficacy of flagship is collapsing…

  4. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    Yes, the Hat. Going on eight years. It seems like a really long time now.

    UO got its independent board. And look where we are: Hayward Field demolition, Knight “Campus,” faculty union, faculty senate more and more irrelevant. Minimal raises for the rank and file of every category. Insanely centralized administration, some of the various colleges in chaos, including CAS. Virtual hiring freeze — except for the Knight operation.

    It is certainly not exactly what I expected.

  5. Publius says:

    I thought Larivierre was mentally unstable.

  6. Sun Tzu says:

    Don’t be fooled. The “Hat” was a self-centered autocrat who frequently yelled (yes, yelled) at his JH underlings when they suggested alternative viewpoints. The following true story says it all. The “Hat” was president when the new arena was on the drawing board. However there were questions raised by faculty about how much much debt the university should carry for this project and whether it would preclude the university obtaining state bonds for academic needs. The athletic dept came up with a vastly overly optimistic (some would say knowingly false) 30 yr financial spreadsheet “demonstrating” that the University would be able to carry the arena debt without problem. In response the faculty generated a much more realistic 30 yr financial prognosis which showed that the arena bond repayments would require significant assistance from academic sources for nearly all of the 30 yr period, especially the final 15 yrs. When I confronted the “Hat” about this in a private meeting, his response was and I quote, ” What do you care? You and I will be long gone in 15 yrs. Let someone else deal with this shitstorm”. Nostalgia is a wonderful way of rewriting the past, however in this case, let’s not forget that the “Hat” took us further down the road toward the corporatization of our University.

    • Empty Hat says:

      Indeed, the hat was an arrogant yeller who mistreated others. He gave professors a raise, and they loved him. But if you were the one who cleaned his toilet, you got no raise.

      “Lariviere’s raises outraged board members, leaders on other campuses, legislators and the governor. “Unlike every other university president in the state, he disregarded my specific direction,” Kitzhaber wrote.”

      • Canard says:

        Kitzhaber canned him because he had his plan to revise the whole Oregon educational system (remember 40-40-20 and other such gibberish?), and Lariviere was the only person in the state likely to stand up to him. He wasn’t perfect, but he was the last president we had who ever listened to anyone who actually understood what was going on around here. Every president since has lived in the bubble, and we have been the unhappy victims of their preconceptions.

        • Mr. X says:

          I agree with Empty Hat. Lariviere was canned primarily because he expressly went against the governor’s order to the universities to not give raises during a tough contract negotiation with SEIU. The state and the university couldn’t afford much at the time, particularly the smaller universities and the agreement was no one was going to give raises.

          I was at the bargaining table for the universities. Lariviere ingnored the agreement and gave raises. SEIU found out and months of “we are not and have not given raises” went up in smoke and caused disaster at the table pushing some schools into an agreement they could not afford. (At least one laid off OAs to meet the cost). SEIU no longer trusted any of the universities that they had not given raises to other employees. It was a train wreck for negotiations.

          Kitzy was livid he had been ignored and you know the rest.

        • Mr. X says:

          And another note on the firing: The other universities, particularly the smaller ones, really could not afford raises for anyone. At least one university, SOU, had both OAs and faculty on furloughs at the time. It wasn’t just a negotiation tactic. There was some serious anger and confusion among the universities as to why Lariviere ignored the agreement.

  7. Miss the Hat says:

    I miss The Hat every day. We’d be a very different, and much more student-focused, institution if he was still here.

  8. What? says:

    What kind of person tries to jump start their career by sitting on the higher education board of a bottom wrung state?

  9. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    Another person who should probably be in the cast of dramatis personae: Phil Knight.

    He and UO under the Hat dreamed up the plan where the state would replace its annual subsidy with a one-time $800 million endowment. Phil would have matched it with $800 million more. This was independent of any later gift, e.g. the new Knight Campus.

    The state under Kitzhaber basically told Phil to forget it. $800 million for Oregon higher education, and they told him to shove off!

    At the time of the Hat’s firing, Phil made a great remark about Oregon committing assisted suicide.

    Imagine: UO with $1.6 billion in additional endowment, no more subsidy for the in-state students. More money, more independence. The state flipped it off.

  10. thedude says:

    Just think if how much Schill would be endeared if he would say anything about bringing salary up to peers as a key priority.

    • honest Uncle Bernie says:

      I think the measure should be total compensation, salary + benefits. This is kind of hard to ascertain, because e.g. there are at least 3 different pension tiers, and there are also the PERS opt-out versions. It is hard to know especially in the case of Tier 1 faculty just how much the pension benefit is currently worth. But it is almost certainly worth a hell of a lot. That has to be taken into account.

      For the Tier 3 people, it is more straightforward.

  11. Patrick Phillips says:

    The blog that I started to track and respond to these events is apparently still up and running (I haven’t looked at it in years).

    Here’s one quote that I noted: “The scars that may remain for years to come depend heavily on the actions of the next few days”

  12. Anas clypeata says:

    I was there. Kyr was in top form. He was the only person who came out of the whole debacle smelling like anything but manure.

  13. Old Man says:

    During his presidency, The Hat engaged in serious negotiations with a Senate Committee charged with creating a Constitution that would restore the Faculty’s historic role in university governance. As I recall, the work was completed prior to Pernsteiner and Donnegan’s visit to campus on November 21, 2011. On December 7, the Faculty Assembly unanimously endorsed the Constitution and on the 15th, Lariviere ratified it and its companion document, the Policy on Policies. These two documents ensure that the Faculty’s voice is heard in all matters of academic concern. I hereby request that, on December 15 of each year, UOMatters will remind us of the historic significance of “Constitution Day.”

    • uomatters says:

      Old Man, you are hereby instructed to prepare a complete report on the history of the UO Constitution and Policy on Policies, of between 2000 and 10000 words (excluding footnotes and bibliography) by no later than Dec 7th, 2015, the 4th anniversary of “UO Constitution Day”.

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