Independent board fires university president without consulting faculty.

6/19/2012: The NYT reports on Dragas’s firing of UVA Pres:

The board’s united front showed its first serious cracks, as four of the 15 voting members sent an emissary on Sunday night to the president, Teresa Sullivan, to discuss the terms on which she would stay, according to people briefed on the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Still, the board’s leader, Helen E. Dragas, the university rector, showed no sign of backing away from replacing Dr. Sullivan, saying at the outset of the Board of Visitors meeting that the decision was the product of “an overwhelming consensus of the board.” She acknowledged the widespread view that the board had failed to explain the dismissal, but offered no further rationale. 
“We want to express our sincere regret for the pain, anger and confusion” the board’s actions have caused, Ms. Dragas said, adding that “our actions too readily lent themselves to perceptions of being opaque.”

Their November report on Pernsteiner’s firing of Lariviere is here.

6/17-18/2012 updates: The parallels are astonishing:

More on protest and intrigue here, involving a donor. Meanwhile UVa Faculty Senate leadership demands board chair Dragas resign, faculty representation on board:

Statement of Faculty Senate Executive Council Concerning Meeting with Rector Dragas

June 18, 2012

This morning, the Faculty Senate Executive Council met with Rector Dragas to discuss the recent resignation of President Sullivan. We invited the Vice Rector, but he did not attend. The purpose of the meeting was to allow the Council to ask questions raised by the University faculty concerning recent events, and to hear the Board’s perspective.

We asked the Rector about the process and the reasons behind President Sullivan’s resignation; the principles of shared governance between the faculty, administration and the Board; the Board’s desire for a strategic plan; and the Board’s justification for the speedy and secretive nature of its actions.

We had a cordial discussion. Based on extensive input from our faculty constituents and the Rector’s responses to our questions, we made the following requests:

1. That the Board delay the naming of any interim president to provide an opportunity for shared governance;

2. That President Sullivan be reinstated;

3. That the Board recommend representation by UVA faculty on the Board as voting members; and

4. That the Rector and Vice Rector resign in the best interests of the University.

Channel 29 News has some video. (Full disclosure: I worked in the Channel 29 control room 35 years ago, as an FCC licensed first class radiotelephone operator.) The criticisms revolve around lack of transparency and shared governance. The UVa Faculty Senate met Sunday night, voting confidence in Sullivan, no confidence in the Rector, Board, etc. The Daily Progress reports UVa’s Provost John Simon is considering resigning. He says:

“I now find myself at a defining moment, confronting and questioning whether honor, integrity, and trust are truly the foundational pillars of life at the University of Virginia,” he said. “I find myself at a moment when the future of the university is at risk and what our political leadership value in the university is no longer clear. Much has appeared in the press over the last week, and the reputational consequences will be with us for many years to come. 

When the OUS Board fired Lariviere in November, UO’s Provost Jim Bean was enjoying a controversial and well paid administrative sabbatical. He immediately tried to get appointed to Lariviere’s job. The faculty stopped him. I’m trying to remember what Frohnmayer did and said when Lariviere was fired. Anyone? The Virginians are a bit tougher: former UVa President John Casteen said this at the meeting:

John T. Casteen III, the 20-year president of UVa before Sullivan was hired, said Sunday evening that the decision to remove Sullivan had been far too secretive.

“Obviously, I don’t know much about the ouster, because the board has not released very much information,” Casteen said. “And I’m not alone in thinking this, but I think there’s something flawed in the public process here. The assumption in Virginia law is that public business is done in view of the public, that people can see what’s going on, and it’s alarming to think that a decision this large was not made with the full time for discussion within the board and in particular not done within the appropriate view of the public.

“My situation is that I look for reasons and I don’t see them, and I look for information, evidence to show that the board has a formed philosophy that represents the future. And we haven’t heard what that philosophy is. Obviously, that need to be understood, and the president’s views of it need to be known and understood also. So the process is not what you’d want. It’s not the appropriate process.”

The secrecy is also at odds with the standards of sound university decision making, he said.

Casteen, who in earlier comments to the press had raised the idea of reconciliation between the board and Sullivan, said he’s “disappointed” if that conversation isn’t going on.

He also called for today’s meeting to be held entirely in open session.
“The cure for excessive secrecy is not more secrecy,” Casteen said. “It is open and responsible public discussions.”

UVA’s former President Teresa Sullivan has now hired Ray Cotton to represent her. Hope she got a cheaper rate than the $45,500 he charged Pernsteiner for a 12 page report cribbed from Chronicle data.

A commenter points us to this WaPo article, full of intrigue:

And in a frank 12-page strategic memo last month, Sullivan laid out the university’s fundamental academic weakness. U-Va. has a peerless reputation for undergraduate study, she wrote, but its graduate programs and research endeavors suffer from a “reputation gap.” Some vaunted doctoral programs don’t actually rank very high, and others are buoyed by a few star faculty.

Last month, the board adopted an operating budget that included substantial language culled from Sullivan’s strategy document, although most did not know it came from her memo. Yet, after Sullivan’s ouster, Dragas chided the president for lacking a “credible statement of strategic direction.”

One thing that strikes me is that as high-handed as Dragas appears – and it’s pretty amazing – at the root this seems to be actual dispute about how best to improve UVA. Compare this to the dispute that got Lariviere fired: he had a plan to improve UO, but the board and the governor did not want UO to get better, because they thought that would distract from the other state schools.

6/16/2012 update: Insidehighered has a *very* comprehensive piece on this by Chris Olds, here. Thanks to anonymous for the link. Michael Redding has used UVA as an example of how an independent board for UO might be structured. How to do this right certainly needs to be revisited now. One lesson, I think, is that a board must have more than token faculty representation – picked by the faculty, not the board or governor!

One story notes that the board may have broken VA’s public meetings law:

UVa is a public university, and any decision made about its leader should be made in public.

Dream on. I wonder if Virginia’s ethics enforcement is the same thin gruel that Ron Bersin and Oregon’s GEC serve up? Student protests, attacks on board:

“We’re not rabble-rousers here,” she said. “We’re simply calling for transparency.”
She called the invocation of Thomas Jefferson by the Board of Visitors “disgusting.”

6/15/2012 update: Faculty protests, resignations:

The gulf between University of Virginia officials and the school’s outraged faculty appeared to widen Thursday, as calls for unity from officials were met with a vote of no confidence from the Faculty Senate’s executive council. Late in the day, the author of a leaked email became the first casualty from the continuing scandal over the ouster of UVa President Teresa A. Sullivan.
In a resolution adopted by the body’s executive council during an emergency meeting, the faculty expressed “its lack of confidence in the Rector, the Vice Rector, and the Board of Visitors.”

(Older) More on UVA board’s firing of Teresa Sullivan in the Daily Progress here, and the Cavalier Daily here – including a complaint from the UVA faculty Senate. Been there, done that.

Board fires president for not raising faculty salaries

Update: As a commenter notes, this post is pretty far off base. More here, I hope more accurate.

Out here in Oregon our state board fires presidents when they *do* raise faculty pay.

UVA Rector Helen Dragas writing on the Board of Visitors’ decision to fire UVA President Teresa Sullivan on a Sunday, less than 2 years into her term:

We have calls internally for resolution of tough financial issues that require hard decisions on resource allocation. The compensation of our valued faculty and staff has continued to decline in real terms, and we acknowledge the tremendous task ahead of making star hires to fill the many spots that will be vacated over the next few years as our eminent faculty members retire in great numbers. These challenges are truly an existential threat to the greatness of UVA.

Quoted here by the always informed Channel 29 news team. Dragas’s explanation is direct, knowledgeable and coherent. Quite a contrast to the nonsense we got from Matt Donegan and the OUS Board when they fired President Lariviere. And yes, I take it as evidence in favor of the New Partnership’s independent UO board proposal. (Thanks to a longtime C’ville insider for the tip.) 6/10/2012.

Berdahl v. Pernsteiner, Friday Feb. 3, City Club

2/1/2012: OUS Board Chair Matt Donegan is still cut up from the Portland fight, and for all his bravado he apparently hasn’t shown his face in Eugene since the meeting where he and Allyn Ford told Lariviere the board had decided to fire him. So Donegan has sent us a washed-up lightweight to take his punches for him. This should be fascinating:

This Friday, February 3rd, the City Club of Eugene will host a debate on the future of higher education governance in Oregon, with Chancellor George Pernsteiner and Acting UO President Robert Berdahl. At the Eugene Hilton at 11:45.

Following the presentations, there will be an opportunity for questions from the audience. Robert Kyr, president of the UO Faculty Senate, will ask one of the first questions. Andrew Rogers, ASUO Communications Director, will ask the other.

This will also be broadcast on KLCC on Monday evening, Feb 6.

More info:

The Eugene City Club hosts many interesting talks and is a strong part of Eugene’s civic life. They want more UO faculty members, so do what you can to make this event.

The smart money is on Berdahl – but then the smart money was on Lariviere. Pernsteiner’s a sneaky bastard, with lots of student tuition money and state perks to dole out to his entourage of suck-ups.

Pernsteiner still can’t form search committee

1/31/2012: It’s more than 2 months since the OUS board fired Richard Lariviere. Board Chair Matt Donegan told us repeatedly at the Portland meeting that he was confident the board could find a qualified replacement quickly. But Chancellor George Pernsteiner still has not even been able to assemble a search committee. (Though he has hired Kim Morrison and the search firm “Diversified Search”.) We’ve been hearing for 3 weeks now that the committee announcement would be made within a few days. Tomorrow?

who wants to work for Pernsteiner?

1/8/2012: Back in November, Bob Berdahl wrote in the RG:

If you want to be president of the University of Oregon, be prepared to knuckle under to the chancellor and the board and be wary of the promises of the governor. 
Now Berdahl has the job of helping the chancellor and governor find a new UO President. Greg Bolt of the RG gets some quotes on how hard that’s going to be, unless the legislature passes a bill for an independent UO Board in the session that starts Feb. 1:

Both Gov. John Kitzhaber and the state Board of Higher Education have said they will support a bill that would allow the UO to take that step. But at this point no one knows if the Legislature will approve it, what powers the board would actually have or when it would be established.

Then there’s the potential conflict over the desire of local legislators and faculty to push that legislation in the February interim session and the desire of the governor and state board to wait until the 2013 session. That uncertainty and potential conflict could cause good candidates to pass on the UO, [CAE VP Gretchen Bataille] said.

People might throw a hat in the ring, “but will they accept (the job) until it’s very clear whether they have a separate board or they’re still governed by the larger (state) board? I think that’s the bigger question,” she said. “The governance structure is what may slow down the final selection.”

Bataille said a number of other major public universities also are looking for new presidents, noting that searches are already under way at schools in California and Georgia. And uncertainty over university governance in Oregon could make those other opportunities more attractive.

“There’s a lot of searches going on, so there’s a lot of competition,” she said.

President gives faculty raises, keeps job.

12/20/2011. Last week it was Ed Ray at OSU. Now it’s Wim Weiwel at PSU. Next week I suppose we’ll learn that Pernsteiner did it too. From the Bill Graves Oregonian story:

Portland State University faculty will get as much as a 4.1 percent pay raise for each of the next two years under a tentative contract agreement reached with administrators Monday.

The agreement, which union members must still vote on, affects the 1,288 full-time teaching and research faculty who belong to the American Association of University Professors.

Wim Wiewel, PSU president, said he would like to see faculty – who are paid well below professors at comparable universities – get more. …

They are unionized. I haven’t heard a peep from the UO faculty union organizers as of late. The most recent post on their website is almost a month old. I thought they were going to seize the moment and start a card check in January. Anyone know what is going on?

Richard Lariviere, unplugged

12/16/2011: Excellent interview with Jack Stripling in the Chronicle You may need to be on campus for the link to work.

I had plenty of problems with him as president. But I like the man because he’s witty and genuine. I admire him because he’s smart and because he cared first about our students, not about himself. I respect him because he’s nobody’s toady and he is as honest as Abe. I wish him the best because he fought like hell against people who deserve to be fought against, and because when they beat him, he left with a grace that left them looking like the fools they are.

I hope our next president is all these things, and also knows how to tame snakes. Maybe we can help:

Q: … In a recent opinion piece for the Eugene Register-Guard, [new interim UO President Berdahl] said, Oregon’s next president should “be prepared to knuckle under the chancellor.” Is this a person you thought the board would turn to?

A. I don’t think they turned to him instinctively. When the faculty unanimously demanded that Bob Berdahl be the interim president, it really became necessary for the board, in spite of what they may have felt, to choose him.

President gives pay raises, keeps job.

12/14/2011. That would be OSU President Ed Ray. From the Corvallis Gazette Times:

OSU will, however, raise its faculty pay by 4 percent starting in January 2012, as a means of keeping good faculty and attracting top-notch new faculty members. The faculty also will receive pay raises in January 2013.

Thursday’s announcement about the faculty raises comes a month after news broke that University of Oregon faculty and administrative workers received on average $4,845 in raises last spring.

Along with raises, the university plans hire 40 to 57 more faculty members over the next year, including 15 to 17 to teach sections of courses with heavy undergraduate enrollment. And just like students, OSU hopes to hire the best faculty they can.

Congratulations to the OSU faculty. I’m no economist, but these raises look very similar to the ones that Chancellor Pernsteiner and Governor Kitzhaber used as part of their justification for firing Richard Lariviere. I wonder if board member and OSU professor Lynda Ciuffetti gets one? Maybe President Ray is getting away with this because he’s not passing out sabbaticals and BMW’s to his top administrators?

Firing unites UO, almost

12/11/2011: Greg Bolt has a long story in the RG on how the Lariviere firing has forged new leadership and solidarity at UO:

History professor Ian McNeely, a member of the UO Senate’s executive committee, said it has been inspiring to see how people have put aside differences to work together to advance new management ideas for the university. …. There are people who have been very vocal critics of the athletic program, for example, talking with very high profile donors to athletics and agreeing that on this day we can begin to move forward together.”
Music professor Robert Kyr, president of the UO Senate, went even further. He said the university community already is moving past Lariviere’s firing, which he said has opened new lines of dialogue with state leaders that are leading to a new and better relationship. “Whatever happened between the state board, the chancellor, the governor and President Lariviere is in the past,” Kyr said. “We’re in a new era now. We want to go forward, and we want to collaborate and have consultation at all levels of the decision-making process. We’re very positive, and we’re very excited about this new relationship.” …
Rep. Phil Barnhart, a Eugene Democrat, has stated publicly that he will introduce a bill in the February session allowing separate university boards, which so far only the UO and Portland State University have said they are interested in. … “I am pushing for this to be dealt with in the short term,” Barnhart said. “I would like the university to go out on a search for a new president with an assurance that the governance issue is going to be dealt with in the best way possible.”

Kitzhaber invited Senate President Kyr and faculty to Salem – not the Provost, not the VP’s, not the deans, not the “executive leadership team”. It’s been interesting how the faculty has taken the lead so far. The Senate and dept. heads supported Berdahl and no one else. Reportedly the deans were willing to accept Pernsteiner’s toadying insider candidate Jim Bean as interim. Johnson Hall was split.

Soon these people will put their skill-set to work and start the brown-nosing of Berdahl. Then our administrators will try to put the faculty back in their place so they can safely return to figuring out new ways to siphon off UO tuition for their car payments and airfare to away games. We’ll see if this has changed UO’s internal politics as much as it appears to have changed our relationship with the state.

Effect of firing on fundraising

12/7/2011: Allan Brettman of the Oregonian has a good piece:

For donors like Lorry Lokey and Vinton “Slim” Sommerville, Lariviere’s ouster was a stunning blow that no amount of explanation of process and political niceties can soothe. “It’s the governor’s fault and I hope the voters remember this two years from now and knock him out,” said Lokey, the founder of the Business Wire news service who has pledged or paid about $134 million to UO.

Lokey said he will wait until spring — when emotions have subsided and when the Legislature convenes — to decide on the future of his gifts to UO. “I’m not in a position to say what I’m going to do,” said Lokey, a Stanford University graduate who grew up in Portland. “I don’t know. I want to wait six months to see things evolve.”

Lokey, a University of Oregon Foundation trustee, said it was essential for the Legislature to approve an independent governing board for at least UO. “If it all works out, great,” Lokey said, a California resident. “I’ll be glad to pledge even more money.”

Donors are too smart to give their money to Pernsteiner, which is essentially what happens now.  He reacts to UO’s success by cutting UO’s state allotment and funneling the money to EOU, WOU, SOU, and IOU – after a tithe for George’s personal expenses, of course. Thanks to a reader for the link.

Latest PR from Kitzhaber

12/6/2011: He is “moving forward on education”. He “feels a tremendous sense of urgency”. He will let UO community have “meaningful input in the transition and search” for new Prez – thanks. He won’t do anything about independent boards until 2013. Wow. No reason to read this, we’ve heard it all before but if you insist, it’s just out, posted here. The only credible candidate for UO president seems astonishingly prescient: he pre-posted his reply to the governor last week in the RG, here.

Wed Senate exec meeting w/ Pernsteiner on new Pres

12/6/2011: Starts at 9AM, blogged live to the extent possible.

Pernsteiner: Plan A is Berdahl. Will you please not blog anything about the rest of this meeting?

UO Matters: Maybe, maybe not. That’s up to the faculty.

Pernsteiner: And if the board does not appoint Berdahl president, what will you do?


Bloody constraint;
For if you hide the crown,
Even in your heart,
There will we rake for it.

Therefore in fierce tempest are we coming,
In thunder and in earthquake, like a Jove,
That, if requiring fail, we will compel;

And bid you, in the bowels of the Lord,
Deliver up the crown, and to take mercy
On the poor souls for whom this hungry war
Opens his vasty jaws; and on your head
Turning the widows’ tears, the orphans’ cries
The dead men’s blood, the pining maidens groans,
For husbands, fathers and betrothed lovers,
That shall be swallow’d in this controversy.

This is our claim, our threatening, and our message.

Bill Graves documents public meetings violation by OUS Board

12/3/2011: From his narrative of the “Rise and Fall of Richard Lariviere”, in the Oregonian:

On Nov. 17, the board met to decide whether to allow state universities to have independent boards, a cornerstone reform that Lariviere advocated.

“This was the defining issue, the cause of so much acrimony,” Donegan said. “Richard simply didn’t show up.’

By then, Donegan had started to poll board members on whether they wanted to renew Lariviere’s contract, a decision they had to make by the end of the year.

Donegan and board member Ally Ford arrived at Lariviere’s Eugene office at 9 a.m. sharp on Nov. 24 with the axe. His contract would not be renewed. No one on the board supported him. 

Rumor is that OUS board member Jill Eiland was a key player in this hatchet job, and that there’s an email trail documenting that the decision was made before the 11/28 executive and public meetings and Paul Kelly’s bathroom break – as if there’s any doubt on that.

Director Ron Bersin has not yet responded to the public meetings ethics complaint filed by UO faculty members last Monday. His email is and the GEC phone number is 503-378-510. I should have more info to post about this Monday. The next meeting of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission is January 12, 9AM, location TBA. The GEC Comission members are:

Portland, OR
Occupation: Foundation Board Member
Appointed by House Democrats

Salem, OR
Occupation: Retired
Appointed by Governor

Portland, OR
Appointed by Senate Republicans

Salem, OR
Appointed by Occupation: City Attorney

Eugene, OR
Occupation: Retired
Appointed by House Republicans

Portland, OR
Occupation: Retired
Appointed by Governor

Portland, OR
Occupation: Attorney
Appointed by Senate Democrats

A good resource for Oregon law on this ethics inquiry is at Key points:

The Preliminary Review Phase begins on the date the complaint is filed or the date the commission decides to proceed on its own motion and ends on the date the commission determines there is cause to undertake an investigation, dismisses the complaint or rescinds its own motion. The Preliminary Review Phase may not exceed 135 days unless: …

At the conclusion of the Preliminary Review Phase, the commission shall conduct its deliberations in executive session. All case related materials and proceedings shall be open to the public after the commission makes a finding of cause to undertake an investigation, dismisses a complaint or rescinds a motion. Prior to the end of the Preliminary Review Phase, the executive director of the commission shall prepare a statement of the facts determined during the phase, including appropriate legal citations and relevant authorities. Before presentation to the commission, the executive director’s statement shall be reviewed by legal counsel to the commission.

If the Oregon Government Ethics Commission finds that an appointed public official has violated any provision of this chapter or any rule adopted under this chapter, the finding is prima facie evidence of unfitness where removal is authorized for cause either by law or pursuant to section 6, Article VII (Amended) of the Oregon Constitution.