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.

Oregonians for Higher Education Excellence

5/23/2012 update. The list of supporters for this PAC is growing, and as a commenter reports it now includes a Lillis. Updates here. I don’t know that Bob Berdahl deserves credit, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

This is part of what it will take to move the independent UO board part of Lariviere’s New Partnership through the legislature. Last year the UO Foundation spent about $500,000 lobbying for it, near as I can tell.

The biggest problems with an independent board will be too much influence from sports boosters, too many of the governor’s political appointees, and too little transparency. But those problems could hardly be worse at UO than they now are, and there’s a lot of upside – so let’s roll the dice!

5/22/2012: A new PAC, formed by Tim Boyle and John von Schlegell. Secretary of State filings here. “To support measures and initiatives that enhance excellence, innovation and affordability at Oregon’s public universities” a.k.a. Lariviere’s New Partnership.

There’s big money behind this, most of it and not all of it from UO sports boosters:

5/22/2012: Click here for updates on the contributions. Thanks to Nigel Jaquiss of Willamette Week for the story, which I saw on And if you’re thinking of contributing, don’t neglect Sam Dotters-Katz’s SHEEN PAC, which has the same goal but slightly less cash on hand. 5/22/2012.

OSU Pres Ed Ray on local boards

3/11/2012: Whole letter here, well worth reading:

In the worst instances, universities with local boards meander toward excellence, if they are lucky. They often must accommodate the tastes of local board members while trying to execute longer term plans. My experience with a local board and with the NCAA leads me to conclude that many of the problems universities in Division I have with NCAA violations are related to boards or board members who tell the president when and how to hire and fire coaches and when to look the other way in the face of possible infractions because “things” are going well.

That could never happen at UO of course. Ray’s letter is for the 3/16 OUS Board meeting on this subject. Presumably Pres Berdahl will send around his own letter soon.

Oregonian mocks Kitzhaber’s 40-40-20 plan

2/19/2012: Columnist David Sarasohn:

In the middle of the 1990s, when Oregon K-12 funding was a question of whether programs would be thrown overboard right away or the following year, Portland school superintendent Jack Bierwirth was asked why he had ever decided to come here.

He explained that he’d been very excited about the school reform plan the Legislature passed in 1991, guaranteeing preschool to every Oregon student, and thought with that basis, schools could do impressive things.

Delicately, he was asked whether he hadn’t noticed that there was no actual funding for the policy.

Bierwirth replied, still sounding bewildered years after his decision, “I couldn’t believe they’d pass it without some way to pay for it.”

At the time, he hadn’t seen much of Oregon.

Bierwirth’s bewilderment comes to mind as the state sets out another lofty goal, 40-40-20 — having 40 percent of the state’s adults with four-year college degrees, 40 percent with two-year degrees or the equivalent, and the remaining 20 percent with high school degrees. It would be an impressive advance, since the four-year number is now closer to 30 percent and the two-year degree number way lower than that. The state is so proud of the goal that the last legislature made it law.

Just like the 1991 school reform bill.

Oregon’s not going to get to 40-40-20 by just getting people to sign compacts saying they’ll do better. It will take considerable new money for both university resources and financial aid support, a sharp U-turn from the direction the state has followed for the last 20 years. …

Lariviere had a plan that would have allowed UO to do its part, complete with financing. Kitzhaber let Pernsteiner fire him – and hasn’t come up with anything better. At some point politician’s “aspirational goals” become part of the problem.

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.

What independent boards do:

1/23/2012: Mostly deal with athletic scandals. And peanut butter. Penn State, from the Chronicle:

The meeting of the trustees, which was watched by several thousand people on the Internet and had been moved to a larger venue to accommodate members of the public and media, lasted for several hours. It was dominated by matters relating directly to or stemming from the child sex-abuse scandal that has rocked the institution since November. The acting athletic director, David M. Joyner, for instance, reassured trustees that the football program had not lost any new recruits to the scandal and that morale was steadily improving. Mr. Joyner also disclosed that Penn State would be paying out about $4.4-million in severance to six assistant football coaches who were not retained under the new head coach, Bill O’Brien.

But despite the heightened outside interest in Friday’s meeting, the Penn State trustees still had routine business interspersed with scandal-related items on their agenda, and at times shifted quite abruptly between the two. Among the more mundane issues the board addressed were expanding wireless Internet coverage in some Penn State dorm rooms and approving new building projects.
The trustees were also informed that the university was unaffected this year by a rise in peanut prices, because it had stockpiled some of the 20,000 pounds of peanut butter consumed each year on the campus.

UVA Board of visitors minutes here. Most of the interesting stuff is done in executive session.

TONIGHT: Town Hall on UO Board with Barnhart, Beyer and Hoyle

January 17th: Lane County Legislators Host Town Hall Meeting!

Senator Beyer and Representatives Barnhart, Beyer and Hoyle will meet with community members, students and faculty to discuss the upcoming February Special Session and other issues raised by the audience. (Due to a scheduling conflict Senator Prozanski and Representatives Holvey may be able to participate, but likely only for a portion of the meeting)

Open to the General Public

7:00 PM on January 17th 
Lawrence Hall, Room 115, University of Oregon, Eugene

Help wanted: Boss for Pernsteiner

1/16/2012: Ad posted in the Chronicle today:

The Chief Education Officer will serve as the OEIB’s chief executive in the creation, implementation and management of an integrated and aligned public education system from pre-school through post-secondary education. The initial phase of the Chief Education Officer’s tenure will require visionary leadership, skillful collaboration with legislators, educators, parents and education stakeholders at the state and local levels and the effective engagement of community leaders and citizens to build and implement an integrated and aligned education system.

Legislative higher ed "reform" efforts, and Eugene public meeting this Tuesday at 7PM

1/15/2011: The session starts Feb 1. The Oregon House Higher Education Committee is working on a resolution to establish yet another task force, with LC 288:

Establishes Task Force on Higher Education Governance and Coordi-
nation. Directs task force to analyze issues of higher education coordination
and governance and report findings and recommendations to Governor and
Legislative Assembly.

They plan a hearing 1/19, with speakers to include
            – Bob Davies, President, Eastern Oregon University   
           –  Ben Eckstein, President, Associated Students of Portland State University (sic)   
            – Paul Weinhold, President, University of Oregon Foundation

The committee also plans to discuss LC 261, which modifies existing law on monitoring of teaching time by professors – don’t see anything about research efforts. Strange.

Then there’s LC 287, which studies allowing students to get Oregon financial aid to take online classes at the Western Governor’s University in Utah. Controversial.

Meanwhile the Lane County delegation plans a public meeting in Eugene on their efforts to make some progress on a UO Board this session:

January 17th: Lane County Legislators Host Town Hall Meeting!

Senator Beyer and Representatives Barnhart, Beyer and Hoyle will meet with community members, students and faculty to discuss the upcoming February Special Session and other issues raised by the audience. (Due to a scheduling conflict Senator Prozanski and Representatives Holvey may be able to participate, but likely only for a portion of the meeting)

Open to the General Public
7:00 PM on January 17th 
Lawrence Hall, Room 115, University of Oregon, Eugene 

I find it very troubling that there are no Lane County delegates on the House higher ed committee. Combine that with the fact that there are no UO members of the OUS board, and you start to see how utterly isolated we are in state politics.

Kitzhaber’s education plans

The OEIB website is here, pretty transparent. This is interesting, on local boards, from the 1/3/2011 meeting:

1/3/2011: In all the craziness around the Lariviere firing, I think I missed this 12/1/2011 Betsy Hammond story on the extremely confusing situation involving Kitzhaber’s plans for governance of Oregon education. Raises more questions than it answers:

Oregon plans to recruit and hire a new “chief education officer” who will have unprecedented power over education, including control of the chancellor of higher education, the next superintendent of Oregon’s public schools and the state community college commissioner.

Gov. John Kitzhaber’s new overarching education board, with control over preschool through universities, unanimously endorsed the general job description for that education officer Thursday.

Kitzhaber said he hopes to have the right person in the job by April….

A small group of education advocates, led by Nike government and public affairs director Julia Brim-Edwards and the vice president of the state teachers union, has since spent months fleshing out what the education officer would do and what authority the officer would have.

Based on their work, the 13-member statewide education board, formally titled the Oregon Education Investment Board, plans to ask the Legislature to require the chancellor, the community college commissioner and the executive director of Oregon’s college financial aid agency to answer to the chief education officer. 

Read it all. Kitzhaber’s press release is here. The job description is posted here – I’ll believe it when it shows up in the Chronicle of higher ed job listings.