SB909 and SB242

6/20/2011: From Michelle Cole in the Oregonian:

Monday is a big day for education policy in the Oregon Legislature. After months of public Education Committee tiffs and behind-the-scenes negotiations, the Joint Ways and Means Committee moved several bills on for floor votes. Many of the proposals would have a lasting impact on public education.

The legislation includes Senate Bill 909, which is Gov. John Kitzhaber’s proposal to create a new investment board that would coordinate funding for all levels of education, from Pre-K to the universities. There are also measures benefiting charter and online schools. For a full run down, see Jeff Mapes’ story from Friday’s committee action. …

Presumably SB242, OUS Chancellor Pernsteiner’s proposal to centralize authority for higher education in the hands of a careerist mid-level manager without a PhD who was appointed by a disgraced child abusing ex-governor, without a public search, and then blow the state’s tax money on his own inflated salary, mansion, car, extra housing allowance, and undocumented expense accounts will also come up for a house vote today, it has already passed the Senate.

ODE Editorial in support of Lariviere

6/20/2011: From Franklin Bains:

… We’re in a tough spot; the University’s tuition is set to increase by nine percent this fall and public funding to fight the skyrocketing tuition is nowhere to be found. It’s going to take a radical solution to solve the dilemma of decreased public funding and contingent private donations, to say nothing of the governance model issues.

And if you threaten to get rid of every university representative that “steps out of line,” you’re going to get a whole lot of ineffective leaders.

 That, of course, is exactly what Dr. Pernsteiner is hoping for.

UW-Madison faculty endorse their New Partnership

5/3/2011: From Todd Finklemeyer in the Capital Times:

It appears, however, that the faculty senate’s show of support might be too little, too late.
“We have learned through visits with key legislators on the Joint Finance Committee on both sides of the aisle that this proposal is not receiving support in the Legislature and is unlikely to be adopted,” said Judith Burstyn, chair of the University Committee, which is the executive committee of the faculty senate. “The major obstacle is the split from UW System.”

Victory for Dr. Pernsteiner

4/14/2011: Looks like our croissant loving Chancellor, Dr. George Pernsteiner, has come through for independence. Bill Graves in the Oregonian:

A bill that would free Oregon universities from hundreds of state agency regulations and give them more control over their money and operations appears to have all the support it needs to become law.

Legislators, university leaders, students and others all testified in support of Senate Bill 242 this morning during a public hearing in the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Education. No one opposed the bill. The full Ways and Means committee likely will approve the bill soon and send it to the floors of the Senate and House for a vote. …

The bill would end the Oregon University System’s status as a state agency and make it a public university system similar to the state’s 17 independent community colleges, with more control over how it raises and spends money.

The seven universities would be able to keep their tuition reserves and the interest they earn on them. The interest now goes into the state general fund where it often is used for other state services. The  State Board of Higher Education has decided that if the universities get to keep interest on tuition, they will spend it on need-based financial aid to students.

The universities also could save money, officials say, if they had more flexibility and authority to issue bonds, make contracts and capital purchases, manage staff and benefits, hire legal services and buy health insurance plans other than those offered through the state. …

Meanwhile, the UO Senate pulled its motion of support for Lariviere’s plan for future consideration – in a meeting that was reportedly marked by more testy exchanges over faculty/administrative trust.

The Senate also rejected Ian McNeely’s proposal to add average grades to course transcripts, but did recommend individual departments talk about grading. Verbano story in the ODE here. My department has guidelines for the % of As and Bs and every quarter we all get an email showing each professors student rating scores and their actual grade distribution. Keeps us on our toes.

New Partnership endorsement on Wednesday

4/11/2011: The UO Senate votes Wednesday on endorsing Lariviere’s New Partnership plan. Ian McNeely wrote this last week in the ODE:

I have studied the New Partnership in detail, plus the two bills proposed in Salem to enact it. I have asked President Lariviere tough questions about donor influence, public accountability and the rights of faculty and students to participate in University governance. In every instance, I have been reassured. I can say with absolute confidence that this is not a privatization scheme, and I don’t know why anyone would portray it as such. And though nothing is certain, I firmly believe it will make the University more affordable, more accessible and more responsive to public needs.

I agree with this characterization and on balance I support the New Partnership. We would be a much better university now if the plan had been in existence 5 years ago, and we will be a much worse university 5 years from now if it is not passed.

However, it is a trust-me proposal. And those efforts the administration has made to attempt to build trust with the faculty (and the students) have been badly bungled – to the point where you have to doubt their sincerity. In addition, the bill will surely change between now and the next session. So I think the motion should be tabled until it comes up in the legislature again, and until Lariviere has had a chance to show he will work with the faculty to repair the transparency and governance issues. We should be going into this with a consensus of support and I don’t think we are there yet.

Kitzhaber endorses New Partnership

3/30/2011: Bill Graves now has a story in the Oregonian.

This email from Pres Lariviere is very positive news, though not for this session. Bummer. Lariviere’s letter to Kitzhaber is here, Kitzhaber’s reply is here. Kitzhaber’s bill would abolish OUS and the Chancellor’s office. Details here, page down and follow the SB909 link.

Dear Colleagues:

I am writing to report that the University of Oregon has agreed to coordinate our New Partnership proposals with Gov. John Kitzhaber’s education overhaul plans. In a face-to-face meeting last week and an exchange of letters this week (see the letters at http://newpartnership.uoregon.edu), we agreed to align the New Partnership proposals for university local governing boards (SB 559) and public/private endowments (SJR 20) with the governor’s plan to establish a new statewide board for education – the Oregon Education Investment Board (SB 909).

The University of Oregon, with our advocates at the UO Foundation and UO Alumni Association, are urging lawmakers to adopt the governor’s education plan along with higher education autonomy reforms this year and to approve New Partnership governance and funding reforms during the February 2012 session of the legislature, just ten months from now.

This is positive news. For the first time, the governor has embraced our vision of more accountability through local governing boards and greater student access and affordability through public/private endowments. Because the New Partnership aligns with the governor’s vision for education reforms, it makes sense for his plan to be the first step toward implementing bigger, bolder higher education reforms early next year. We recognize that making big changes takes time; fortunately, this is a question of months, not years. We will continue working with the governor, legislature and other higher education leaders on our ideas for education excellence.

Our advocacy work continues. The University of Oregon, with the governor’s encouragement, will continue the important work of helping policymakers and all Oregonians understand our ideas to provide affordable access to higher education for Oregon’s students. The legislature continues to prepare our proposal for further consideration, including a hearing next week in the House Education subcommittee on Higher Education. Also, the important conversations now occurring on campus about the New Partnership proposal – especially UO Senate consideration on April 13 and discussions with students must continue and carry forward to the February 2012 session. 

With the help of alumni, advocates, faculty, staff, students and campus stakeholders, the University of Oregon remains committed to keeping the promise of higher education within reach of Oregon’s students. I am heartened—and we should all be encouraged–by the governor’s plans for the future and the important role to be played by the University of Oregon.

We will continue to advocate for the changes needed to build an even greater university until we are successful. Our students and our state are worth it. Thank you for your ongoing engagement in these issues.

All the best,

Richard

State Rep Chris Harker

3/26/2011: of the House higher ed subcommittee on the New Partnership plan. From David Sarasohn in the Oregonian:

“(UO President) Richard (Lariviere) was really bold in doing what he did there, and people had their toes stepped on,” says Harker, “but he really pushed the conversation in a significant way.”… “We’re not giving Richard everything he wants, but it won’t be a complete rejection of his proposal,” Harker expects. “We’ll begin the process. We know we’ll be back here in 2012.”

New Partnership and trust

3/8/2011: The RG has an editorial that reads like a wake for the New Partnership plan:

President Richard Lariviere’s proposal to fund the University of Oregon’s operations with a public-private endowment is going nowhere in Salem, even after he offered to include a cap on tuition increases as part of his plan.

I hope he pulls off a hat trick. You just know he wears it for a reason. Meanwhile, here is a post from 6 months back. Both are still worth reading. Read the part from Walth at the bottom. This was a “trust me” proposal, and there is very little trust in UO, at any level, still. The good things that have been done – some financial transparency, firing Grier and now Dyke – have been canceled out by the DPS mess, parking, graduation, the Denecke and Geller hires, the no faculty CFO search, ORI, and so on.

Perhaps more significantly, the legislature does not seem to trust our administration either. If this fails Lariviere should try again. He needs to spend the interim shoring up trust with the faculty and the students, as well as the legislature.


8/28/2010: The Oregon Quarterly magazine has two interesting articles on the “New Partnership” plan, one by Pres Lariviere, one by Oregonian reporter and Tom McCall biographer Brent Walth.

Lariviere’s article lays out the plan:

A state funding commitment of about $63 million per year, less than the $64.9 million amount allocated in 2009–10, can be used over thirty years to make annual debt payments on $800 million in general obligation bonds. The UO will match the $800 million in bond proceeds with money raised from private donors and manage the combined $1.6 billion as an endowment. … Our proposal calls for the UO to trade its prospects of a state reinvestment in public higher education for a predictable—though minimal—level of support. That reliable income stream will then create an incentive for increased philanthropic investment in the University, and the state’s base level of support will be capitalized in a manner that best fulfills Oregon’s promise to offer Oregonians an affordable higher education.

Walth’s article – well worth reading it all – gets into the backstory:

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.

One rumor is that Lariviere extracted a promise from OUS Chancellor George Pernsteiner that he would support the New Partnership plan before he would accept the job. A promise Pernsteiner promptly broke by having his staff draw up their own alternative plan that puts the power in OUS’s hands.

I like the ending of Walth’s story, on motivation for the concrete efforts Lariviere has been making on transparency, including firing Melinda Grier, establishing a new public records office, posting basic financial data on the web, and promising further financial transparency. It is clear that Lariviere understands that his proposal is to some extent a “trust me” proposal – and people still don’t trust UO:

The University has faced similar criticisms about its reputation for excessive secrecy, especially in regard to what some perceive as foot-dragging when it comes to responding to public-records requests. My colleague at The Oregonian, columnist Steve Duin, wrote that the UO had “adopted a code of secrecy worthy of the KGB”—especially around UO athletics and Phil Knight ’59, chairman of Nike and the University’s megadonor.

Lariviere says the Bellotti mess (he actually used a barnyard epithet instead of the word mess) helps to make his point about transparency and accountability: He believes a board dedicated to running the UO would have demanded more transparency in the first place and never allowed the University’s athletic director to work based on a handshake deal. Similarly, he has already responded to criticism about public-records foot-dragging by creating a public records ombudsman who will track and make posts on the Internet about the way in which the UO deals with every public records request it receives.

Lariviere says it might take years to rebuild the trust the UO has lost. “The legacy of mistrust is pretty deep,” Lariviere says. “I don’t understand it. I understand there is mistrust. I don’t understand what gave rise to it or why the policies were in place that gave rise to mistrust.”

Actually, at this point I think Lariviere has a pretty good understanding of why there is so little trust, and of why Frohnmayer was so intent on hiding so much of what happened at UO during his 15 years as President.

But regardless, I don’t think it will take that long to rebuild some trust, at least internally. Things have already changed a fair amount. It’s crucial that the new public records office follows through on its promise of course.

Another problem will be the secrecy of the UO Foundation, which will have an expanded financial role under this plan, and which Attorney General Kroger has recently ruled is exempt from Oregon’s public records law – an exemption which the Foundation shows every sign of exploiting to the hilt.

New partnership tuition cap

3/2/2011: In testimony at the legislature yesterday President Lariviere raised the stakes and then called Pernsteiner’s bluff, adding a 5% in-state tuition cap to his new partnership plan. He can do this because his plan includes a fixed state contribution, large new private donations, and a workable strategy for getting them. Pernsteiner could always promise students a lower cap. But if pressed to show his numbers, he would have to admit he would get there by gutting UO’s research mission. Franklin Bains of the ODE has a story here, Bill Graves of the Oregonian here, these quotes are from the Greg Bolt RG story here:

Lariviere’s proposed tuition amendments didn’t immediately win over some students. Representatives of the UO student government and the statewide Oregon Student Association testified against the plan.

“Without checks and balances from the OUS and Legislature, we could see the UO as only a place for the very wealthy or the few fortunate enough to receive a scholarship,” said Emma Kallaway, legislative director for the state student association and a past UO student body president.

But the plan also has many supporters among faculty, the business community and other students.

UO finance professor John Chalmers, a member of the UO Senate budget committee, said that group supports the plan because it would provide for more predictable funding, the likelihood of future funding increases and excellent opportunities for academic fundraising.

“We believe the New Partnership takes a leap forward,” Chalmers said. “It’s a plan that can improve the quality and access to the University of Oregon.”

This bit is more problematic:

But some students said they consider that part of the plan risky because it puts the university’s financial future in the hands of private investment managers at the UO Foundation. They also worry that donors to the endowment will interfere in how the UO is managed.

“Anytime we’re accepting private money, there’s usually strings attached for how that money should be spent,” said UO student body President Amelie Rousseau in response to questions by state Sen. Larry George, R-Sherwood. “We’re seeing kind of a shift in priorities from academics to other things we have a lot of concerns about, and we don’t want that trend to continue.”

Ms Rousseau is right to worry. The UO Foundation is an expensive money laundering operation for the Duck Athletic Fund. They do not follow state transparency rules, and they have hired an attorney who convinced the state AG they did not need to.

Their President Paul Weinhold has now asked the IRS for a *second* extension for their 2009 990 report – due last Oct 15. This is the form that shows their expenses, including his salary and benefits. No wonder he wants to hide it as long as he can. But all you have to do is take a look at their plush new offices – right between Matt Court and the Jock Box – to know what they are up to. They could have spent that money on classrooms, to them this was a higher priority.

Poll shows public support for Lariviere’s plan

3/1/2011: The alumni foundation has a pretty slick website as well. From Inside Oregon:

According to the poll’s results, 70 percent of respondents support the creation of dedicated, locally-based governing boards for each of the state’s public universities, as proposed in Senate Bill 559. Also, 71 percent favored allowing universities to create public/private endowments, which would be enabled under Senate Joint Resolution 20, and 57 percent would support a measure on the ballot next year to authorize the endowments.

Of those who responded to the poll, 61 percent said they want dramatic – not modest – changes to Oregon’s higher education system and 59 percent support decentralized governance of the state’s universities.

The Pernsteiner plan centralizes governance in – no surprise – Chancellor Pernsteiner’s office. And how did a guy without a PhD end up earning $300,000 and telling the state’s research universities how to spend their money? Neil Goldschmidt appointed him.

Kitzhaber education plan

2/22/2011: Stefan Verbano of the ODE has the most complete description of Kitzhaber’s education reform plan I’ve seen yet. Springfield Schools superintendent Nancy Golden is his adviser:

How the governor’s plan will affect the host of higher education bills currently moving through the state legislature has yet to be determined. Golden said the plan is sympathetic to the Oregon University System and University President Richard Lariviere’s pushes for greater university autonomy; their respective restructuring proposals are now being appraised in Salem. At the same time, Kitzhaber still wants to retain some authority over higher education provisions.

“There are things he wants to still have a say in,” Golden said. “He doesn’t want tuition (rates) completely left up to the local university boards.”

Not clear what will happen to OUS yet:

“We have been told that the governor supports OUS’s governance reform efforts,” Saunders said. “We have heard that it’s too early to know whether Board would be dissolved, and that the initial design team will be looking at that.”

"not as confident"

2/9/2011: From a PSU town hall on Pernsteiner’s plan:

Despite the objections, Beaverton Democrat Chris Harker, who sits on the House committee giving the bill its first hearings, predicted it has a good chance of passing.

“There is real momentum now,” Harker said. “I think we’re going to get it through.”

Harker said he’s “not as confident” that a parallel bill offered by University of Oregon Presidet Richard Lariviere will pass.

Matthew Kish, Portland Business Journal.