laugh, or cry?

10/27/2010: From KEZI reporter Dan Corcoran’s story tonight on the insider appointment of Melinda Grier’s longtime deputy Randy Geller as UO’s new General Counsel:

After a national search, Lariviere says Geller was the most qualified candidate. “His attitude towards transparency and accountability was exactly what I was looking for,” Lariviere said.

 and then:

KEZI requested an interview with Randy Geller and also requested just a photograph of him more than two weeks ago. Neither of those requests have been granted by Geller or the university.

Yes, that’s the attitude alright. More on this after I have a few stiff drinks and then sleep them off.

Meanwhile the Oregon Commentator develops the best theory yet on Geller:

Many people see the UO’s refusal to let people talk to its new legal honcho, or even know what he looks like, as a betrayal of the transparency UO cheese Richard Lariviere has promised. They’re reading the tea-leaves wrong. Here’s the truth: Randy Geller doesn’t actually exist. …

But this is just a theory. I’ll give a UO Matters coffee cup to the first person who falsifies it, with a picture of Geller at Grier’s desk.

Oregonian on Lariviere’s overtime

10/18/2010: From the Oregonian editorial board, not from me:

University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere is asking the Legislature to allow him to run the university as he sees fit, freed from the stifling edicts applied to the rest of state government. It looks now like Lariviere chose not to wait for an answer.

When Gov. Ted Kulongoski ordered state agencies — including the university system — to require their workers to take furlough days, Lariviere apparently approved a plan to allow as many as 1,000 UO employees to offset the lost furlough hours with overtime hours, according to documents obtained by Willamette Week.  

We’ve been impressed with Lariviere’s bold vision and aggressive leadership at the UO. But this was a misstep, one he may come to regret when the Legislature finally takes up the question of the independence he seeks.

WTF? Randy Geller as General Counsel? Unbelievable.

10/7/2010: The campus erupted in celebration back in April when Pres Lariviere fired General Counsel Melinda Grier and announced:

“This institution did not follow acceptable business practices in the past,” Lariviere said. “That will not be repeated under my administration.” 

Jeff Manning and Ken Goe of the Oregonian wrote:

Grier, who did not return a message seeking comment, has come to personify the culture of secrecy that has developed at the university, particularly with regard to its athletic department.

Margie Paris, outgoing Law School Dean, was appointed to chair the hiring committee for a replacement. She’s very respected, good call. The job ad emphasized all the right things. Everyone assumed Lariviere would hire a respected outsider who would clean house. Manning and Goe wrote:

Kent Robinson, long-time federal prosecutor in Portland, has emerged as one candidate to replace Grier. Robinson is a respected veteran prosecutor who for years has worked in a senior role at the U.S. attorney’s office.

Yesterday we learned that President Lariviere had not just given the job to an insider, but to Melinda Grier’s longtime deputy, Loren “Randy” Geller.

WTF? Why not just reappoint Ms Grier? Put John Moseley in charge of Finance and Budgeting again? Hell, we need a new law Dean, I hear Frohnmayer is available. Unbelievable!


I am pleased to announce that Randy Geller will become our new general counsel effective October 15.  Randy was selected from a national pool of outstanding candidates.

Randy has served the University of Oregon since 2003 and was appointed deputy general counsel in 2006.  He has been a lawyer for almost 18 years, 15 of those at two public research universities.  He has proven experience in all aspects of higher education law, and a deep appreciation for the University of Oregon.

The general counsel is the chief legal officer for the university and oversees the Office of the General Counsel.  The office provides legal advice to the university pursuant to authorization from and subject to general supervision by the Oregon Attorney General.

Randy has been managing the university’s legal affairs since April of this year.  In the short time he has served in this role, he has demonstrated a comprehensive understanding of higher education law and current legal issues in Oregon and the nation.  Randy has a J.D. from the University of Washington and received his B.A. in political science and political economy from Evergreen State College.  His work experience before coming to the UO includes serving as staff assistant for U.S. Senator Brock Adams of Washington state, serving as assistant attorney general in Washington state, and serving in the Office of University Counsel at the University of Idaho.

In addition to congratulating Randy, I want to thank the search committee (listed below) for their exhaustive work.

All the best,




Margie Paris, chair, dean of the school of law
Thomas Herrmann, UO law ’88, partner at Gleaves Swearingen Potter & Scott LLP
David Leith, associate attorney general, Oregon Department of Justice
Jamie Moffitt, executive senior associate athletic director for finance and administration
Michael Redding, vice president for university relations
Paul Shang, assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students
Catherine Susman, director of purchasing and contract services

 Update – see here for a little history regarding Randy Geller’s experience withholding public records.

Lariviere and Walth on "New Partnership"

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.

Frohnmayer blames Lariviere and Grier, Grier blames Frohnmayer, …

6/14/2010: Eric Kelderman of the Chronicle of Higher Education (or here) has an interesting, long, and thorough article on the recent unpleasantness, and more generally on UO and the tough job Lariviere has in front of him:

… what is clear is that Mr. Bellotti’s hiring was highly unusual and involved a number of questionable decisions by Mr. Lariviere’s predecessor, David B. Frohnmayer, and Mr. Kilkenny, who negotiated the salary for his successor but failed to produce anything in writing from that process. Mr. Kilkenny could not be reached for comment.

“I just cannot imagine a series of negotiations involving the athletic director and there not being something in writing somewhere,” said Raymond D. Cotton, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., who specializes in hiring and compensation in higher education.

Ironically, in 2007 Ray Cotton charged OUS $45,572 for a 10 page consulting report on presidents’ salaries, which Frohnmayer’s friends on the state OUS board then used to justify a series of large pay increases for him – mostly paid out UO Foundation funds. Which athletic boosters gave Frohnmayer this money? Oregon Attorney General John Kroger has recently ruled that the Foundation can keep that a secret – but presumably Kilkenny was one of them. He gave $240,000 to Frohnmayer’s Fanconi foundation, the year before Frohnmayer gave him the AD job – the very job from which Kilkenny then negotiated that verbal contract with Mike Bellotti.

Anyway, Frohnmayer then goes on to blame Grier and, get this – incoming President Richard Lariviere – for the Bellotti payoff:

Mr. Frohnmayer said that he had no communication with Mr. Bellotti or Mr. Kilkenny about the nature of the negotiations. But he also said he did not intend for the new athletic director to have a contract that would saddle the incoming president with a long-term financial obligation. “Both the incoming and outgoing president assumed that the contract would be completed by the incoming president,” he said.

Mr. Frohnmayer also said Ms. Grier was responsible for all of the athletics contracts. But Ms. Grier said she was not even told of Mr. Kilkenny’s role until after the negotiations were supposedly complete. Mr. Frohnmayer, a former Orgeon attorney general, personally handled all of the contracts of people who reported to him, Ms. Grier said, and she would be involved only if the president asked her. He never asked her to assist with Mr. Bellotti’s contract, she said.

That last part sure rings true. For example, here’s the golden parachute contract Frohnmayer wrote for former Provost John Moseley – still getting $120K a year. He wrote a similar one for Lorraine Davis – now UO’s interim AD, at $30,000 per month. Frohnmayer loved writing contracts giving away public money to his cronies.

The article includes some blunt talk about how bad things are at UO:

Although the amount of money received by faculty members here from federal research grants has grown significantly in recent years, from more than $36-million in 2003 to $55-million in 2008, the institution still ranks near the bottom compared with other members of the prestigious Association of American Universities, a select group of 63 research institutions. The university brings in less than half the $114-million brought in by Oregon State University, which is not a member of the AAU.

… A full professor at Oregon earned, on average, $103,000 this academic year, about 79 percent of the average annual salary for full professors at eight peer institutions, including the University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, according to the Oregon chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

 And then a bit of optimism:

The university plans to spend $15-million over the next three to five years to raise salaries with dollars from tuition increases, administrative cuts, and delaying some maintenance on campus buildings

My take is that the faculty is much more positive about Lariviere than Kelderman’s article suggests. A solid B+, according to our tracking poll. High expectations …

Bring it on Mr. Slusher, you aren’t even close yet.

6/4/2010: Bill Graves of the Oregonian has a new story on the latest sports facility craziness here. This seems to be another “gift that keeps on taking,” like the Jock Box:

But Phit’s gift does not come without costs. The license agreement requires the university to employ a facilities manager, museum curator, museum receptionist, food service administrator and a senior administrative assistant for football operations — all full time for at least six years. The university also would maintain the facilities, which could become costly.

Phil Knight and Howard Slusher are rolling on the floor over the dumb shit they can get UO to agree to for some vague promise of $1 billion, someday. We pay for a football Museum Curator? That is a pretty good one, though I still think taking away the law school profs parking lot tops it. But bring it on Mr. Slusher, you aren’t even close yet.

4/14/2010: Ron Bellamy of the RG reports that Phil Knight is planning on a new building for football team, to be constructed by the legendary Howard Slusher, under the same contracting scheme used for the Jock Box.

“I’ve been told repeatedly since I’ve come here that there are coaches in what used to be closets and that sort of thing,” Lariviere said. “It does look to be pretty jammed up. I’m not sure that this would be absolutely the top priority for the university if we were having to pay for the building, but that’s another matter.”

So far as I can tell, Knight has not given a dime to UO’s academic causes since former President Dave Frohnmayer signed UO up for the the anti-Nike “Worker’s Rights Consortium”. My recollection was that Dave was persuaded by the argument of the students camping outside his office, who told him that the way to improve the lives of the poor is to get everyone to all join together and agree to stop buying what they know how to make. Some sort of complicated economic thing they learned from their sociology professor. I’m sure it made sense after the first few bong hits. But a recent commenter provides an alternative explanation for why Knight is not so happy with the faculty either:

As I remember it, the WRC was a national movement backed by students at the UO, who took the issue to the Senate, which advised Frohnmayer to join the WRC (see He did so. This was an example of faculty actually being listened to on a matter of school policy.

Here’s hoping Lariviere can convince Knight we’re not such a bad lot. He’s already talking tougher to Slusher than Frohnmayer ever did:

“Parking is obviously part of the requirements for this building,” Lariviere said. “The initial conversations I’ve had with Howard Slusher made it clear that we would have to have at least full replacement, if not more parking spaces, as a result of this.”

Back when Frohnmayer and Melinda Grier “negotiated” with Slusher for parking for the Jock Box, we lost something like 120 parking spots. We just gave them to the athletic side gratis, and paid for new ones by increasing general parking fees. Of course, Frohnmayer did get a $150,000 bonus that year from some anonymous donor.

Here’s the former law school lot. 70 spots, 2 cars with jock hang tags. 2 cars and a motorcycle is the most I’ve seen there all quarter.

Lariviere’s investiture ceremony

5/21/2010: Emma Kallaway gave a very good speech. His PhD advisor showed up, so this must be a big deal. So did an amazingly large faculty contingent. Good vibes, and not just from the tuba and drums. It was damn good speech. He explained his passionate commitment to public higher education, and he made clear he has the brains and energy to deliver on it. Yeah, I know I’m being a total suckup.

Interview w/ Lariviere in Willamette Week

5/19/2010: An entertaining and educational exchange on education and entertainment:

What’s the proper role of athletics in public education?
Athletics is…. You’re buying into the—that’s the Lady Gaga syndrome.
How so?
It’s entertainment, and I’m very grateful that we have that vehicle to get our name and our mission out. But it’s entertainment. It’s not education. It’s not research. It’s not pedagogy. It’s entertainment. Now we get 500 kids educated every year as a result of that. And one could have all kinds of conversations about whether that’s an equitable compensation, but it is not why we’re here.

NY Times on UO Athletic Scandals

5/1/2010: Billy Witz of the NY Times has a long story on the recent troubles. No citation, but they do pick up the “Jock Box” phrase coined by UO Matters:

A new learning center — dubbed the Jock Box for its glass cube design — has been built for athletes only. If athletes at Oregon want a top-of-the-line laptop, all they have to do is ask — Knight donated 550 specially engraved Apple notebooks for their use. That twist, in the wake of Masoli’s arrest, has not been lost on many around campus. When guard Mark Asper, a sociology and Spanish major, has pulled his laptop out in class, he has had classmates admire it and then ask the inevitable question. “Is that one Jeremiah could have gotten?” Asper said. “And I say, yes. They want to know: What was he thinking? I just have to humbly apologize. People say, ‘Oh, you guys are a bunch of hooligans,’ and it’s tough because you don’t have any evidence to the contrary.”…

One person keeping a close eye will be Dr. Richard Lariviere, who last summer became the university’s president. One of his stated priorities was to figure out a way to raise professors’ salaries, which lag behind national standards, despite increasingly tight state funding. Lately, his focus has been on sports. Lariviere called the spate of off-the-field troubles “unacceptable” and acknowledged in a news conference that he pushed out Bellotti, who took a job last month with ESPN. Last week, after The Eugene Register-Guard reported that Kilkenny had also operated without a contract for more than a year, Lariviere reassigned the university counsel Melinda Grier to the campus law school and announced that her contract would not be renewed when it expired in 2011.

 The story also quotes Nathan Tublitz: “The athletic department is out of control here.” I’m guessing Nathan meant to say “was”. After recent events, it’s real clear Lariviere is cleaning this mess up.

Lariviere on Knight

4/25/2010: From Steve Duin’s column in the Oregonian, well worth reading it all:

“I’m looking at the Knight Library,” Lariviere said. “I have my back to the Knight Law School. And I can name several of the professors sitting in the 22 Knight-endowed chairs. We are incredibly lucky Penny and Phil Knight love this place so passionately.”

I came to UO in the middle of the building boom paid for by Phil Knight’s philanthropy. Library, law school, and then the Knight chairs. This all came to an end when Dave Frohnmayer signed UO up for the well-intentioned but naive anti-Nike Worker’s Rights Consortium. (But remember, many of the faculty supported this too.)  Knight immediately lost all trust in Frohnmayer’s judgment and said so very publicly. He then shifted all his academic giving to Stanford. Lariviere is rapidly earning back the faculty’s trust, I hope he earns Knight’s too.

In the end I think Richard Read of the Oregonian had the best take on the misguided idealism of the WRC supporters. What are those “exploited” Nike sweatshop workers actually doing? Saving their paychecks, sending the money home to build houses and finance new businesses for their families, sending their kids to college. That’s the life we choose – why do we think we should deny it to them? Who is doing more for these people – the WRC, or Phil Knight? Not that I’m an economist.

Anyway, from Duin’s version, the most interesting person in all this is Howard Slusher.

Oregonian story on Lariviere

4/20/2010: Bill Graves of the Oregonian has a long story on President Lariviere:

The State Board of Higher Education expects him to “get things under control” and put athletics “in proper perspective,” said Paul Kelly,  board president. “The indications are, he is going to be a good leader,” Kelly said, “assuming he meets the leadership test on this Bellotti matter.” 

That’s pretty outrageous, Mr. Kelly. You and the rest of the OUS board winked at Frohnmayer for years while he set up the Bellotti deal and many even sleazier other ones. Then you gave him a sweetheart retirement contract – $245,700 from UO, while he took a second job at Harrang, Long, etc. “Leadership test” you say?

With state support declining, Lariviere and presidents of the other state universities want more autonomy from the state Board of Education and the Legislature. They’ve discussed seeking authority to define their missions, set tuition and faculty salaries, manage their costs and revenues, sell bonds, borrow against assets and possibly levy taxes.

Lariviere’s plan is politically risky given that both the state board and the Legislature may be reluctant to relinquish power. But the president said the quality of the university is at stake. He said he must find a way to raise faculty salaries, now at about 80 percent of their peers in comparable institutions.

“The quality of a university is determined by its faculty.”

In my experience, good students don’t hurt either.

More on what athletics costs UO

Note: We’ve been asked how much Lariviere’s consulting contract paid. Looks like $70,000 a month. (Maybe only $35,000 a month.) It’s funny how it’s never the right time politically for faculty and staff raises, but politics never seems to be a problem when it comes to pay for administrators. Ha Ha.

4/12/2010: President Larivere took office July 1 2009. But he was actually getting paid on a consulting contract starting around April. In March, he started an official blog, here. From the topics you can get a taste of how athletics has dominated his first year. Ignoring the inevitable fluff, almost all of the substantive posts are about various crises in the athletic department – and this is without anything on Bellotti’s payoff. I’m guessing that’s fairly close to how he has had to divide his time. I know the academic side gets many hard-to-measure benefits from athletics. This is just one of the many hard-to-measure costs

Legal issues

4/3/2010: A reader points us to this devastating analysis of the Bellotti payoff, by Ted Sickinger of the Oregonian. I think it’s unfair to blame this on Lariviere, it’s got Frohnmayer’s fingerprints all over it.

The University of Oregon’s $2.3 million golden handshake for resigning athletic director and former football coach Mike Bellotti appears to be outside standard practice for public and private sector organizations, and raises serious questions about UO’s leadership and governance, according to legal and executive compensation experts….

“It’s easy to vilify Mike Bellotti,” he said, “but where we should be holding someone accountable is university president Richard Lariviere and the board of directors.”

Lariviere, who started as UO president on the same day Bellotti became athletic director — July 1, 2009 — inherited the contract issues from his predecessor (Ed: that would be he who cannot be named), though the negotiation of the controversial severance agreement was his responsibility.

UO leaders released an explanation of the payout Wednesday night, but have been silent since. Lariviere is in China, and did (not) respond to requests for comment. In his absence, not a single other university executive was available to answer questions on the subject, according to Phil Weiler, a university spokesman.

“These are questions for the president,” he said.  …

This is hardly the only questionable employment contract at the UO. Frohnmayer hired OIED VP Charles Martinez without an affirmative action search and Provost Bean let him break the usual conflict of commitment rules and collect two salaries. Frohnmayer set up the UO-Bend program so that former Provost John Moseley could have a nice retirement gig – at the cost of millions to UO. UO General Counsel Melinda Grier knows all about these scams. She helped set them up.  Lariviere has done his best to ignore both. The question is whether he can contain this particular scandal.

Given that UO General Counsel Melinda Grier is also an Assistant Oregon Attorney General, and that AG John Kroger appointed her husband Jerry Lidz as his Solicitor General last year, I’m thinking blaming these lapses on her is not necessarily the best strategy – for Lariviere.

Good old boys at play

3/24/2010: I’ve always thought Frohnmayer’s golden parachute gig was pretty corrupt. OUS Chancellor Pernsteiner and his lawyer Ryan Hagemann kept the negotiations secret, and when they finally released the contract showing that UO would pay Frohnmayer $245,700 for 35 hours of teaching – per year – it left out many of the other perks he would get, like another $186,000 for “expenses”. More info is here.

But it turns out Frohnmayer and Pernsteiner are amateurs. Greg Bolt of the RG has an amazing story about Bellotti’s $2.3 million parachute:

The UO had no signed agreement with Bellotti on the terms of his employment or departure when he took over the job of athletic director last summer, yet the UO says it will pay the former football coach $2.3 million to fulfill unspecified “commitments” that were never put on paper.
Bellotti negotiated the terms of his employment orally with UO President Richard Lariviere last July, when both of them were beginning their new jobs, a UO spokeswoman said. Those terms are not being made public. Less than nine months later, the two settled on the details of a deal allowing Bellotti to leave for a television job with the multi-million-dollar payout.
Only the resignation agreement was committed to paper. That document states that the UO will pay Bellotti $2.3 million “to fulfill commitments made to Bellotti at the time of his employment as intercollegiate Athletics Director,” but it does not say what those commitments were.
Lariviere was preparing for a trip to Asia and was not available for comment this week. Reached by phone Friday, Bellotti referred questions about the financial terms of his employment agreement back to the university administration.

There are many more strange details in Bolt’s story. And thanks for posting the contract Greg!

You guarantee him 7%? The money will apparently come from Knight’s $100 million donation pledge. When he was selling the legislature on the $200 million arena bond package, Frohnmayer said this money would be used to guarantee the $18 million annual bond repayments that start next year.  Lariviere has some explaining to do. Avoiding Bolt’s questions is pretty chickenshit.

Why doesn’t Knight simply give Bellotti the $2.3 million himself? Taxes. By going through the UO Foundation, the donations are tax deductible to Knight, saving him 35% on Federal and 12% on Oregon taxes. Bellotti will have to pay, but he avoids the 10% federal gift tax. Nice scam.