State board decision sparks frustration in campus community

Faculty from the School of Journalism and Communication have rallied in support of University President Richard Lariviere. Advertising Professor Deb Morrison posted this on Twitter

University faculty expressed strong disapproval throughout Wednesday following an announcement by the Oregon University System to not renew President Lariviere’s contract at the University beyond July 1, 2012.

The decision — which was made known to the public late Tuesday evening — prompted immediate outrage from several professors and department heads across the university. The overwhelming response culminated in a decision by the University Senate to hold an emergency session Wednesday afternoon to discuss more formal actions that, according to an email sent by Senate President Robert Kyr, “will involve (the) entire university community.”

The Senate has already organized a petition that hopes to reinstate Lariviere, and is seeking support from both faculty and students.

One of the more prominent efforts throughout Wednesday came at noon when the University’s School of Journalism and Communication held an impromptu meeting organized by SOJC Dean Tim Gleason. The meeting hosted dozens of faculty and staff as they conversed for nearly an hour about strategies for overturning the decision. Governor Kitzhaber’s affirmation of the decision drew scrutiny from those present at the meeting.

“I saw all the emails and internet traffic going on, so I figured I would give us all a chance to come together and talk. We have the opportunity to make clear the devastating impact of this decision,” Gleason said. “Kitzhaber has let us down.”

Other efforts to express opposition to the OUS decision began earlier in the day, when several university professors sent emails out on various list serves in order to garner support for Lariviere. University political science professor Daniel Tichenor, who had sent emails and said he had received feedback from at least 40 individuals, said he was surprised to see such a strong response from University faculty.

“It’s weird to see so many faculty from across different units so uniformly outraged,” Tichenor said. “The typical reaction from academic faculty is often to be sympathetically concerned from the sidelines. It’s rather striking just how mobilized people feel about this.”

Nike cofounder and major University donor Phil Knight was also outraged by the decision. “It’s yet another application of Oregon’s Assisted Suicide law.” Knight said in an interview with the Oregonian. “For the Chancellor and the State Board of Higher Education, a ‘team player’ is someone who falls in line with their acceptance of mediocrity, and the one who strives for excellence does not fit in.”

Wednesday morning also saw a remarkable show of support from department and program heads in the College of Arts and Sciences, all of whom signed a letter demonstrating their “unequivocal support for the leadership of President Lariviere.”

Online, a new Facebook group entitled “Lariviere for President,” has been created in light of the OUS decision. Growing rapidly, the page had already accrued more than 850 likes by Wednesday afternoon.

According to Kyr, the University Senate will publicize on its website the decisions made during its emergency meeting by Thursday afternoon at the latest.


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