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Phil Knight and other high-profile Oregonians donate to political action committee, support insitutional boards

A number of wealthy Oregonians — a few whom are University alumni — are making big contributions to the political action committee “Oregonians for Higher Education Excellence.” The PAC’s goal is to reform public higher education in Oregon to provide institutional governing boards for Oregon University System institutions that want them in light of continuing state disinvestment in public higher education.

The list of financial supporters include Nike Chairman Phil Knight, Columbia Sportswear CEO and Portland native Tim Boyle, former Oregon athletic director Pat Kilkenny, Columbia Distributing CEO Edward L. Maletis, businessman Charles Lillis and emeritus University business professors Larry E. Richards and Roger J. Best.@@checked@@

Knight, Maletis, Lillis (all University alumni) and Kilkenny contributed $65,000 each. Boyle, another wealthy alumni, gave $62,500. Best and Richards showed their support for the PAC’s mission for more institutional autonomy with $1,000 donations each. @@https://secure.sos.state.or.us/orestar/cneSearch.do?cneSearchButtonName=search&cneSearchFilerCommitteeId=15708@@

The PAC’s total support from these high-profile Oregonians lands at $324,500. @@Give it all to Ponta, she’s poor.@@The group plans to use it’s assets to lobby the state legislature to consider particular aspects of the establishment of institutional boards for OUS schools. The PAC is currently co-directed by Boyle and former state board of higher education member James Von Schlegell.

Boyle said that a stable institutional board would give donors the confidence to invest in the University and provide support for a range of things, especially financial aid and scholarships.

“The state has been continuing to disinvest in higher education at state institutions, and in my opinion that is likely to continue,” Boyle said. “If we want high-quality education and if we want access, that means we need to be able to raise funds to support the institution.”

Boyle commented that if the state is not going to provide the funds to support the University, then the state shouldn’t have as much control. He pointed to the events of last November when Richard Lariviere was fired by the state board with no consultation to University stakeholders or campus community.

Boyle listed hiring and firing of presidents, ability to borrow money, bonding authority and power over setting tuition rates as decisions that should be left to one such board. Boyle said that there are absolutely no ulterior motives at play in his support for the PAC.

“As it relates to my company, we would like to hire students that come from the OUS,” Boyle said. “So to the extent that business interests are at work, yes we would like to hire Oregon students. If that’s a bad thing then I guess we’re guilty, but other than that I don’t see any potential negatives.”

The group has received ASUO Executive Laura Hinman and the University administration’s stamps of approval. Interim University President Robert Berdahl commented that he is appreciative that these individuals are fighting towards a common goal. @@http://www.uoregon.edu/findpeople/person/Laura*Hinman@@ @@http://www.uoregon.edu/findpeople/person/Robert*Berdahl@@

“This group is obviously committed to institutional boards, so committed in fact that they have put together a PAC to support that in the ways that they can, and that’s their right,” Berdahl said. “I am very pleased at their advocacy for us because they are important to the state, they’re important to the University and they are outstanding individuals.”

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