Statutory faculty convenes, decides new direction for University

University statutory faculty convened an emergency meeting yesterday afternoon in McArthur Court to hold an open dialogue with Oregon University System Chancellor George Pernsteiner@@[email protected]@ and State Board of Higher Education member Lynda Ciuffetti, and to pass motions in accordance with Monday’s removal of University President Richard Lariviere by the OUS.

The first motion condemned the Board’s action, yet authorized the University Senate to formulate the search committee for the hiring of a new president.

The second motion advocated the creation of a local governance board at the University. The powers of this board would include, but are not limited to, the operational oversight of the University, the setting of tuition and the authority over the hiring and firing of the president of the University.

The third motion authorized either the University Senate or the Senate Executive Committee to provide a formal candidate for an interim University president. Faculty and staff wanted to make sure that the interim president will be someone who will continue Lariviere’s vision.

Finally, the fourth motion called for the review of Pernsteiner’s contract by the State Board before Dec. 31, 2011. If this contract is not reviewed before then, it will automatically roll over for another year.

The meeting began with opening remarks from University Senate President Robert Kyr, which received a warm reception from the audience. Kyr served as the master of ceremonies for the meeting and attempted to keep the crowd under control for the duration of the forum.

“The next step is building a positive and meaningful relationship with Chancellor Pernsteiner and the State Board,” Kyr said@@ “It’s a slow process, especially when trust has been broken, but we’re committed to achieving the best education system that we can for Oregon.”

Kyr ended by bringing Lariviere to the stage for a brief statement. A chorus of appreciation from staff, students, faculty and community members greeted Lariviere and he thanked Kyr and the University community for their support.

“I am here to transfer my authority, for the purposes of this meeting, to Senate President Robert Kyr and to say thank you,” Lariviere said.

Pernsteiner and Ciuffetti then gave opening remarks, both discussing the future of education in Oregon and how to mend the relationship between the University and the OUS.

Pernsteiner’s statement was immediately interrupted by members of the audience shouting the University’s mission statement. Kyr attempted to stifle the interruption, but to no avail. Pernsteiner continued once the interjection ceased and politely thanked them for their participation.

“A key part of the success of this state is the excellence and success of the University of Oregon,” Pernsteiner said. “It is essential that we move forward together to make real the promises made by our state leaders with regard to education.”

Kyr then presented a statement drafted by the American Association of University Professors@@[email protected]@ on the Board’s decision, which cited approved guidelines for the academic governance of a university.

“All decisions on retention and non-retention of administrators should be based on institutionalized and jointly determined procedures which include significant faculty involvement,” the resolution stated. “We believe the State Board’s action is sharply at odds with fundamental standards of academic governance.”

This statement from the AAUP was also greeted well by the audience.

Kyr concluded opening remarks and commenced with the Q-and-A period in which any member of the audience was allowed to pose questions to both guests from the state board.

Various students, staff and faculty approached the microphone to voice their opinions. Topics ranged from Lariviere’s removal to Gov. John Kitzhaber’s relationship with the board and school, to the issue of shared governance and trust issues between the University and OUS.

“Richard Lariviere had a vision and you threw him in the street. You threw all of us in the street,” art history professor Jeff Hurwit said@@[email protected]@. “Where is your vision? What will you do today?”

Pernsteiner and Ciuffetti attempted to answer all questions, taking their time in formulating responses. Kyr frequently interjected, demanding clearer and more specific responses from both OUS officials.

Political science professor and department head Priscilla Southwell@@[email protected]@ presented a strongly worded letter written by Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio@@ In the letter, DeFazio condemned the actions of Pernsteiner, the Board and Kitzhaber.

ASUO Sen. Kaitlyn Lange represented the ASUO at the event and expressed frustration toward current leadership.@@[email protected]@

“I am a political science major. You are the epitome of what I’m supposed to grow up and be, and I don’t want to be that,” Lange said.

The Q-and-A period lasted longer than expected, forcing faculty to motion for 15 extra minutes of deliberation. In the last 15 minutes, the four different motions were brought before the statutory faculty, voted upon and passed.

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