Scott Coltrane named UO’s interim president, Gottfredson gets $940k in severance

University of Oregon provost Scott Coltrane will be stepping in for Michael Gottfredson in the interim, the Board of Trustees of the University of Oregon decided Thursday evening.

Following Gottfredson’s sudden resignation, announced via a letter on the president’s website Wednesday evening, the Board of Trustees scheduled the meeting on short notice to vote on both whether to accept Gottfredson’s resignation and to appoint an interim president. The board hasn’t yet formed a committee to find a permanent replacement.

The change was swift.

The board voted 12 in favor and 2 excused in both resolutions, naming Scott Coltrane to the top job and giving Gottfredson a severance package worth $940,000. At least by half an hour after the meeting, the president’s official website has swapped Gottfredson’s portrait for Coltrane’s. And the votes were near unanimous, the two excused votes only because of absent voters. With the majority of the board joining by teleconference, Ann Curry could not be reached and the student representative seat is now vacant following former ASUO President Sam Dotters-Katz’s graduation.

Gottfredson’s severance is rooted in his leaving two posts: the university presidency and a faculty position within the University of Oregon’s sociology department. It will be paid in two separate lumps of $470,000 – the first within five days of now and the second on January 3, 2015.

“He’s resigning from president, but he’s resigning from a lifetime tenure track faculty position, as well,” Chuck Lillis, the chair of the board, told reporters Thursday afternoon. “Of course if you read the contract, the terms of that are that he would be paid well.” Lillis also told reporters that they first learned of Gottfredson’s intentions to step down on Monday.

The board also says that the alleged sexual assault scandal involving three of the Oregon’s men’s basketball program did not sour the relationship between the president and the newly effective board. “I will say that very few people in the media have a very sophisticated understanding of the very tough network to protect students rights. That decreases the freedom to do things,” Lillis said. “For example, the board pretty routinely kept saying ‘Can’t we say anything?’ and I know every time I asked that question I was convinced the answer was ‘No’ for a very good reason.”

Coltrane’s duties as interim president don’t seem as spread out as Gottfredson’s were. Whereas a university president’s job often entails working closely with organizations both within the school and the across the state, Lillis said Coltrane is tasked first with keeping a happy home within the university.

“We’re approaching this a little differently. We’re not asking Scott Coltrane to do everything we asked Mike Gottfredson,” Lillis said. “We have said [to Coltrane] ‘Your principle task is to focus on the internal operations of the university. Work with the faculty, work with the various organizations, staff. Run the university.'” Lillis said that Coltrane should expect to be in his position for at least a year.

In all, Gottfredson was the fourth president for the Unviersity of Oregon in six years, a fact pointed out to Chuck Lillis.

“Well I don’t think that’s healthy, I don’t think that’s the best situation,” Lillis said of the high turnover rate for UO presidents recently. “…You know, each of those presidents contributed in some very important way, more than one important way in almost every case. I would argue that while this isn’t ideal, we ended up in a better place.”

Coltrane himself looks at his chance at interim optimistically.

“We’re poised for really great things. We’ve never had more students applying, we have a great record now recruiting excellent faculty in targeted areas,” Coltrane said near the end of the meeting. “… We’re working with the state to reinvest in higher education now that we are out of the recession, I think we’re poised for good things.”

Follow Troy Brynelson on twitter at @TroyWB

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Alexandria Cremer

Alexandria Cremer