Near the end of spring term, most students are too busy trying to balance midterms and tanning to worry about the fate of Oregon’s university system. However, as the end of the 2012-2013 academic year draws to a close, a proposition that would significantly rearrange higher education remains a hot topic in the Oregon State Legislature: Senate Bill 270.@@

If passed, SB 270 would allow the University of Oregon to create an independent governing board, removing the University from shared governance under the Oregon University System.@@above [email protected]@

According to architecture professor Peter Keyes, under the current system, the UO is restricted from achieving its full potential because the OUS is too far removed from the University proper.@@

“A state board that’s overseeing eight institutions, they can’t possibly understand all eight campuses,” Keyes said. “It’s pretty impossible for a state board to understand deeply enough each institution to make accurate decisions for the individual schools.”

The most important benefit of having an independent board, Keyes believes, is greater freedom as an institution. Under the new system, a UO institutional board would be in charge of the direct hiring and firing of the University president, as well as the direct collection of bond revenue and its allocation to University departments.

Both students and faculty alike have voiced serious concerns regarding the passing of SB 270 in its current format.

As the bill is currently written, the UO’s independent governing board would be appointed by the state governor. In addition, a University faculty member, student and the UO president would sit upon the board as “ex-officio” — meaning voteless — members.

Before placing their faith in an independent board, faculty and students would like to see the ambiguity behind the appointing and representation of board members resolved.

Associate professor of Sociology Michael Dreiling believes in the potential of an individual board. However, before he believes that they will constitute a positive change, he would like to see voting rights granted to the student and faculty member on the board.@@

“I’m instinctually inclined to support the idea of an independent board as long as the principles of student faculty and staff involvement are enshrined in that legislation,” he said. “If we’re going to do it, I want to do it right.”

ASUO Senator and Oregon Student Association member Lamar Wise shares Dreiling’s hesitations.

“Fundamentally I do disagree, but knowing that this is an issue that has a lot of support and is reasonable, I believe that if this is to be passed, in order to at least be fair, it should have equal representation,” Wise said. “What I would want, and what (the Oregon Student Association) is looking for is a proportional representation and allocation for each constituency.”

Ultimately, Keyes believes that the best way to mediate differences of opinion and craft legislation that best suits the needs of all parties is to generate awareness and conversation about the issue.

“You want to make sure that everybody who’s involved is there and talking because that way you make better decisions,” he said.

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