Think Too Much: OSU list of board nominees misses one bet

2013-08-04T03:00:00Z Think Too Much: OSU list of board nominees misses one betBy Mike McInally Albany Democrat Herald
August 04, 2013 3:00 am  • 

The chairman of the board of Reser’s Fine Foods. A county commissioner from Tillamook County. Top executives from companies such as Boise Cascade, Chevron, Intel and Weyerhaeuser. The president of Washington State University. Current members of the state Board of Higher Education. A retired wheat and barley farmer — and economics professor. Two businessmen from Bend.

They’re all on the list of 18 names Oregon State University officials have submitted to Gov. John Kitzhaber for possible nomination to the university’s new governing board.

The list offers some insight into what OSU hopes to accomplish with the board.

For example, judging by the geographic spread of the suggested nominees, OSU aims to strengthen its statewide profile, to bolster the case that it is Oregon’s statewide university. With governance questions still swirling around Oregon’s regional universities, that statewide presence may have long-term benefits for OSU.

(To see the full list, and brief bios of OSU’s 18 nominees, check out the online version of this column.)

But the list — from which Kitzhaber will select the nominees he presents to the Oregon Senate for confirmation later this year — has a surprising omission.

More on that later. In the meantime, if you haven’t been following this business about governing boards at Oregon’s three largest public universities, here’s the background.

Senate Bill 270, passed by the 2013 Legislature, gave the University of Oregon and Portland State University the ability to set up their own governing boards — and it gave OSU the option to do the same.

The boards will assume responsibility for setting business policies, establishing tuition and fees, overseeing academic programs, submitting a budget directly to the Legislature and supervising the university president. It’s a fundamental shift in how we’ve governed our public universities in Oregon.

Oregon and PSU have been lobbying for the shift for years. OSU President Ed Ray hasn’t been a fan of the boards, dating back to his experiences at Ohio State University.

But Ray and other officials feared that OSU might find itself fighting for budget scraps with the state’s smaller universities if it chose to remain in the Oregon University System. So, last week, Ray told Kitzhaber that OSU would establish its own board.

Also last week, Ray submitted the list of proposed nominees for OSU’s board.

The board also will include one student, one faculty member and one nonfaculty employee. OSU officials said last week they believed Kitzhaber was making his own arrangements for those nominations, so those names aren’t on OSU’s list.

The names on the list are an impressive batch of civic, business and educational leaders with long resumes. Thirteen of them live in Oregon. (The others live in Washington state, California or Idaho.) Kitzhaber will have a tough time winnowing down the list.

But now to that omission: The list of nominees doesn’t include anyone from Benton or Linn counties.

It’s true, as OSU officials said last week, that Kitzhaber’s faculty, student and staff nominees almost certainly will have those local ties.

But what’s missing on the list is someone who doesn’t have a direct tie to OSU who can speak about the ongoing community discussion about how OSU’s growth has impacted the quality of life in Corvallis and the mid-valley.

OSU officials say they discussed that specific issue in terms of how it might shape the slate of nominees, but decided that the governing board’s focus needed to be on OSU’s mission as a land-grant university serving the entire state. OSU says that the state of town-and-gown relations is important, but that those issues are better handled by local administrators, faculty, staff and students in partnership with community members.

Those arguments make a certain amount of sense. Still, there’s an opportunity here to add a local voice to OSU’s governing board, someone who can keep one eye on the university’s statewide mission but who also understands the importance of tending to the home front. (mm)

Mike McInally is the editor of the Democrat-Herald. He can be reached at 541-812-6097 or mike.mcinally@lee.net

Copyright 2015 Albany Democrat Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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