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UO President Lariviere’s Contract Not Renewed

November 23, 2011

By Kate Renner

EUGENE, Ore. — The Oregon State Board of Higher Education is letting University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere go.

The Oregon University System board will not renew his contract, but Lariviere said Wednesday he remains committed to serving as president through the end of his contract until July 1.

Many faculty members are speaking out against his release.

At a meeting Wednesday morning, the department heads at the College of Arts and Science voted unanimously in support of Lariviere.

Both the Alumni Association and Nike founder Phil Knight call this a decision that promotes “mediocrity.”

On his first day on the job in 2009, Lariviere looked to shake things up.

“The old models are clearly broken, we can continue to hope they’re not, but they are. So we’ve got to come up with some new solutions,” Lariviere said.

But could it be those new solutions that cost him his job?

“We have a president who is a visionary, who has courage, who’s made more change in his 2 1/2 years than even seems possible. So there’s a consistent outcry across campus,” said UO Foundation President Paul Weinhold.

“People are feeling really hurt, disappointed and in some ways lost, because it’s unbelievable that this has happened,” said UO chemistry professor Gerri Richmond.

Richmond served on the higher education board from 1999-2006.  She says it seems the board tried to limit Lariviere’s innovation.

“It’s important to be a good university in the state, but it’s more important to be a good university outside the state, and Richard had that vision and that’s we’ve lost now,” Richmond said.

Weinhold says he’s worried about the future of the university’s endowments.

“From current discussions that we’ve had with significant donors, they’ll be waiting on the sideline until the hiring of a new president. So it will have a meaningful impact,” Weinhold said.

It’s widely known Lariviere clashed with the OUS as he tried to make each university autonomous, but according to the Oregon State Board of Higher Education this wasn’t about policy.

“This personnel decision has nothing to do with this policy debate under way, which I think is a very good and constructive debate,” said Matt Donegan, Oregon State Board of Higher Education President.

But many on campus disagree and believe his release is because of a difference in philosophy.

“The fact that he wasn’t getting along with the OUS board seems to be the only issue,” Weinhold said.

In his email to students and staff Tuesday, President Lariviere held true to the hope for a change in the OUS, saying “our bold ideas have led to the promise of additional changes in the not-too-distant future, including eventual consideration of our proposal for individual universities to form local governing boards.”

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