Sunday, November 27, 2011

Message to Governor & Board: Slow Down

Thus far, we have seen a great demonstration of the use of power to try to resolve a contentious issue.

  • The State Board used their administrative power to inform President Lariviere that he would be terminated and encouraging him to resign; using the Thanksgiving weekend in an attempt to blunt possible negative responses.
  • The UO community, led primary by faculty who were able to mobilize during the Thanksgiving weekend, attempted to use their collective power to force the Governor to change the Board's decision.
  • The Governor then asserted his ultimate authority (power) by firmly backing the board in its decision in bidding a not too friendly farewell to President Lariviere

Now that all of the sides have firmly established their positions, and now that it is clear that any of the parties is unlikely to back down, there is an obvious train wreck coming that is almost certain to cause damage to the state for years to come.

This would be an ideal time for all parties to take a step back and reinsert some reasonable sense of process into the resolution of these issues, as opposed to attempting to use power to crush their "opponents." Really critical here is the question of what happens next. If Lariviere is indeed to be fired on Monday, then how does a new leader gain traction in the mess that is left behind? The faculty, in particular, will continue to press their point of view, as they should. What happens next? Will people continue to work together to further the institution or will they work to subvert what they see as a pretender to the throne? Will they work for the new leadership at all?

Although their motivations are understandable, the State Board has clearly been hasty in their actions, never allowing any meaningful public input into the process. Time will tell if this was a legal requirement, but it is certainly the proper way to create a meaningful transition to new leadership, if that is their goal.

Word has it that Chancellor Pernsteiner has agreed to attend the UO statutory faculty meeting on Wednesday. The Governor may be attending as well. Frankly, these are brave acts. Perhaps braver still would be to use the Board meeting on Monday to table the motion on Lariviere's termination for at least several more weeks. If all parties have the same goal of making higher education in the state great, but there is a difference of opinion in how to make that happen, then we have the foundation for working together for the next few months. The alternative is to destroy the overall goal itself, which goes well beyond counterproductive.

There is an old adage about the value of slowly removing the bandaid versus ripping it off quickly. The Board appears to be heavily in rip-off mode. Dr. Kitzhaber should know that you can not rip the bandage off of a wound that clearly still needs a great deal of suturing.

The scars that may remain for years to come depend heavily on the actions of the next few days.

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