Dear Faculty, Staff and Students:
Thank you for your support this week. Jan and I are deeply touched. More than anything I want the University of Oregon to flourish. Like so many of you, I love this university and all it represents.
I came here because the University of Oregon is a model for how public universities fulfill their mission in troubling times. I came here because the state of Oregon is a place so often at the forefront of change, a crucible where innovators, dreamers, mavericks and fair-minded citizens devise new solutions to old problems. I still believe this is true.
The conflicts that resulted in my termination are a symptom of the broken system of governance and funding in Oregon higher education that desperately needs changing if the state of Oregon is going to achieve the greatness we all aspire to. You know that. This is why there has been the outcry—the genuinely amazing outcry—from so many of you.
I am humbled by your support, but your cause should not be my employment status. Your cause must be how Oregonians will be educated. Your cause must be how institutions like the University of Oregon can be strong in a state with weak public resources.
I urge those of you who plan to rally or attend the state board meeting to focus your time, energy and efforts, not on questioning the wisdom or process of the decision. Instead focus yourselves on the larger cause of meaningful policy reforms that will benefit the UO, the system of higher education, and the state of Oregon. The Governor and Legislature already took actions this year to create a promising new governance structure for all education in Oregon. It is possible for the state to take the next step and create a strong, independent governing board for an institution like the University of Oregon.
Universities in Oregon need to be differentiated based on their mission. Strong independent boards should be guided by goals set by a statewide coordinating authority. Each individual university must be able to best organize resources, serve the state and meet its mission.
A system approach that delivers conformity among institutions by applying the same fiscal and policy lens to all, regardless of mission, will continue to be costly to the state’s future. It will not harness the unique strengths of each institution. Such an approach has not and cannot deliver the fullest promise of higher education for Oregon’s future.
Work for a genuinely independent, genuinely powerful institutional governing board. That is the doorway to a better future for the UO. Stay the course. Don’t let disappointment prevail.
Thank you for supporting the University of Oregon and for the honor of serving as the sixteenth president of the university.