As expected, OSU opts to break away from Oregon University System
Oregon State University is going independent.
President Ed Ray announced Tuesday morning that OSU will form an institutional governing board, following the University of Oregon and Portland State in seeking autonomy from the Oregon University System.
Under new authority granted by the 2013 Legislature, the state’s three largest public universities will form boards of 11 to 15 members appointed by the governor. Each board 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’s president.
“I was asked to submit names of people, and we did so,” Ray said.
He declined to identify any of the nominees but said the list provided plenty of options for the governor to pick from.
“We chose people from in state, out of state, from all regions of the state,” Ray said. “It’s a very diverse group because we wanted all voices at the table.”
OSU’s board will begin its work next July and will include one student, one faculty member and one non-faculty employee as well as civic, business and educational leaders. Ray will have an ex-officio spot on the board.
Gov. John Kitzhaber is expected to announce his appointments in mid-August. The Oregon Senate will hold confirmation hearings in September.
Board members will not be paid, but the cost of staffing and supporting the governing body is estimated to run $350,000 to $500,000 a year.
Though Tuesday’s announcement did not come as a surprise, Ray initially opposed the notion pushed by UO and PSU that it would be better to break free of the Oregon University System.
But as the proposal gained steam he changed his stance, warning that OSU might find itself fighting for budget scraps with the state’s smaller regional universities if it chose to remain in the system.
Ray said the move will give OSU far greater control over its own destiny.
“As a practical matter, there was a lot that worked in the direction of having our own institutional board and doing it on the same timeline as UO and PSU,” he said.
But he also pledged to maintain strong ties to what remains of the Oregon University System. Because of OSU’s land grant status and statewide presence through the Extension Service and other programs, he said, the university bears a special responsibility to all Oregonians.
“One of the things an institutional board can do is really focus on what the institution is doing,” Ray said. “The challenge is how do you get them all coordinated and on the same page, and that will be a challenge for the HECC, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.”
The challenge for Oregon State will be recruiting top-flight board members who can advance the university’s interests in the Legislature and elsewhere while providing responsible oversight that doesn’t cross the line into micromanagement.
Ray anticipates that OSU will bring in consultants to help develop policies and procedures to ensure an optimal working relationship between the university and its trustees.
“It’s not a given, if you have an institutional board, that it would work the way you want it to,” he noted. “There’s a lot that has to happen for this to work right, and it’s going to take a lot of work.”