Institutional boards bill heads for governor's desk

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Legislation that authorizes an institutional governing board for the University of Oregon is on its way to the governor for his signature, after the Oregon House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill on Saturday and the Senate concurred with the amended version Monday morning.

House members approved Senate Bill 270 with a vote of 44-15, three days after the Oregon Senate passed the bill with a 23-7 vote. Gov. John Kitzhaber – who has been a strong proponent of the legislation – is expected to sign it into law.

The bill authorizes institutional governing boards for the University of Oregon and Portland State University and the option for Oregon State University. Members of the public boards are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the State Senate.

The legislation also allows Oregon's other public universities the option of seeking their own governing boards in the future.

"Local governing boards at our public universities will produce increased transparency and public accountability, while at the same time leveraging increased private investment and community engagement," Kitzhaber said in a statement issued July 3.

UO President Michael Gottfredson, who has advocated an institutional governing board for the university, said the bill's passage signals "a time of great opportunity, as well as great responsibility" for the UO.

"I have every confidence that in the years ahead, Oregonians will experience the benefits and enjoy the results of the combined leadership of an institutional board dedicated to the interests of this university, and an outstanding faculty and staff committed to education and research at the highest levels," the president said.

"Together, we will work every day to earn and keep the trust that has been placed in us by the people and communities we serve," he said.

The UO's institutional board will be authorized to issue revenue bonds to be repaid from UO resources, to pay for facilities. The board will develop and approve each year's university budget and will have the authority to hire and fire the president.

The new board will independently set tuition rates, but approval of the legislature or the Higher Education Coordinating Commission will be needed for any increase of more than 5 percent in resident undergraduate tuition.

The UO's institutional board will have between 11 and 15 members. The approved legislation requires designated seats for a student, a non-faculty employee and a member of the faculty. The student will be a voting member, while the governor will determine at appointment whether the faculty and non-faculty members are voting or non-voting members. The university president will be an ex-officio, non-voting member of the board.