President Gottfredson: Institutional board bolsters UO mission

President Gottfredson (right) with Jim Brau, Knight Professor of Natural Science
President Gottfredson (right) with Jim Brau, Knight Professor of Natural Science

If approved as proposed, a public institutional board for the University of Oregon would provide a springboard for “astonishing” successes, university President Michael Gottfredson said May 14, at a campus gathering with faculty and staff.

During an informal meeting in Gerlinger Alumni Lounge, the president provided an update and answered questions regarding two bills in the Oregon Legislature that would reorganize higher education governance and create boards for the UO and other public universities in Oregon that request them.

Senate Bill 270 would create the institutional boards for the UO and Portland State, transferring many day-to-day governance responsibilities from the State Board of Higher Education to boards more closely affiliated with each institution. House Bill 3120 would create a “superstructure” to coordinate institutional boards at the state level, Gottfredson said.

“It is a momentous period,” he said. “This is a critically important time for the university.”

Reductions in state funding to public universities nationwide have left many institutions inadequately funded. In the coming year, for example, state appropriations will account for only 5 percent of the operating budget at the UO, Gottfredson said.

In addition to contributing the individual expertise of its members, a UO institutional board would be authorized to issue revenue bonds to fund the university’s needs for additional facilities and fulfill its responsibility as a public research university. The board would develop and approve university budgets and would have the authority to hire and fire the president, Gottfredson said.

The senate bill proposes an 11- to 15-member board. The bill includes positions for a faculty member, a student member and the university president as a non-voting member, Gottfredson said.

Under the institutional board, the university would maintain its commitment to the state’s educational goals and to preserving and improving access for Oregon resident students.

In response to faculty who asked whether the bills would alter the university’s “shared governance” with faculty, Gottfredson said he has a very strong commitment to that structure, and the legislation doesn’t change the relationship with faculty.

“Shared governance is in the nature of the idea of the university,” Gottfredson said.

Under the new board, the university would maintain collaboration with the state’s other public universities in areas such as the sharing of library services. The success of Oregon Health and Science University, which operates under its own governing board, provides a model for the UO in many ways, Gottfredson said.

- story and photo by Matt Cooper, UO Office of Strategic Communications