Institutional boards are risky
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013 00:03
Both the University of Oregon and Portland State University have requested individual institutional boards. Currently the legislation is still being revised and discussed in the state legislature. Oregon State President Ed Ray has asked the legislature to consider OSU and give us the option of having a board. At this point, however, the legislation is too vague and nebulous for the editorial staff to endorse.
As it is now, the Oregon University System ranks and reports the needs of the seven public universities’ to the state legislature. Institutional boards would act in place of the OUS for universities. This board would advocate the individual needs of its university directly to the legislature.
We definitely see the benefit of having our own board. We’ve discussed how having a personal OSU cheer squad in direct contact with the legislature would help make a case for OSU-specific funding. We see the potential of having more flexibility in where and how money is allocated.
Still, there are several issues we would like further defined and clarified. For instance, who would be on the board? In general, the boards would be made up of 11 to 15 people. Anyone on the board with special interests, however, would be a huge risk. This is because these board members would have the potential influence to designate funds for things they deem most important — like allocating funds to pay increases for board members, refurbishing a chemistry building into a new athletic building or arbitrarily hiking tuition costs.
To overcome these fears, the board members should be chosen extremely carefully. We’d also like to see a couple of students on the board — an undergraduate and a graduate student.
Despite our reluctance, if the University of Oregon and Portland State have their own boards, we would like Oregon State to have one too. Basically, if everyone’s going to make this move, OSU should as well.
If U of O and PSU have their own boards advocating for their needs directly to the legislature, and OSU does not, OSU will have to make a case against the other four public universities in Oregon that do not have boards to the Oregon University System. Having a board would separate us from the six other public universities in Oregon and would allow us to directly communicate our needs to the state legislature.
Looking to the future, we wonder at what point these boards will be pointless. There is only so much money the state has to give to the universities. We agree having one board represent a specialized, smaller university, like in the case of Oregon Health and Science University, would be beneficial. Once everyone in the state signs up for one, though, boards could become counterproductive.
In this sense, universities will eventually become privatized. At some point all seven institutional boards will advocate directly to the legislature and the Oregon University System will be a thing of the past.
Editorials serve as means for Barometer editors to offer commentary and opinions on issues both global and local, grand in scale or diminutive. The views expressed here are a reflection of the editorial board’s majority.