Processes, discussions continue as OIT, WOU, EOU, SOU prepare for new state leadership structures
Oregon’s four regional universities have begun the first steps in preparing their own institutional governing boards.
The processes continued after the state’s board of higher education announced its endorsement of regional university boards April 4. Like Oregon State University, Portland State University and the University of Oregon, House Bill 4018 will allow the Oregon Institute of Technology, Western Oregon University, Eastern Oregon University and Southern Oregon University to assemble their own boards of trustees.
The OSU board of trustees, granted under Senate Bill 270, first met in January to discuss board formation policies and strategies moving forward. Previously, the Oregon University System oversaw statewide finance and administration practices of all Oregon universities.
Liz Shelby, SOU director of government relations, said any regional university board established under HB 4018 should become active on July 1, 2015.
“The institutions, SOU and EOU, whose requests for institutional boards were endorsed with conditions, will need to have the president and the board negotiate the conditions,” Shelby said.
Steve Scheck, vice president of academic affairs at WOU, said President Mark Weiss held meetings for faculty, staff and students to address any concerns they had moving forward with a new board Thursday.
“(Thursday’s) meeting was really to get the ball rolling,” Scheck said.
Scheck said the faculty senate, staff senate and student governments continue to consider potential nominations for what they feel would represent ideal trustees.
In terms of the student nominee, Scheck said a freshman or sophomore would be ideal.
“We’d love for that individual to be able to serve on our board for several years,” Scheck said.
Di Saunders, OUS communications director, said conversations on different leadership structures were also discussed before going with the board of trustees models used at the major Oregon universities.
“Basically, there’s been a lot of experts brought in talking about different governance models over the last year,” Saunders said.
One such example Saunders gave included if Southern Oregon University were to merge with OSU and become “OSU La Grande.”
According to Saunders, additional conversations will take place over the next few days to discuss how to move forward with the boards for EOU and SOU.
“The board wants to make sure the financial health is in order before the final endorsement is provided,” Saunders said.
The state board of higher education, administrators in each regional university and Gov. John Kitzhaber must reach an agreement on these conditions and will hold discussions to arrive at an agreement in the next 45 days.
In addition, Saunders said one of the greatest challenges with the regional universities was not having as much revenue from out-of-state tuition prices due to a higher number of Oregon resident students.
“They don’t have the same economy of scale the larger campuses have,” Saunders said.
The board of higher education will hold governance and policy committee meetings May 16. The full board will then meet June 6 to discuss the next steps and approve next year’s tuition prices for all Oregon universities.
The OSU board of trustees will begin its own administrative roles July 1.
Higher education reporter