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Higher Ed: Split decision on independent boards

Apr 5, 2014

By The Associated Press

PORTLAND — The state Board of Higher Education has endorsed “with conditions” the formation of self-governing boards at Southern Oregon and Eastern Oregon universities.

The two regional universities have shaky finances and the board wants them to stabilize their budgets before moving forward with independent boards. The schools were given 45 days to show they can meet conditions set by the board and then get the governor's approval.

Meanwhile, Oregon Tech and Western Oregon University were given the full go-ahead to start operating under the control of their own independent boards in July 2015. The state's three largest universities — Portland State University, Oregon State University and the University of Oregon — have already established institutional boards that will take full power this summer.

Lawmakers approved the creation of independent panels as part of the state's transition to a decentralized public university system. The new boards have the authority to hire and fire presidents, set tuition and fees, and oversee university operations.

“Campus-based boards can foster innovation by working much more closely with university and community leaders in addressing student, campus and community needs; and in fulfilling the university's strategic vision and managing operations,” Matt Donegan, chair of the higher education board, said in a statement.

Despite getting a yellow light instead of a green, Southern Oregon President Mary Cullinan said the university is preparing as if it will have an institutional board at the same time as Western Oregon and Oregon Tech.

“We're going to proceed. We are already working on the issues about bylaws and policy changes,” she told the Mail Tribune newspaper. "We can't wait another month. We're going to move ahead with the understanding that we will be negotiating reasonable conditions."

Cullinan said the university's financial state is one of a “wide range” of conditions that will be discussed during the 45-day window. She declined to elaborate.

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