Thursday, January 27, 2011

UO President discusses University Privitization

On January 26th, 2011. University of Oregon President LaRariviere held a 'Town-Hall' meeting to discuss the purposed plan to privatize the University of Oregon. Additional speakers on the panel included Jeff Condit and Economics Prof.Chomers.

His plan is essentially to have a matching endowment between the state and private donors, each to be the sum of $800 million dollars for an endowment. The total then would be roughly 1.6 Billion dollars. To be paid off over thirty years, but that would remove all university needs for regular state funding. The loans would not begin until state solvency progresses, at minimum around 2013-2014, so a few years off (and when this round of students are gone). When asked about amounts raised and interest paid the pannle responded "I don't think there has been any dollar amounts associated with this purposal"- R. LaRariviere

Theoretically the University will still be a state agency, answerable as a public body to records, ethics and meetings laws. But will also have more freedom (the exact meaning of additional freedom was ill defined). Mr.Condit offered some of the 'potentially lifted' constraints "a policy board able to decide degrees, new power to adopt and enforce benchmarks which the University must adopt".

The actual function of the University institution would remain largely unchanged. The University would move off the State board of higher education, onto two University boards- one of administration/policy board which would serve as a governing body the other of finance. The administration would be tightly controlled, as Johnson hall already is. The Finance board, answerable to the state legislature and Governor. The finance body would include one student representative, one faculty representative, representative of the state board of higher education and five 'at-large' members chosen for University interests- meaning the board can over rule any dissent by faculty, students and the state board of higher education combined. Also the President will sit on the committee in an ex-officio role, without voting privileges.

Sounds great right? Well it IS a plan, that much can be affirmed. The University officials failed to answer questions on the cornerstone of this plan- money. The sources of money, the investment of money and oversight of the money all remain in a grey and unanswered state. The ability of the boards to function autonomously is a critical element, that remains unclear how it will remain unbiased in its oversight of the university. These were questions asked and not answered. The Service Employees Union International had a representative, that their 1400 employees are uncertain about this plan and how this will effect their salaries and services. There was also a concern about how the boards will remain free of corruption, to which there was no good answer. So the plan doesn't seem to be all that privatized, but the plan seriously lacks in the issues of solvency, ethical boundaries and future commitments which makes the the plan seems unreliable at best. "I don't think it's high risk"- Univ.Pres.LaRaiviere, but what are plan lacks is not financial models, but ethical standards, to the affordable education we all desire.

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