UO president will stay in job until contract ends in June

EUGENE, Ore. - University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere will serve until the end of his contract then will leave the school after being told that the State Board of Higher Education will not renew his employment.

Wednesday Lariviere issued a statement saying he remain at the university's helm until June 30, 2012 when his contract ends.

In the statement he said there was a "ongoing difference of opinion of the future of the UO."

"This is strictly a personnel matter, not a matter of policy," said Matt Donegan, president of the State Board of Higher Education. "It is in no way motivated by a difference of opinion about the future of the University of Oregon. The Board's priority is an effective transition in leadership for the benefit of the University of Oregon and the Oregon University System."

A rift between Lariviere and the board appeared during the last Legislative session when he proposed the university form its own governing board and be more financially independent.

In June, the board renewed Lariviere's contract but only extended it for one year and attached several conditions to it. One of those conditions stated that he no longer independently advocate for a separate governance board for the university.

The conditions were an indication the board felt that Lariviere wasn't a team player.

At the time, board president, Paul Kelly, saw a good working relationship with Lariviere in the future.

"We envision a long-term relationship with Richard and hope he wants to be at the U of O for a long period of time," he told The Associated Press.

Lariviere also frustrated his superiors by giving pay raises to some administrators and faculty members. They came to light as the Oregon University System was locked in tough contract negotiations with a union representing clerical and support staff. Lariviere defended the raises, saying they were justified and the university could afford them.

Lariviere elevated the university's commitment to teaching and research, said Geraldine Richmond, a senior chemistry professor who was on the search committee that selected Lariviere as the UO's 16th president in 2009. She called his ouster "a setback to the university's future."

"He has shown the leadership and guts that any of the best institutions in our country should want," Richmond said.

Lariviere makes $540,000 in annual compensation, including a state-funded salary of $245,700 a year plus supplements from the UO Foundation and deferred compensation.

Lariviere is the 16th president of the university and he was hired July 2009.

Read Lariviere's email:

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students:

I received news on Monday in a meeting with the chair of the State Board of Higher Education that my contract as president of the University of Oregon will not be renewed. I was told I could resign or accept the termination of my contract, which runs through July 1, 2012, and I am weighing those options at this time.

This turn of events is a result of the ongoing difference of opinion over the future of the UO. But meaningful change often turns on uncomfortable moments, and it is my hope that I will be leaving the university well-positioned to take advantage of ongoing reforms to our state's system of public universities.

Since becoming the UO's 16th president in July 2009, my focus has been on enhancing the education of our students at Oregon's flagship public university. I have sought to do this by focusing on our critical public mission and tapping the brilliance and innovation that resides here among our faculty, staff and students.

The UO has had a leading voice in public discussions that resulted in this year's legislative overhaul to the structure of Oregon's entire educational system - from early childhood education through post-doctoral studies. Our bold ideas have led to the promise of additional changes in the not-too-distant future, including eventual consideration of our proposal for individual universities to form local governing boards.

But our primary mission has been to provide educational opportunity and academic excellence, and you have taken both to new heights. Enrollment is at an all-time high this year, topping last year's record enrollment. Much has been made of our ability to attract out-of-state and international students, but we are also educating more Oregon students than ever before. This year's freshman class is the most diverse and has the highest grade point average of any incoming class in UO history, and we have raised freshman-to-sophomore retention to a new level.

We are what great students look for in a university. We are different, and embrace difference. We have brilliant, dedicated faculty, cutting-edge research, and award-winning programs. Through careful financial stewardship we were able to give well-earned salary increases to faculty and staff. The UO's research grant funding is setting records as well.
Even though the past 2 1/2 years have been difficult economic times for our entire country, we have generated a quarter of a billion dollars in private gifts at the UO and we have half a billion dollars in ongoing construction projects.

One of my proudest accomplishments is the concerted advocacy for public policy, governance and funding changes to strengthen the university and the entire state. I remain hopeful that honest debate and the exploration of new ideas - whether academic or political - will be celebrated and encouraged.

I wanted you to hear this news from me personally, not read about it elsewhere. I encourage all of you to channel your energy into advancing the momentum we have built together. Thank you for the great work you do. I am intensely proud to be your colleague.

Richard Lariviere