Faculty members vote no confidence in EOU president

LaGRANDE, Ore. (AP) – Faculty members at Eastern Oregon University have given President Khosrow Fatemi a vote of no confidence, and a state analyst says the university’s spending could leave the school with a worrisome cash balance, below state requirements.

Faculty members voted 139-38 on Wednesday, with 13 abstaining, to ask state officials to review whether Fatemi, 61, should remain as president. He took office in May 2004.

Faculty members said Fatemi had gone on a hiring binge, adding about 18 positions, most of them administrative, that will cost Eastern $750,000 to $840,000 in the next school year, when all the new hires will be in place, and he was not candid about the costs.

“What this represents is a profound worry that the present leadership is really harming the institution,” said Greg Monahan, a history professor and president of the union representing Eastern faculty and librarians.

As staff members gathered this week to launch the vote, which was conducted on the Internet, Fatemi said, “I’m disappointed, but that is the life of a college president.”

Chancellor George Pernsteiner said he takes faculty concerns seriously.

On April 7, he said, the Board of Higher Education asked Fatemi to report to it in May about Eastern’s finances.

Jay Kenton, the University System vice chancellor for finance and administration, said the school’s spending rate can’t be sustained.

In the current school year, Kenton said, Eastern Oregon will spend $1.6 million more than it will receive in revenue, and next year the deficit will be $600,000 to $700,000.

At that rate, Eastern’s reserves will drop from 13 percent of revenue, as of a year ago, to 4 percent by the end of the next school year, he said.

Kenton said the University System requires its institutions to have reserves of 5 percent to 15 percent.

Fatemi and other officials have attributed the spending to: the new positions, salary and benefit increases, higher energy costs, lighter course loads among students, and a program that offered full tuition to high school valedictorians and salutatorians. It turned out to be more successful than expected and increased the number of top high school scholars from a handful to 83.

Fatemi told the board that his plan to improve finances hinges on a 2.5 percent enrollment increase this fall, tuition increases, budget cuts achieved by keeping vacancies open and controlling energy costs, fewer tuition discounts and increased state funding.

Fatemi has said that the new positions should pay for themselves by, for example, keeping students in school longer so they continue to pay tuition and by raising money through grants.

“Had I known then what I know now, would I have hired all these people? Probably not. I can add as well as anybody,” he said.