OUS chancellor quits

On Friday, Oregon University System Chancellor George Pernsteiner gave his notice, signaling that more change is coming for Oregon’s eight public universities.

©Benjamin Brink/The Oregonian
©Benjamin Brink/The Oregonian

On Friday, Oregon University System Chancellor George Pernsteiner gave his notice, signaling that more change is coming for Oregon’s eight public universities.

No reason was given in a press release sent out by OUS on Friday.

Pernsteiner will continue to serve in his role until March 1 and then will stay on “special assignment” until March 31. He was hired in September of 2005.

“It has been a true honor to serve Oregon as chancellor for more than eight years,” Pernsteiner said in the release.

Matt Donegan, president of the State Board of Higher Education, said now is the right time for Pernsteiner to leave because of a changing political atmosphere with new requirements and expectations from the governor.

“The key is finding the right time,” Donegan said. “In my three-and-a-half years with the board, the conversation has completely changed.”

An interim chancellor has not yet been named. Donegan said the search would begin after Monday’s separation agreement meeting, when it will have 30 days to find someone for the post. “We’ve got plenty of time to name a replacement.” Donegan said.

OUS authority and funding may be diminishing soon, with Governor Kitzhaber’s promised reforms to public education. His proposed budget in 2013–15 adds a new Department of Postsecondary Education that will assume some duties of OUS.

Donegan didn’t appear to be too worried by the changes.

“An institutional change should be welcome. Some functions should be shifted over [to the new department].”

Other recent changes include the hiring of controversial figure Rudy Crew in June 2012 to oversee all educational programs in Oregon, and the appointment of Rob Saxton as deputy superintendent of public instruction. This replaced the former citizen-elected superintendent position.

The proposed state budget will take effect July 1, however the state legislature opens on Feb. 4 and possible changes could be made.

Pernsteiner has most recently come under public scrutiny in Eugene in Nov. 2011, when he played an instrumental role in the firing of the University of Oregon’s president, Richard Lariviere, six months before his contract ended.

At the time, the angry faculty senate passed a motion for the review of Pernsteiner’s contract.

Lariviere was the first public university president to go on record supporting an institutional board, which would give universities more ability to make decisions locally through their own governing boards.

Tom Cox, managing consultant for Cox Business Consulting, wrote an article for Oregon Business Magazine criticizing Pernsteiner’s actions as an example of failed leadership. Cox said he wasn’t surprised to hear of Pernsteiner’s departure.

“One of his best people, he axed,” Cox said in an interview with the Vanguard.

“When you have a guy that’s erratic [Pernsteiner], no one else is going to come work for you.” Cox said.

Randy Blazak, a professor of sociology and an officer with the faculty union, had just heard the news on Friday.

“That’s a big deal,” Blazak said. He was reluctant to speculate publicly on the implications of the resignation, however.

“Oregon desperately needs leadership in higher education to be competitive in the global marketplace,” Blazak said.

There was a meeting of the OUS board on Monday to discuss the separation agreement. Look for continuing coverage in the Vanguard.