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Originally published Tuesday, November 29, 2011 at 8:25 PM

State board ousts University of Oregon president

The Oregon State Board of Higher Education voted Monday afternoon to terminate the contract of the University of Oregon president, Richard W. Lariviere.

The New York Times

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The Oregon State Board of Higher Education voted Monday to terminate the contract of University of Oregon President Richard W. Lariviere.

At the start of the emergency board meeting, when Chancellor George Pernsteiner recommended the contract be ended as of Dec. 28, the room erupted in boos.

The decision came after a public-comment hour in which speaker after speaker implored the board to retain the president or at least defer the decision.

"This has been a long dysfunctional ride," said board President Matt Donegan. "It is heartbreaking to be here right now."

Still, the decision this week came as no surprise. Media reports last week said Lariviere had already been notified his contract would not be renewed when it expired June 30.

But at Monday's meeting, the board said that last week's discussions were confidential consultations and that no decision had been reached before the meeting.

At the meeting, the University Senate's president, Robert Kyr, presented a petition carrying 6,300 signatures, asking the board to renew Lariviere's contract and saying that his departure would shatter morale and lead many employees to leave the university.

In his own statement, Lariviere said the university had been impoverished by decades of disinvestment by the state.

"The demand for fresh thinking and new models has never been more urgent," he said.

Lariviere annoyed the board during the last legislative session, when he proposed that Oregon's flagship university form its own governing board and become more financially independent of the state.

The board renewed his contract in June, but only for one year — and with several conditions, including that he no longer push for a separate board.

Tensions with the board were exacerbated further this year, when Lariviere gave pay raises to some administrators and faculty members at a time when the university system was in the midst of contract negotiations with the union representing clerical and support staff.

Over the weekend, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber said the board would be "fully justified" in ending Lariviere's reign.

The governor also said Lariviere's salary increases "disregarded my specific direction on holding tight and delaying discussion about retention and equity-pay increases until the next biennium to allow for a consistent, systemwide policy on salaries."

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