Promoting Quality Higher Education– An Investment in Oregon’s Future


Oregon’s Leadership Crisis in Higher Education

April 15, 2021 / PSU-AAUP

The past decade has seen crisis after crisis in Oregon’s higher education leadership. In 2014 PSU-AAUP members overwhelmingly voted to strike after an arduous bargaining process wherein then PSU President Wim Wiewel’s Administration played hardball, attempting to gut shared governance via collective bargaining. When he left PSU, Wiewel publicly blamed PSU-AAUP as one of the “difficulties” leading to his departure

Then we hired a new President, Rahmat Shoureshi, who left PSU after accusations of verbal abuse, misappropriation of funds, and his demands for an increased housing stipend, while many of his University employees relied on state entitlements to get by. The State Ethics Commission found that Shoureshi violated state law three times.

PSU is not alone in its experiences of leadership crises. F. King Alexander, former OSU President stepped down just two weeks ago, after only eight months in the position, due to controversies from his previous position--underfunding and understaffing Title IX offices and his alleged protection of the football coach even after several sexual assault complaints in Louisiana. And this happened just seven years after former U of O President Goffredsen left because of sexual assault scandals in athletics, poor relations with the faculty union, and potential donor disenchantment.

Now we have the Oregon Institute of Technology President roiled in scandal. The OIT Faculty Senate took a vote of no confidence in their President, Nagi Naganathan, and called on him to resign. Meanwhile, our union siblings at OIT, OT-AAUP, have authorized a strike after 16 months of bargaining and still having no common ground with administration on critical issues such as health benefits, workload, and compensation, to say nothing of OIT Administration’s assaults on shared governance.

Meanwhile, after both faculty and staff unions at Western Oregon University voted no confidence in their President, Rex Fuller, in November of 2020, the university’s Administration is pushing through cuts to liberal arts programs such as Philosophy and Music, all the while evidence shows that liberal arts skills are desired by employers, but lacking in college graduates

The common thread in each of these seems to be a Presidential and Administrative lack of understanding of the collective power of faculty unions and lack of trust in shared governance. We've seen this time and time again across higher ed, and the outcomes would have been very different without the collective union voices pushing back. While the crisis may not be on our doorstep at this moment, it is critical that we remain vigilant and informed about these issues at our sibling institutions and stand in solidarity with them. Doing so is a moral imperative, and our strong union support will lend strength to them when needed. They will be there for us should we need them in the future. PSU-AAUP stands in solidarity with our union siblings and university workers at other Oregon institutions that are now going through these needless leadership crises in higher education.

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