Institutional boards bill passes Senate

On July 3, the Oregon Senate passed SB 270 B, a bill that establishes institutional boards for Oregon’s public universities on a vote of 23 to 7. Senators Prozanski (D-Eugene), Girod (R-Stayton), Boquist (R-Dallas), Ferrioli (R- John Day), Shields (D- Portland), Close (R-Corvallis), and Kruse (R-Roseburg) voted against the bill.

The Board of Trustees established under the bill will have the authority to hire or fire a university president, set tuition for resident undergraduates with up to a 5 percent increase, and issue revenue bonds. The bill specifies that the board will have designated seats for a student, a non-faculty employee, and a member of the faculty. The student will be a voting member.  The governor will determine at appointment whether the faculty and non-faculty members are voting or ex-officio members. The university president is an ex-officio member of the board. A round of amendments adopted by the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Education prior to full committee and Senate approval also provides a clear process for Oregon’s regional and technical universities to establish boards of trustees.

The bill was carried on the Senate floor by State Senator Mark Hass (D-Beaverton), who chairs the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee. Hass, who was wearing a green tie, spoke about the process that brought about the current version of the bill and his vision of SB 270 creating new opportunities at the UO, allowing for new construction, student scholarships, and support for world-class faculty. Senator Lee Beyer (D-Springfield) also spoke in support of the bill, citing the need for flexibility as public funding has decreased.  Senators Hansell (R-Athena), Bates (D-Ashland), and Monroe (D-Portland) all rose to speak in support of the bill. The bill now goes to the House.  The Legislature will work through the weekend as the push to adjournment advances.

On July 1, the Oregon House of Representative voted 54 to 3 to approve HB 3120 B, which restructures Oregon’s system of higher education. The bill creates a Higher Education Coordinating Commission to oversee Oregon’s community colleges, student aid enterprises, and universities. State Representative Michael Dembrow (D-Portland), who chairs the House Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee and led the work group that produced HB 3120 B, carried the bill to on the House floor.  The bill now goes to the Senate.