UO interim president Bob Berdahl testifies before Special Legislative Committee on University Governance

On May 10, UO interim president Bob Berdahl offered testimony to the Oregon Legislature’s Special Legislative Committee on University Governance on the value of institutional boards to higher education in Oregon. The committee invited Berdahl and Portland State University president Wim Wiewel to offer their perspectives on institutional boards as a part of its work to make recommendations before the 2013 legislative session.

Berdahl began his remarks by sharing briefly information about his career in higher education. Before being called out of retirement to serve as the UO’s interim chief executive, Berdahl served
as the president of the Association of American Universities, an institution that represents sixty-one leading research universities in the U.S. and Canada. He previously served as chancellor at
the University of California at Berkley, president of the University of Texas at Austin, and the vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Berdahl was a history professor at the UO from 1967 to 1986, the final five years serving as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

In his testimony, Berdahl spoke of the need for greater university autonomy, flexibility, and accountability in the face of increased state budget cuts and increasing demand for a high-quality, affordable higher education. Berdahl outlined the powers an institutional board will need to be effective: the authority to hire, dismiss, and evaluate a university president; the ability to issue revenue bonds; and the ability to set tuition. Institutional boards, according to Berdahl, fit into the reforms envisioned through the creation of the Oregon Education Investment Board. His full remarks are available on the UO’s state affairs webpage.

Following Berdahl, Wiewel spoke of the benefits an institutional board would provide PSU. According to Wiewel, an institutional board would give a president additional support through focused encouragement and accountability. It would further allow PSU to provide regional and tri-county stakeholders increased engagement with the university.

Wiewel, like Berdahl, outlined the powers he thought essential for a board to have: the power to hire, fire, and evaluate a university president; control over
revenue and expenditures; and bonding authority. Both university presidents
fielded questions after their remarks. Paul Kelly, chair of the State Board of
Higher Education’s Governance and Policy Committee, also appeared to offer the state board’s recommendation on institutional governing boards. A full-length audio version of the hearing can be found on the Oregon Legislature’s website.