UO President Michael Schill has started a blog series called “Open Mike” which ironically appears to have the comments disabled. In this non-open discussion forum, President Schill addresses budgetary issues in the typical manner of someone saying nothing for a long time and expecting not to be interrupted. Before the end of the second paragraph of this tiresome message, he raises the crucial issue we are facing at UO of “how we can best make the case to state lawmakers to boost state funding for the university…” Is it building Olympic stadiums at the behest of Nike? Is it by moving the historic Collier House so we can endure another three years of construction directly in the middle of campus? Or is it just a matter of lining up our wealthiest Board of Trustees members and letting them put their name on whatever pet project they fancy? A substantial amount of money is going into construction projects, and the process is driven by wealthy people setting the agenda at a public university. With our current board structure under SB 270, they even have a say in department hiring.
Now, if our current trustees and the illustrious Phil Knight hadn’t piled $387,000 into former Governor Kitzhaber re-election fund in a single month, I might not understand the misgivings of the Oregon legislature. Or if board member Joseph Gonyea hadn’t flown Kitzhaber on his private jet and then recorded the $8,500 expense as a campaign contribution, it might not feel like there are ethical conflicts going on here. But the truth is when you line them all up, who would trust these people with public money? We aren’t talking about department heads or state administrators making the decisions. We are talking about oligarchs like Chuck Lillis that gut public assets when they get their hands on them. We are talking about Timber executives like Ford and Gonyea that are pushing the 50-year public logging plan to make Oregon into a desert. And even Ross Kari who made his name in the legendary 1980s corporate raiding firm KKR and now sits on the board of Goldman Sachs. How the fuck are these people looking after my interests at the University of Oregon? And all I can imagine is an elected legislature thinking the same damn thing.
So when we ask ourselves the most important question of how we achieve sustainable funding levels from the state, I have a one word for you, President Schill: accountability.