SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Oregon State University announced Tuesday that it will join the state's two other large universities in creating an independent governing board.
OSU President Ed Ray was initially a skeptic of an independent governing board, telling state lawmakers that he preferred the existing system, in which all seven public universities are governed by the Board of Higher Education. But when it became clear the Legislature was going to grant the wishes of University of Oregon and Portland State University for their own independent boards, Ray said he wanted the option to follow that course.
Ray said he made the decision after speaking with faculty, staff, students, alumni and business leaders.
"The question is, when the facts on the ground change around you, what do you do?" Ray asked.
OSU has offices in every county in Oregon and is committed to maintaining its statewide commitment, Ray said.
"We weren't created to do what's best for us, we were created to serve the people of Oregon and more recently the people of the nation and the world," he said. "So let's stay focused on trying to create a positive contribution to the lives of those we serve."
Gov. John Kitzhaber is expected to nominate 11 to 15 board members for each of the three large universities next month for confirmation in the Senate in September. The three regional universities and Oregon Institute of Technology will have an option to create their own governing boards later.
In their strong push for more independence, UO and PSU argued that they could significantly boost their fundraising if donors didn't have to worry that a distant governing board would interfere with their desires. Ray said OSU has done fine with fundraising even without its own board.
The independent boards will have authority to hire and fire presidents, set tuition and fees and oversee the university's operations. The universities will continue to coordinate their legislative lobbying efforts and budget requests, and they're still working out how to share centralized services like accounting and payroll.
Ruth Beyer, chair of the board of trustees at the OSU Foundation, the university's nonprofit fundraising arm, said the foundation supports the move.
"It's Ed's decision," Beyer said. "He's got a vision, and we're behind Ed and his plans for Oregon State."