18. Stand with the hat.

At 11:30 pm on Tuesday, as many faculty and students were already fantasizing about the turkey-induced coma they’d be in within the next few days, University of Oregon’s President Lariviere sent a message out to faculty, staff and students announcing his contract will not be renewed.

On Monday, the State Board of Higher Education informed the president that his contract would not be renewed come the end of the school year. He was given two choices: He could resign now or accept the termination and continue to serve as our president until July 1st of 2012, being the date when his contract ends. He has decided to fulfill his contract to the end.

Richard Lariviere, who became the president on July 1st of 2009, is often thought of as a visionary leader in the realm of public higher education. He believes in the ability to reform the public higher education system in Oregon in order to more accurately prepare students for success. Looking at his biography, it’s clear that he is passionate about education and learning. As a student, he earned his degree in the history of religions at the University of Iowa. After traveling to India with his wife and absorbing the language, history and culture of the country, he returned to the US to continue his studies in Pennsylvania, getting a doctorate in Sanskrit. He has published articles and conducted research in many different cities throughout the world. He is also a member of many different educational and cultural organizations and societies.

In his message released on Tuesday, he took a moment to remind faculty and students what has been accomplished during his time as president:

 

“Enrollment is at an all-time high this year, topping last year’s record enrollment. Much has been made of our ability to attract out-of-state and international students, but we are also educating more Oregon students than ever before. This year’s freshman class is the most diverse and has the highest grade point average of any incoming class in UO history, and we have raised freshman-to-sophomore retention to a new level.”

 

He is clearly on the right path to making great improvements to our school, and yet he is being fired by the Oregon University System. Looking at this from a brand perspective, what does this say about the University of Oregon brand? While ultimately the decision to fire Lariviere came from the Oregon University System (as opposed to coming solely from the university itself), this choice still reflects the university in a negative light. University of Oregon now looks like a place that doesn’t support innovative people or ideas. As a university, we definitely don’t want to portray an image of being closed-minded; however, this decision to fire a president who is loved by faculty and students for his big ideas on educational reform does just that.

When Lariviere’s contract ends, will the momentum of what he started come to a screeching halt? Possibly. Does the departure of a forward-thinking president also mean the departure of our forward-thinking faculty? Possibly.

His firing may also influence the decision of perspective students and faculty, who may view the University as a place that isn’t supportive of new and daring ideas. Future students also want a place that supports reform and improvement of the education system.

Partners and donors may question their future work with the university as well. Who wants to work with someone who fires a visionary?

In the next few weeks, students need to make sure their voices are heard. Many have already taken to various forms of social media to voice their support of the president. Tags have been created on Twitter (#weloveourpres, #KeepLariviere),  and others have created art and even t-shirts. There is also a petition circling the net created by the University of Oregon Senate to keep President Lariviere. As a student in support of President Lariviere, I can help spread the word of the petition and share it with friends and family.

Lastly, I feel so proud to be not only a student of the University of Oregon, but a journalism student. Fellow journalism majors are already creating work to show their support.

I stand with the hat. Do you?

The official vote on Lariviere’s contract, performed by the State Board of Education, will take place on Monday.

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