On the hamster wheel

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Oregon

It was a little while after word of the departure of University of Oregon President Michael Gottfredson that a key point about the terms of departure became clear.

The basics about the departure were released immediately, though there wasn’t much clarity as to why he was leaving. The only explanation was that he wanted more time with his family, but really: He’d only been in the job for two years. He seemed to do well enough as president, made no major (visible) errors and from the outside looked to be headed toward a tenure of a number of additional years. And this guy they’d just hired, after an expensive year-long national search, was leaving, and they apparently gave him an immediate okay to go. Even an incentive of nearly a million dollars: $940,000, which apparently was a gift, not at all contractually required in the event of his resignation. (The figure came from the combination of a year’s pay as president and a year as a tenured professor, which he also contractually has been.)

The first matter at hand, of course, is: Why such a generous departure payment for someone who simply quit early? The governing board made a reference to the “contributions” he made – but isn’t that part of the job, what he was being paid for as a matter of course? What were the contributions that were so massive they qualified for a million-dollar gift?

Then there’s: Why is he leaving? (Apparently it isn’t for a higher paycheck elsewhere; he said he has no other job lined up.) You can count on this much: We haven’t heard all of the reason, whatever it may be, yet.

And this: Is this the prompt for yet another year-long nation-wide search, the leadership status in which most of our universities seem to spending about a quarter to a third of their time? It seems a peculiar kind of status for institutions where brilliantly inspired top leadership is taken to be so important.

As a matter of going forward: UO has chosen its provost (academic vice president) Scott Coltrane as interim president. Based on their description of him, he seems a perfectly decent choice, a university administrator for a decade and a dean, then provost, at UO since 2008. He’s apparently a respected administrator, and he knows something about UO. Why not save themselves the trouble and just strike the “interim” from his title, and be done with it?

Much better than the hamster wheel they’re likely to fire up yet again.

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