PSU fiasco shows we need college czar

News out of Portland State University has aroused anger and disgust over the outrageously generous severance PSU’s Board of Trustees granted its former president, Rahmat Shoureshi, who can just sit wherever he resides for the next year and yuck it up while floating around on a golden parachute worth $850,000, including his base salary, two years of health insurance, and $35,000 to cover his legal fees.  This development came at the same time the PSU Board of Trustees voted to raise tuition for resident undergraduates by more than 11 percent.

These decisions by the Board of Trustees took place after nearly two tumultuous years at PSU under Shoureshi’s leadership where many complaints were brought to the attention of all who should care regarding his dismissive management practices, his demoralizing treatment of employees and his ubiquitous lack of credibility. Oregonians should be demanding answers from PSU’s Board of Trustees as to how they could have so poorly vetted Shoureshi that it was not recognized from his past that he would destructively impact, by awful, bleak behaviors, the state’s largest and most urban public university. 

Much of the effort by the Board of Trustees must have been sketchy and superfluous in choosing this guy from far-away New York and its strongly encouraged that they should be replaced in their positions accordingly. Meanwhile, anyone looking at the ranks of PSU’s Board of Trustees will immediately see that about a third of its members are directly associated with PSU while most of the other ten members come from superhigh-remuneration, benefit-rich private employment where they, among the country’s “one percent,” are often recognized as persons having little to no empathy with the students and their families that must pay the extraordinarily high price of college today and the extent to which it leads too often to staggering debt and chronic unemployment.

The PSU Board of Trustees also has had the arrogance to “make it clear” to the Oregon Legislative when they approved the 11 percent tuition increase for resident undergraduates that the Board will reduce the high tuition increase if those folks in Salem will simply allocate more money for higher education. 

At least one state agency now protests even though the Legislature and Governor remain silent. The Higher Education Coordinating Commission, led by Executive Director Ben Cannon, has expressed the Commission’s unhappiness with PSU’s Board of Trustees for agreeing to grant the now former PSU president a luxurious ride from infamy into fantasyland. Most certainly the students at PSU must not be punished for Board of Trustees mistakes. 

Oregon has tried local university Board of Trustee governance and it failed miserably at PSU. Since they blew it so badly, now is the time to consider a serious return to oversight by a state higher education authority to avoid the pitfalls of locals who stand in as elite figureheads and political neophytes while our public universities go to blazes by gross ineptitude and possible malfeasance.Quick action in this matter by the Legislature and Governor Brown is needed.

(Gene H. McIntyre shares his opinion regularly in the Keizertimes.)