A Degree For Oregon

2

November 28, 2011 by David Gillaspie

by David Gillaspie

Richard Lariviere is the University of Oregon President, not the Penn State president, but both men lose their jobs?

One gets fired for his role in the child abuse scandal. He forgot to act on information that a former employee sodomized ten year olds in Penn State showers.

President Lariviere gets the boot for the crime of upgrading faculty?

The Hat gets the sack for trying to make Oregon more a destination, less a stepping stone.

Is that wrong?

Penn State would love to have a Lariviere in their president’s chair. Why not keep him in Oregon?

This is a man who knows the ropes. He graduated from the University of Iowa. He’s seen campus conflict. Imagine a school packed with football, basketball, and wrestling sharing space with something as esoteric as the world famous Iowa Writers Workshop?

This Lariviere also graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. Penn is an Ivy League school, like Harvard and Yale and Princeton, but it carries a state name for some down-home name recognition.

The man worked in the Univeristy of Texas system. You can rest assured he knows how really big money schools get that way. If that’s where he’s taking Oregon, is he taking the right steps?

Some context on the state of Oregon might be helpful. Oregon used to attract workers for the logging and fishing industries. If you’ve ever spent a summer of swing-shift work in either one, what’s coming next should be no surprise.

Workers in the logging and fishing industries knew education was the key to a better future for their kids and their state. The logger might want his kid to learn forest management after watching his company’s logging practice ravage the land and clog the streams.

A mill worker might want his kid to learn mechanical engineering for more efficient natural resource processing.

These are the students who go to Oregon State.

If wealthy families decide their kids need their minds pried open, they send them to Reed. If a regular educational experience is the goal, the University of Oregon shows up on the radar, then the other state schools.

You want to teach? Go to Southern Oregon.

Don’t like big schools? Go to Western.

Don’t want to cross the Cascades? Go to Eastern.

If you screw up enough at those schools and want to finish your degree while working full-time, starting a family, and buying a house? Go to Portland State. 

Here’s an insight you won’t find anywhere else. Some schools sell their souls for recognition. Take Auburn, for example. The Auburn Tigers beat the Oregon Ducks for the BCS National Championship last year. Two junior college players, Cam Newton and Nick Fairley, used Auburn as their stepping stone to the NFL.

While there’s nothing wrong with players from junior colleges moving to big-time programs, there is a seedy factor in some cases. Who guessed the nice kid from City College of San Fransisco who moved on to USC greatness would turn into the O.J. Simpson we know today?

Will Cam Newton look back on his Auburn days with the same feelings as a fifth year red-shirt player who bleeds Tiger blood and dances the War Eagle? Or will he call it a nice pay day?

Auburn showed how low they’d go to reach to top; Oregon might be headed down the same road, except for Richard Lariviere. While Nike makes it rain on athletics with the famous facilities and study hall, The Hat made it rain on the academic side.

Athletes might show up with their own agenda for moving on, but the UO President didn’t want the same with his professors and administrators. An Akili Smith might come in and light it up before grabbing the NFL money, but Lariviere wants something better for the teachers and students.

He wants scholars to build their reputations at the Univeristy of Oregon, reputations that students are drawn to. He wants students to get the biggest bang for their tuition bucks, not spend their college years in some fourth rate version of a diploma-mill.

Once kids get fired up about their education, they get fired up about where they live and what they do. They get fired up about their school and make plans to give back when they’re at that stage in their financial lives.

Dr. Lariviere lit the fuse of the future by paying his staff today. Students attending UO feel they’re getting a better education because they have teachers committed to them, instead of the regional lifestyle with teaching as a means to that end.

Since the end of major logging and fishing, Oregon has become a destination state for people who will do whatever it takes to live here. It’s a service industry state with enough mountains and rivers and gorges to fill up an academic’s recruitment brochure.

Which professor would you want on the campus of your choice, the one who answered this ad:

Enjoy the wonders of the great Northwest. Wind surfing, skiing, mountain climbing, old growth forest all within a short distance of X University campus.  

Or, this ad:

University of Oregon seeks top ranking scholars to fill endowed chairs in a progressive environment dedicated to research and the dissemination of knowledge to motivated students.

Read about Oregon Ducks on the football field in the morning sports page.

Read about Oregon faculty in the learned jounals of higher education.

Read about University of Oregon President, and national thought leader in school reform, Richard Lariviere in the Oregon governor’s statement.  

Then ask yourself if you would rather be a stepping stone under someone’s foot, or a reason to celebrate.

Oregon is Oregon, not Reed, or Lewis and Clark, or Willamette, but why not attract those students too?

If you can create an Ivy League environment without the yard work, you have to try.

Dr. Richard Lariviere is doing his part. How is that wrong?

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