16. I Stand With The Hat

At the University of Oregon, there is a man who typically wears a fedora and a smile as he saunters through campus. He looks you in the eye and says hello, even though you have never met. Although he is one of the most important men at the university, he leaves his door open so that you can come and talk to him, no matter if you are a student or a million dollar donor. He is a visionary; a voice that speaks for change. He is a kind-spirited, good-hearted person that I truly respect. This man is Richard Lariviere, president of the University of Oregon.

On Tuesday, November 22, I received an email from the president’s office, along with the entire UO community. The Oregon State Board of Higher Education decided that Lariviere’s contract would not be renewed at the end of the academic year. He was forced to either accept his termination or resign. According to a news article in the Register guard, “It’s widely known Lariviere clashed with the Oregon University System, as he tried to make each university autonomous”. In Lariviere’s words,

This turn of events is a result of the ongoing difference of opinion over the future of the UO. But meaningful change often turns on uncomfortable moments, and it is my hope that I will be leaving the university well-positioned to take advantage of ongoing reforms to our state’s system of public universities.

I was devastated when I heard the news. Lariviere gave underrepresented students a voice, and diversified our campus. I always admired his progressive outlook and philanthropic efforts. I’m not the only one who feels this way — the campus seems to be in an uproar of outrage over this decision.

At a meeting Wednesday morning, the department heads at the College of Arts and Science voted unanimously in support of Lariviere. The UO Senate sent out a petition for reinstatement for students, faculty and staff to sign. The School of Journalism and Communication started a blog called “We Love Our Pres” that gives real-time updates and organizes rallies. Banners hang from various buildings on campus that say “I Stand With The Hat” in full support of our president.

Even Nike founder and UO alum Phil Knight made a statement about the situation:

“It deeply saddens me that some people in power in our state continue to drive Oregon into a death spiral with their embrace of mediocrity. It’s yet another application of Oregon’s Assisted Suicide law.

For the chancellor and the State Board of Higher Education, a ‘team player’ is someone who falls in line with their acceptance of mediocrity, and the one who strives for excellence does not fit in. Let us hope that the Oregon community can take this astonishingly bad decision and recognize that it does not have to define us. We still have the collective capacity to rise up and do great things.”

 It’s moments like this that make me proud of my school. I’ve never been much of an activist, but I do believe in always doing the right thing. In just hours after the news, our campus immediately shifted our attention to the issue at hand, and took action. Twitter feeds and social media were full of disappointment. Now, everyone’s profile picture says “I stand with the hat”. This sense of solidarity for change motivates me to help in any way that I can.

As one of my professors asked in an email,

What is the University of Oregon brand if one who many feel to be a visionary leader is summarily dismissed? What happens to the culture of the place when momentum stops or when faculty leave? How should partners or donors or perspective students or perspective faculty members to feel?

Moments like this define you as a person. We have an opportunity to change the future of the University of Oregon. Will you make the right choice and stand up for what is right? Or will you stay silent and accept mediocrity? The decision is yours.
Follow the We Love Our Pres blog for more information on how you can take action.
**UPDATE: November 28th, Richard Lariviere was ousted as University president. These are my thoughts on the matter.
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9 thoughts on “16. I Stand With The Hat

  1. I’m not happy about this most recent turn of events. The only analogy that comes to mind is the relationship between the United Nations and the United States. The UN is a good world governing body filled with good intentions. The US is one it’s most important members. However, there are times when the individual needs of a sovereign nation like the US must be addressed and protected. The UN may not come to the aid of the US, so the US is forced to lead on it’s own.

    The UO (read US) is part of the Oregon University System (read UN). If the Oregon University System can’t or won’t provide fiscal certainty for the UO, then the UO has no choice but to try to survive on it’s own. Richard Lariviere is the right man to boldly lead the UO into these uncharted financial waters. Unfortunately, the University System is afraid of people with new ideas. As such, I’m afraid we will all go down on the sinking ship “Status Quo.”

  2. Is the J School going to have some stickers and T shirts printed up with “Support The Hat”
    or something similar on them? potter decal here in Eugene could do the window stickers.

    I’m willing to put some $ into underwriting the printing.

  3. Pingback: 22. I Stand With The Hat (Part 2) « Kelsey Wilkins

  4. Pingback: Oregon Board of Higher Education unanimously votes to fire UO President | MyEugene

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