Doing the wrong thing in Corvallis

An alert reader sends me a link to this story, which I almost missed. It reveals that the pulp mill aroma from the Oregon State University presidential fiasco sure isn't subsiding.

Now it's been revealed that when the university president's troubles surfaced, members of the school's board of trustees helped him draft damage control statements. And in fact, their edits played a major role in what was actually released to the public. The whole point was to try to allow the guy to keep his job.

There's a big conflict-of-interest issue there. The trustees are appointed to represent the university, not the president. They have a duty to the entire university community. They're the ones who get to decide who the president is, and whether he or she should be allowed to stay in office. In making that judgment, they shouldn't be shielding the president, and by extension themselves, from embarrassment. And they shouldn't be pre-judging anybody's innocence.

Given their fiduciary duties, the trustees shouldn't have been circling the wagons to put the best spin on the fellow's failings on the job. But that's what at least a few of them (along with some key university employees) reportedly did.

Of course, they wouldn't be unique in screwing this up – far from it. Although chief executives are supposed to answer to their boards of directors, quite often it's the other way around. The exec (in this case, with the governor's help) fills the board with people who tell the exec what he or she wants to hear. When that happens, the main purpose of having the board is defeated. The members are reduced to being figureheads, and in a nonprofit, fundraising targets. It happens all over.

It was bad enough that the OSU board hired King Alexander, but secretly drafting his defense statements is beyond the pale. The whole slate of trustees down there would benefit from a cleanout. And that includes Julia Brim-Edwards (back row, left) of Portland school board and Nike fame, who's reportedly got her eye on higher elective office. It's time for new blood in the Beaver board room.


  1. "pulp mill aroma" Good one. You're a regional H.L Mencken.


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