Some heavy hitters impatient with the pace of change in Oregon's higher education system have formed a new political action committee called Oregonians for Higher Education Excellence.
The directors of the committee—lawyer Jack Faust, Endeavor Capital Managing Director John von Schlegell and Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle—bring substantial Rolodexes and, in the case of the latter two, lots of money to the project.
Von Schlegell resigned from the state Board of Higher Education three years ago, upset that Oregon continues to disinvest in its seven-campus university system. He was also frustrated the state hamstrings university leadership with a level of legislative management he and other critics say is disproportionate to the amount of money the state gives the higher ed system.
Boyle, who graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism, says he and his allies are anxious to see the campuses receive greater independence, a shift Gov. John Kitzhaber and some lawmakers have started.
"The whole governance model needs to be changed," Boyle told WW
. "The Legislature with the governor's encouragement is meeting to try to recommend changes. That's the way we'd hope for the governance to be changed. The hope is that will be a great outcome for the institutions."
But if that process gets bogged down, Boyle says, the new political action committee is prepared to develop a ballot measure that would promote a speedy devolution of authority.
"If the PAC is to be used, it wouldn’t be supporting candidates but instead focused on an an initiative petition," Boyle says. "But again, our preference is to see a legislative solution."
Boyle says his group has no specific timetable, nor would he say who may contribute, although Nike Chairman Phil Knight, an enormous supporter of the University of Oregon and an advocate for greater independence, is a logical candidate.
Today, the group disclosed its first contribution, $65,000 from Ed Maletis, the chairman of Columbia Distributing. Endeavor Capital, von Schlegell's firm, has been a major investor in Columbia Distributing.