In Oregon’s new higher ed boards, labor gets a seat or two


Among 56 appointees named  by Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber to four newly-created state university boards, several current and former labor figures made the cut.

To serve on the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC), Kitzhaber nominated David Rives, president of American Federation of Teachers(AFT)-Oregon;  Ramon Ramirez, president of the farmworker advocacy organization PCUN; and Tim Nesbitt, who was Oregon AFL-CIO president from 1999 to 2006. And as non-voting members of HECC, Kitzhaber nominated Frank Goulard, president of the Portland Community College Federation of Faculty and Academic Professionals (AFT Local 2277), and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 503 member Rob Fullmer, a Portland State University employee and member of the union bargaining team. Once confirmed by the Oregon Senate, Rives and the others will serve on a business-heavy board that includes Oregon Business Council president Duncan Wyse and former Intel executive Kirby Dyess.

HECC, under a law passed earlier this year, will oversee a complex system that enrolls more than 380,000 students in eight public universities, 17 public community colleges, 67 private for-profit and independent colleges and universities. Starting July 1, 2014, it will combine responsibilities from the previous State Board of Education, State Board of Higher Education, and Oregon Student Access Commission.

Rives told the Labor Press he will work to ensure that faculty and staff input are considered in board decisions. Rives is a PCC instructor of English for Speakers of Other Languages, and president of 12,500-member AFT-Oregon. He’s also a long-time critic of the shift by community colleges and state universities towards greater reliance on part-time, adjunct, term-to-term faculty to teach classes.

Business leaders will be in plentiful supply on the newly-created 14-member boards that will govern University of Oregon (UO), Oregon State University (OSU), and Portland State University (PSU). The boards were established by legislation earlier this year. But only one of the boards appears to have a representative of organized labor: Kurt Willcox, SEIU Local 503’s chief bargaining delegate for negotiations with the Oregon University System, was nominated to the University of Oregon board. Other UO board nominees include the CEO of Roseburg Forest Products, the wife of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Columbia Sportswear attorney Peter Bragdon, and Andrew Colas of R&H Colas Construction. The OSU board includes the CFO of Weyerhaeuser, an Intel vice president, the chair of Reser’s Fine Foods, and the chief administrative officer for St. Charles Health System, which last year defeated a two-year-old union campaign by SEIU. PSU’s board nominees include former Portland City Councilor Jim Francesconi; former Governor Neil Goldschmidt chief of staff Tom Imeson; former Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul DeMuniz, and former Portland mayoral candidate Sho Dozono.

The Oregon Senate is expected to meet and confirm the nominees Sept. 16.

See the full list of nominees here.


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