removing our president just before thanksgiving? no, thank you.

UO faculty, staff, and students: please sign the Faculty Senate’s petition in support of President Lariviere by Tuesday at noon.

The small potatoes at Culinaria Eugenius are appalled by the sudden decision to oust University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere.

As much as I support local products, we don’t live in a small, hermetically sealed valley in the middle of nowhere; we live in a state that needs better universities and more funding for excellent faculty and programs. Yes, indeed, we live in a community that extends over the Cascades, over the Rockies, over the Appalachians, the Alleghenies, the Adirondacks and the Alps.  It’s a community of internationally competitive universities and internationally significant research that needs to be fostered and cultivated.

Take food studies, for example, since the CE editorial team demands food news on this channel. My new interdisciplinary food research group, one of many sponsored by the Center for the Study of Women in Society, has participants from about 25 departments/units on campus, and it continues to grow.  Just this year, we’ll be sharing work that ranges from Africa to Italy to the native people of Southern Oregon.  If we were to have a food studies program at UO, it would have the potential to attract even more excellent scholars who would serve the entire OUS system by forging links to existing food/ag programs at our sister universities.

But a program like this — again, one of many in the works at UO — takes institutional support in the form of money, yes, but also vision and the reputation to cultivate and underwrite the research of active, competitive faculty in a relatively new area.

I’ve never talked to President Lariviere about my own work, but I know that as someone deeply invested in the Humanities, he’d listen.  He has a background unusual in university administration — he’s a public intellectual with a doctorate in Sanskrit, the ancient language used in Hindu and Buddhist religious texts. He gained much respect when he introduced the food justice activist Vandana Shiva at last year’s Food Justice conference on campus, not merely because he showed interest in the groundbreaking conference, but because he welcomed her in her native tongue.

President Lariviere doesn’t stop at academic studies, though.  He fearlessly jumped right in and started tackling some of the toughest issues that face academic funding in our state, problems that have been compounding for many decades.  This may have made him unpopular.  Losing him now because of squabbles in the university system is a devastating blow to higher education.  He sees those proverbial mountaintops far from Oregon.  In the Willamette Valley, we sometimes lose sight of them.

If you are as upset as I am about this decision and don’t want President Lariviere’s only Mt. Pisgah to be the Biblical one, email or call Governor Kitzhaber’s office (they have been receiving an earful) or click here for Board email addresses and commentary at UO Matters to let your voice be heard.  He has until Monday to make a formal decision about resigning or being terminated.  Let’s hope it will be neither.

Edited to add:  A new blog supporting the President, We Love Our Pres, is up and running; it has ongoing information for rallies, teach-ins, and letters to send in support.  A student Facebook page, Lariviere for UO President, is here.  The Faculty Senate is circulating a petition here.

Thank you.

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