PORTLAND — The first public hearing on a bill granting the University of Oregon and Portland State University more autonomy from the statewide university system provided few details on the powers that would be granted to independent boards.
Administrators say such boards would help them better manage their schools at a time of reduced state funding. They believe the boards should be allowed to set tuition, sell revenue bonds and hire and fire university presidents.
Though acknowledging the details must be worked out, Portland State President Wim Wiewel told a House committee in Salem on Friday that independent boards would provide greater operating flexibility, and the state Board of Higher Education — which oversees Oregon’s seven public universities — simply does not have the time to focus on the needs of Portland State.
No representatives from the University of Oregon spoke at the hearing before the House Higher Education Committee.
Rep. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, the committee chairman, said the panel will work throughout the legislative session to find the “sweet spot" in which Oregon and Portland State get the autonomy they want, but not at the expense of the university system as a whole.
Earlier Friday, Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, renewed his effort to strengthen the alliance between Portland State and Oregon Health & Science University. House Bill 2339 would separate Portland State from the Oregon University System as a public corporation and place it under the board that oversees OHSU.