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Oregon Head Ousted Amid Campus Leadership Discord With Kitzhaber

The president of the University of Oregon, the state’s largest school with more than 24,000 students, was ousted amid conflicts with Governor John Kitzhaber on budget cuts and leadership.

Richard Lariviere, who became the 16th president of the Eugene-based institution in July 2009, was dismissed by the State Board of Higher Education at a meeting Nov. 28, Jim Barlow, a university spokesman, said by telephone.

Lariviere, 61, will step down Dec. 28, Barlow said. The president had clashed with Kitzhaber, 64, and the governing board over university autonomy and his decision to grant faculty pay raises even as the state made budget cuts, Barlow said.

“This turn of events is a result of the ongoing difference of opinion over the future” of the school, Lariviere said in a message to faculty, staff and students posted on its website. “But meaningful change often turns on uncomfortable moments, and it is my hope that I will be leaving the university well-positioned to take advantage of ongoing reforms to our state’s system of public universities.”

Kitzhaber, in a statement on Nov. 26, said Lariviere had defied the education board over lobbying for “increased independence” of the university.

Lariviere’s decision to grant raises “not only undermined the board, it undermined my own directive and the credibility of my administration,” the Democratic governor said.

Nike Inc. Chairman Philip Knight, who donated $100 million to the university in 2007, sided with Lariviere in a statement released by the Beaverton, Oregon-based company.

“Let us hope that the Oregon community can take this astonishingly bad decision and recognize that it does not have to define us,” Knight said. “We still have the collective capacity to rise up and do great things.”

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