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Notably Quoted

It’s good for an artist to try things. It’s good for an artist to be ridiculous.
Sheila Heti in How Should a Person Be?: A Novel from Life (p. 18)

« Literally Literary | Main | Brief Election Debrief »

A New Season

We’re just two days shy of the third anniversary of Governor Kulongoski’s announcement (on November 13, 2003) that he was asking for the resignations of several members of the Oregon State Board of Higher Education (OSBHE). Also part of his action was to express a desire that former Governor Neil Goldschmidt be appointed to the OSBHE and installed as its president.

That Fall day in 2003 was one that not only changed the lives of the Board members involved, but mine as well; as a staff person in the Oregon University System Chancellor’s Office, the OSBHE was my direct employer. On that fateful Thursday, I was attending the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Higher Education in Portland, and I heard the news, first, as a “rumor.” Somebody mentioned to me that the Governor had “fired the Board of Higher Ed,” which, of course, was unbelievable; no chief executive in our state had ever done such a thing since the department of higher education had been established in the late 1920s. I knew all of the Board members quite well, and there had been absolutely no behavior on their part that could, or should, have led to such a wholesale action by the Governor. The Board members were, all, dedicated public servants, doing the best job they could for higher education in the State.

However, as the course of the day wore on, the information became increasingly more clear. I went to my room in the Hilton late that afternoon, watched the early edition of the evening news on KGW, and discovered the rumor was actually fact. There were a couple of main topics with my dinner companions that night: speculation about what this action would mean for Oregon higher education, and a rather wild story about a recent internet dating experience of mine. We entertained ourselves quite well over that meal, as I recall, with lively conversation on both topics.

Of course, the next few months brought about many changes for the higher education landscape here. New Board members were appointed, and the Governor got his wish by having Goldschmidt elected as the president. However, the Portland media broke the story, a mere few weeks later, that the former Governor had had a sexual relationship with a 14-year old girl during the time he had been mayor of Portland years ago. Amid huge headlines, he resigned in disgrace and Kulongoski himself assumed the role of Board president for a couple of months. The Oregon University System Chancellor resigned, after less than two years on the job, upon assessing the political environment and reading the handwriting on the wall regarding his future. The Board, at the direction of the Governor, started a process (billed as a study to examine the “structure and function” of the Chancellor’s Office) which ultimately resulted in the elimination of the Office of Academic Affairs (and the jobs of the Vice Chancellor and several staff, including me).

My life has really not been the same since that day in November 2003. I was thrown completely off-balance and have been struggling to regain it ever since. I have gone on countless interview trips, and had two “interim” positions at Oregon community colleges, of course, but have had neither predictability nor stability in my life. As the current calendar year begins to fade away, the new job search season begins again for me. I hope to secure a permanent position in higher education (somewhere!) by next June 30.

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