“It deeply saddens me that some people in power in our state continue to drive Oregon into a death spiral with their embrace of mediocrity.” – Nike founder Phil Knight.

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Oregonians deserve better than struggling to avoid mediocrity,” – University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere today before he was fired by the Oregon State Board of Education.

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With the exception of West Virginia breaking away from Virginia at the onset of the Civil War, I don’t know of any other states that have actually changed their name. Maybe the time has come for a second state to change its name.

The vapid intellectual tundra lying between Washington to the north, California to the south, Nevada and Idaho to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west that used to be called Oregon should now be officially recognized as the State of Mediocrity.

Each year there would be a Civil War game between the University of Mediocrity Ducks and the Mediocrity State Beavers. The winner of the game would be guaranteed a slot in the most average of all college bowl games, the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl in Boise. Maybe, Mediocrity Governor John Kitzhaber could throw out the first potato into the snow?

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Come on Oregonians…err..Mediocritans, it’s time to continue our eternal quest to be average, to be mundane, to be just so-so. Let’s insist on paying other people to pump gas into our cars in the interest of ensuring the perpetuation of low-quality jobs for petroleum-transfer engineers. Maybe what’s left of our universities can produce graduates who are uniquely prepared to pump gas, tend bar, pick up garbage and most of all being prepared to ask: “Would you like fries with that hamburger?”

Even with the myriad of challenges that California faces, it still has great universities such as Stanford and UC Berkeley that are producing the brains that directly lead to Silicon Valley innovation. A telling Harvard Business Review study would compare the fate of two similar companies founded at the same time, one in California and one in Oregon. The companies are Hewlett-Packard and Tektronix…Tek-Who?

The State of Mediocrity strategically stands right on the edge of the Pacific Rim and its children will be uniquely prepared to report to their future bosses located in China, India, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and (gasp) California…that assumes they can get a job.

Richard Lariviere took a principled stand against the notion of communal poverty, the idea that the only method of addressing economic inequality is to make everyone equally miserable. “Thirty years of disinvestment in higher education have left the university and all of its sister institutions impoverished,” he said. “The structures now in place for financing and governing our universities offer no hope for moving us out of this poverty.”

Lariviere’s sin (no good deed goes unpunished) was to dream big. He did not see the University of Oregon and Eastern Oregon University on the same academic playing field. Quick: Where is Eastern Oregon located? I don’t know either.

There are two Carnegie Doctoral Research Universities in the State of Oregon, the University of Oregon and Oregon State University…sorry Western Oregon, Southern Oregon, Eastern Oregon, Portland State University, but you simply didn’t make the cut. Now why can the Carnegie folks figure out that certain universities deserve a “research” status and others do not? Maybe, it’s because they do not work for government bureaucracies.

US News and World Report in its annual rankings of public universities ranks the University of Oregon #46. The next highest Oregon university, OSU, stands at #69. Sorry Eastern Oregon, Western Oregon, Southern Oregon… I stopped reading after 110 slots and I did not see any other ranked Oregon public universities.

Isn’t it ironic that Oregon is allowed compete for its third straight conference championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl on Friday, but the state’s flagship university is impeded from aspiring to become a UC Berkeley, a UVA, a University of Michigan, a University of Texas? Will Governor Kitzhaber fire Chip Kelly because he dreams of championships? Maybe a perfectly equal 6-6 record would be more appropriate for the State of Mediocrity?

Lariviere was terminated officially for insubordination. He dared to pay his faculty members what they deserved to stop the flight of talent from the University of Oregon. This action did not sit well with Governor Kitzhaber and the board. Rarely is being a lone ranger ever rewarded.

Having worked for a governor (not Kitzhaber) for eight years, I understand completely the role of a state’s chief executive and the power of the purse strings…that power is subsiding. A generation ago, 25 percent of the funding for the University of Oregon came from Salem; today that figure is a single-digit.

In the end, President Lariviere dared greatly. He lived the words of Teddy Roosevelt when it comes to competing in the arena. I can’t say the same for Governor Kitzhaber.

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” – Teddy Roosevelt

http://www.washington.edu/tools/universities.html

http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities/top-public

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