U of O seeks return of documents it calls illegally released

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Among the documents the University of Oregon claims were illegally released from the president's office is a 2012 recommendation from the school's lawyer to abolish the University Senate, a body that gives faculty members influence in governing the school.

The document surfaced in a blog run by economics Professor Bill Harbaugh and argues that faculty members who unionized thereby gave up any role in management, the Eugene Register-Guard reported Thursday.

There's no apparent indication the administration acted on the 14-page recommendation from Randy Geller, then general counsel. He retired last year.

The documents were released under circumstances that haven't been fully described and have caused a stir on the campus that's going through a significant shift at the top.

The Legislature gave control to a board dominated by prominent graduates, as of July. A month later, the president abruptly resigned.

The interim president, Scott Coltrane, sent out an email Tuesday announcing that two unidentified employees were put on leave while an investigation is conducted into how the 22,000 pages of documents got out weeks ago.

The documents were not reviewed to make sure they didn't contain information that state and federal laws prohibit the schools from disclosing, said school spokesman Tobin Klinger.

Harbaugh said on his blog he isn't in possession of the documents, which the school said were released in electronic form. He said he wouldn't reveal who gave him the document he posted but said more will be released.

The school set a 5 p.m. Thursday deadline for return of the documents.

"The documents have not been returned," Klinger said minutes after the deadline. He added that the school was in communication with the person it believes has the documents "and the outcome of those conversations will determine the next steps."

Klinger did not immediately return an Associated Press call for an update late Thursday night.

The documents were released as records from the president's office were being sent to archives — standard operating procedure when presidents leave office. Only the Geller memo has been made public, Klinger said.

Klinger said the documents were communications with the president's office dating as far back as 2010 but didn't seem to have personal information that would help an identity thief.

Coltrane, a former provost, was named interim president while the university's new board looks for a successor to Michael Gottfredson, who was the second university president in a row to serve only two years.

The University Senate is composed of administrators, faculty members, students and classified workers and has exercised significant authority over academic matters.

The Geller memo was labeled "Attorney-client Communication Confidential and Privileged."

It says the faculty "traded its voice" in university management when it unionized in 2012.

"Accordingly, my advice is to proceed as follows: 1. Abolish the faculty assembly and the university senate and all committees created by the university senate," it reads.

Harbaugh posted it under the headline "The UO administration's secret plan to abolish the UO Senate."

Philosophy Professor Scott Pratt said faculty members are concerned about the memo's contents. "It seems to me that stuff about shared governance should be public," he said.


Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com

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