A Monmouth representative has introduced a bill in Salem that would make OSU-Cascades a separate public university – unbeknownst to officials at the Bend campus and lawmakers who represent this part of the state.
Rep. Paul Evans’ proposal would create Central Oregon University and remove it from the Oregon State University system.
His motive is unclear and he did not return calls for comment Thursday.
OSU-Cascades officials said they were unaware of HB2888 until it was filed but Vice President Becky Johnson said late Thursday it “does not reflect the intentions of OSU and OSU-Cascades for the Bend campus.”
“OSU-Cascades is stronger as an OSU campus than as an independent campus,” she said. “OSU and OSU-Cascades’ focus this legislative session is on securing capital funding for the future Student Success Center and supporting necessary funding for all of Oregon’s public universities.“
In an interview with Central Oregon Daily News, Redmond Rep. Jack Zika said he had not heard of the plan and chuckled as he said “I’ll have a nice conversation with representative Evens here in a little bit.”
“Why would he be concerned with our area? I don’t understand that,” Zika said. “(Evans) probably wants to accomplish something…else and he’s using it as a negotiating tool. I’m sure I’ll hear later what it is, what the true meaning behind it is.”
Endi Hartigan, the communications director for Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission, said the agency did not sponsor the bill or have any role in its development.
“We just started our analysis of it, so we are not prepared to comment on it at this time,” she said.
Evans, a Democrat, represents a town that’s home to Western Oregon University.
His proposal calls for the OSU Board of Trustees’ jurisdiction over OSU-Cascades to end June 30th, 2022.
Bend has had ties to Oregon State University for decades, culminating in 2001 when it was chosen as the site for a new branch campus. The Legislature pumped in $7.2 million of start-up funding to make it happen.
At the time, it was just a 2+2 program on the campus of Central Oregon Community College.
In 2012 the Legislature approved the expansion of OSU-Cascades to a four-year university.
Four years later, OSU-Cascades’ stand-alone campus on the west side of Bend opened to students.
Last fall, the university started a massive campus expansion in an old pumice pit adjacent to its current location.