Oregon Institute of Technology to conduct ‘climate survey’ addressing ongoing challenges

By Meerah Powell (OPB)
April 20, 2021 8:46 p.m.

Faculty have said they’ve lost confidence in the university president ahead of a potential strike.

The Oregon Institute of Technology’s Board of Trustees voted Tuesday to begin the process of conducting a “climate survey” to address ongoing challenges within the university’s culture.

This move comes after OIT’s faculty senate last month called for the resignation of the university president, with a potential faculty strike looming.


“There are some challenges with our organizational culture, and that is always, always difficult. We’ve been talking about how to remedy that for quite some months now,” OIT Board Chair Jessica Gomez said during a meeting Tuesday. “I think at this point, it’s time to maybe take more of a concise action and take a look at having an external organization come in and do a climate survey to help us better understand what is really happening.”

The board voted to direct OIT President Nagi Naganathan to select an outside organization to conduct that survey.

“That is with the intent of providing our president with the right tools to address those issues in the places that they matter the most so that we can begin rebuilding our organizational culture,” Gomez said.

The board did not specify a timeline for the identification of the outside organization or the survey itself.

In a statement Tuesday, the board reaffirmed its commitment to OIT students, faculty, staff — and Naganathan.

“Challenging times call for dynamic leadership. Changing times also create real stresses,” the board wrote. “We are confident in Dr. Naganathan’s ability to help Oregon Tech navigate the 21st Century educational landscape, and to grow Oregon Tech into a world-class polytechnic institution.”


OIT’s faculty senate last month called on Naganathan to resign — saying he had repeatedly failed to practice shared governance and provide appropriate leadership at the university. Earlier this month, Oregon Tech faculty voted that they had no confidence in Naganathan’s leadership, according to reporting from the Herald and News.

Naganathan has stated that he will not step down and remains committed to carrying out his duties as president.

“My focus remains on resolving the inaugural faculty contract, growing our academic and institutional excellence, and providing a rich learning environment that is most beneficial to our students,” Naganathan said in a statement Tuesday. “I am proud of the accomplishments we have achieved collectively at Oregon Tech over the past four years. Oregon Tech is poised to continue to grow and remain a source of pride for our students and the larger Oregon Tech community.”

Throughout those fissures, OIT and its faculty union — Oregon Tech-American Association of University Professors — have been bargaining now for about 16 months. If an agreement is not reached by early Monday morning, the faculty union said it will strike.

If the union strikes, it will be the first time a public university faculty union has done so in Oregon history.

More than 550 people have signed a petition in support of the union.

In its latest update Friday, the union said some tentative agreements have been reached with OIT, but “progress has not yet been made on the core issues of compensation, benefits and workload.”

The university made its most recent offer Monday including a 9.5% minimum increase in salaries over the next four years, maintenance of currently offered health benefits — in which 95% to 97% of health care premiums are paid by OIT — and a “workload that is consistent with university standard.”

There are mediation sessions scheduled on Tuesday and Thursday this week.

Negotiations will continue until an agreement can be reached, even if that means meeting during a strike, the union said in a statement.


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