The Board of Trustees at Portland State University have appointed an acting president to replace Rahmat Shoureshi, who resigned under pressure Friday evening after 21 months on the job.
The board gave the temporary assignment to Stephen Percy, dean of the College of Urban and Public Affairs. He’s been at PSU for five years.
“I love this place more than ever, and I’d be delighted to try to help work during this initial transition period with a collaborative style to reassure everyone that we’re going forward very positively at PSU,” Percy said.
He replaces Shoureshi, who cited the need to spend more time with family as his reason for stepping down. But over the last month, the Board of Trustees received the results of an internal audit on Shoureshi, and have looked closely into how he treated staff and his fiscal choices.
At the board’s Monday meeting, Percy said he will avoid starting any new initiatives and focus on continuing the work Shoureshi started. He’ll also make any hiring decisions that are already in process.
“It’s trying to make only those decisions that really require some immediate action and then taking and looking and planning for those things that need to move forward,” he said.
The board talked about a smooth transition from Shoureshi’s time as president to Percy’s.
“I don’t think we want to disrupt the university any further,” said Chair Gale Castillo.
The job had been rocky for Shoureshi since The Oregonian/OregonLive published stories in March detailing his behavior. The board asked for an audit into Shoureshi’s decisions and received it April 26.
Board members also voted Monday to approve an 11% tuition increase for next year. During public comment at the meeting, students talked about the impact increased tuition would have on their lives.
“This will hurt PSU’s more diverse and nontraditional student populations,” said student Zia Laboff.
Several programs are set to be cut as part of the budget too, including PSU’s Portland Teacher Program, which helps students of color become teachers in PPS and Beaverton.
Dareyion Franklin, a student in the Portland Teacher Program, spoke about his experience as a student in Oregon and his concern that the university won’t be able to provide tuition remissions for his program.
“I don’t know if I can meet the financial means,” Franklin said. “I continuously make the grades, I continuously show up to school every day.”
Other students and staff asked the board to consider cutting administrative costs and salaries instead. Board member Irving Levin took notice – and he suggested the board keep its search for a permanent president more local to keep search costs low.
“Some of the comments that the students made earlier really resonate with me about administrative costs,” said Levin. “Given the risks that are inherent in doing a search, and the cost and the time of it, I think it would be useful to deliberate some more about if that’s optimal – if we should be looking into our own community for a long-term thing.”
Going forward, several board members said they want to make sure they take time and care in choosing PSU’s next president.
“We have spent so much time and emotional energy to get to the point where we are today that I think we want to make sure we are giving this process moving forward adequate consideration,” said board member Margaret Kirkpatrick.
Board Vice Chair Greg Hinkley will now assemble a group of faculty, staff and students to find an interim president.
The committee will also receive nominations for an interim president, who will be in the role for about a year until a permanent president is chosen.