State Rep. Peter Buckley as Southern Oregon University's new president? That's not as far-fetched as it might sound. Buckley would bring some definite strengths to the job; the question for the SOU Board of Trustees would be whether those are enough to outweigh some significant holes in his resumé.
Buckley hasn't formally applied for the position; should he do so, here are some pertinent considerations the trustees will need to address.
Background: Traditionally, university presidents start their careers as professors with doctoral degrees, and later move into administrative positions. Buckley has a bachelor's degree in theater arts and no experience teaching at the college level.
Still, there is no requirement that presidents be academics. Eastern Oregon University recently hired a Boise Cascade area manager as its president. But Tom Insko, an alumnus of Eastern, has a master's of business administration as well as bachelor's degrees in mathematics and business economics, and served as president of the EOU Foundation as well as on the university's newly formed Board of Trustees.
Fundraising ability: University presidents are expected to generate money for their campuses by soliciting donations from corporations and wealthy alumni, which is different from collecting political donations from interest groups and constituents. As the respected co-chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Buckley certainly knows his way around the legislative budget process, and that would be highly valuable to any state-funded entity.
Administrative skills: Buckley has run nonprofit organizations in the past, but nothing on the scale of a regional university. Whether the faculty and staff would accept his authority is a big question. Buckley notes that the provost is the one in charge of academics, while the president leads the organization. That's true, but no president can survive long without the support of the faculty.
Faculty members reacted cautiously to the news that Buckley might consider applying. They expressed admiration for his leadership skills and knowledge of the area, and said it might be time for the university to consider a nontraditional president. But they also noted he would face something of a culture shock in adapting to the campus environment.
The trustees will hire a search firm soon to develop a short list of candidates from across the country. Having a local candidate on that list with Buckley's record of accomplishment in the Legislature would add an intriguing wild card to the deck.