The Senate executive committee authorized last Wednesday to endorse a candidate to serve as interim president announced its decision early Friday afternoon to recommend part-time administrator Robert Berdahl as the University’s top choice to replace outgoing President Richard Lariviere.

Berdahl, who arrived on campus a mere five weeks before the OUS decided not to renew Lariviere’s contract, served as the University Dean of College of Arts and Sciences from 1981-1986. He returned last October to serve as a part-time assistant to Lariviere, a colleague from 2006 when both served as administrators at the University of Texas.

Throughout his career, Berdahl has also held positions as the chancellor at the University of California at Berkeley, and most recently, as the president of the Association of American Universities (AAU), an organization representing the 61 leading research institutions in the United States.

The recommendation far from guarantees that Berdahl will be selected to fill the position, as it is the Oregon Board of Higher Education that makes the final decision among a long list of candidates. Even so, the senate executive committee — which submitted their decision to the Board a little over 36 hours after the senate motion authorized them to begin their candidate search — hopes that the state will respect their endorsement of Berdahl.

“We’ve gone full speed ahead to do exactly what the motion authorized us to do,” University Senate President Robert Kyr said. “We worked very hard, and our conclusion was that we wanted to support Robert Berdahl.”

I’m assuming over the weekend there will be a lot of really meaningful conversations between Chancellor Pernsteiner, the board and the various candidates,” Kyr added.

According to University faculty and staff, Berdahl’s extensive experience, particularly with the AAU, is one of the primary reasons that he has been chosen as the university’s candidate.

“It is vital for the University’s future to stay in the AAU,” University professor Bill Harbaugh said. “Berdahl knows what it is going to take to stay in the AAU, and how to help us do it.”

“Berdahl is probably the foremost and most experienced public educator in the country ,” said Dave Hubin, the executive assistant to the president. “He has led complex institutions at Texas and Berkeley. If we have leadership from someone of Berdahl’s stature during the time of the search, we would be fortunate.”

However, many in the university community are concerned that Berdahl will not be the first choice for state officials. In an executive meeting Wednesday between Oregon University System (OUS) Chancellor Pernsteiner, Board member Lynda Ciufetti and the University faculty, state officials mentioned that Berdahl — who has worked two days a week for the past month — lacked a clear understanding of the University’s problems and needs.

Then, on Wednesday, Berdahl wrote a scathing editorial in the Register-Guard, criticizing the decision of the Board’s decision to remove President Lariviere and referring to the Board and the entire OUS as a “crippling encumbrance” on the university.

Still, many University faculty are adamant about this recommendation, and feel that the OUS would further jeopardize its relationship with the University by not accepting the decision.

“We’ve sent the board the strongest possible message for our support of Berdahl,” Harbaugh said. “If the board again goes against the message of the faculty, I think they will have to sit through many more angry meetings.”

The Board will continue to consider the list of candidates into next week, and plan to have a decision by next Friday, Dec. 9.