News that State Rep. Peter Buckley might be a candidate for president of Southern Oregon University will come as a surprise to many, but the idea is not as far-fetched as it might sound. Buckley would bring some strengths to the job; the question for the SOU Board of Trustees would be whether those are enough to override concerns about potential weaknesses.
All of this is academic — pun intended — at this point, because Buckley has not yet formally applied for the position. Should he do so, here are some pertinent considerations:
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.
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 co-chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in Salem, 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, but nothing on the scale of a regional university. Whether the faculty and staff would accept his authority is a big question.
Higher education is changing. Whether SOU should choose a nontraditional president is a question for its trustees.