Portland State President, Under Fire, Resigns

He had been accused of excessive spending, mistreating employees and destroying email records.

May 13, 2019
 
Rahmat Shoureshi

After less than two years in office, and months of criticism of his performance, Portland State University president Rahmat Shoureshi on Friday announced that he would step down Dec. 14. He will be on paid administrative leave until then, Portland State's board announced.

His announcement listed various accomplishments, such as the launch of a fund-raising campaign and new academic centers, and made no mention of the various controversies he has faced. As to why he is leaving, Shoureshi said only that "the time has come for me to focus on my family first." The board's statement also did not reference the controversies.

The extent of the concerns about Shoureshi first became public in March, when The Oregonian published a long, detailed article about them. The article reported that:

  • Portland State has seen "an exodus" of administrators, many of them women. Many of those who left said that Shoureshi was not just demanding, but engaged in -- in the words of one complaint -- " “bullying and degrading" treatment of employees.
  • Shoureshi had demanded and received an increase in his monthly housing stipend from $6,000 to $9,200 a month. His total compensation topped $720,000, which struck many as high and tone-deaf at a time of tight budgets at the university and in public higher education in Oregon.
  • In 18 months on the job, he went through four provosts.
  • A memo from the board chair to Shoureshi in November 2017 expressed serious concerns about his leadership and said he needed to either improve or leave.

Shoureshi stayed. He gave a statement to The Oregonian at the time of its article saying, “As part of my annual review, the board gave me feedback on my first year as president with direction and goals going forward. I believe that focusing on the specifics we had during that confidential review is between the board and myself.”

In April, The Oregonian revealed that Shoureshi had been destroying hundreds of his email messages -- in violation of Oregon law.

He clashed with students last summer after campus police officers shot and killed a Navy veteran in a campus sports bar. Many students said that the shooting demonstrated the dangers of having armed campus police. Shoureshi defended the practice.

On Saturday, The Oregonian reported that Shoureshi agreed to leave after days of negotiations with board members who had lost confidence in his ability to lead the university. He was offered "a big severance package to convince him to go," the newspaper reported. His contract specified that he would receive $800,000 if fired "without cause."

Before arriving at Portland State, Shoureshi had been provost and interim president of New York Institute of Technology.

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