The deal that Oregon's higher education system made with Khosrow Fatemi, the controversial former president of Eastern Oregon University, doesn't meet everyone's definition of a golden parachute.

But no one can deny that Fatemi's landing was soft indeed.

Fatemi, who resigned in July, left a mess on the La Grande campus.

During Fatemi's three-year tenure the EOU faculty voted to express its lack of confidence in his leadership.

And the university's enrollment plummeted from 3,533 in the fall of 2005 to 3,079 in the spring of 2007.

And Fatemi's free-spending ways slashed EOU's reserves from 14.4 percent of its annual revenue to 3 percent. The state recommends campuses keep at least a 5-percent reserve.

Yet for all that, Fatemi still has a job with the state, as a special assistant to George Pernsteiner, chancellor of higher education.

Fatemi didn't even take a pay cut he's making $192,000 this fiscal year, the same salary he pulled in as EOU president.

Fatemi will, however, have to get by on half that amount during the final year of his contract, which ends June 30, 2009.

Pernsteiner contends that that contract could benefit taxpayers if Fatemi succeeds at one of his major tasks lobbying for federal legislation that boosts budgets for rural universities such as EOU.

Pernsteiner has a point there.

What the chancellor didn't explain, though, is why the state agreed to maintain Fatemi's lucrative salary in his new job even though he botched his last one.

It was a similar lack of fiscal restraint that got Fatemi into trouble while he was running EOU.

By appearing to reward Fatemi for his failings, the chancellor's office hardly inspires confidence that it learned anything from the experience.