AG Ellen Rosenblum and Transparency Czar Michael Kron bring Public Records Law Reform Task Force to UO

The belly of the beast – Monday May 9th, 4:30-6:00PM, Room 141 in the UO Journalism School.

“The public hearing is an opportunity for Oregonians to provide input on Oregon’s Public Records Laws and the work of the task force.”

“So far, the task force has focused on establishing deadlines for public bodies to respond to requests for records, and on addressing the more than 500 exemptions from public disclosure. The task force will also examine the fees that public bodies may charge for records, and consider whether the state should create a Public Records Advocate.”

 

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Hard to imagine a more fitting location. Kron’s got a hard road ahead of him.

University drops FBS football to focus on academic programs, research

InsidehigherEd has the story here:

This is not a trivial decision, but it’s the right decision,” Chuck Staben, the University of Idaho’s president, said in an interview Wednesday.

“What attracts students to our institution is the quality of academic programs, the great outcomes and the preparation for life after college. It’s a great research institution. Football and athletics just complements that. We’re choosing to ensure that students can compete on the field and get a great education.” …

In Rare Company

In 1939, the University of Chicago abolished its football program and, a few years later, withdrew from the Big Ten Conference, a league it co-founded.

Chicago was home to the first recipient of the Heisman Trophy, multiple Big Ten championships and 11 future Hall of Famers. But Robert Hutchins, the university’s president, wanted the university to be known for its academics, not its athletics, and cut the program. The football team returned in 1969, but as a member of Division III.

The decision forever made Chicago the model of institutions that have gotten by just fine without big-time sports. Staben, while explaining Idaho’s decision in an interview this week, referenced Chicago as “the classic example” of an institution successfully leaving top-tier college sports behind. Chicago remains the example, in part, because so few others have followed suit.

Meanwhile here at UO, big-time football is a huge moneymaker, with TV revenue increasing at about 6% per year. But none of the profits support the university’s core academic mission. The athletic department keeps it all plus whatever they can skim off the academic budget, and they spend it on coach’s salaries and subsidies for their many money losing sports.

Meanwhile Duck football has failed to bring in the new undergraduates that boosters such as Pat Kilkenny, Dave Frohnmayer, Rob Mullens, Brad Shelton, and VP for Enrollment Roger Thompson have promised:

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Mike Bellotti’s winning 2001 season was followed by a small enrollment increase, and his mediocre 2002 season by a decrease. But the large increases from 2004 to 2008 occurred during a string of mixed football seasons, with the 2008 peak coming after a decent but not spectacular finish at #24 in the coaches poll. New freshmen enrollment dropped in Fall 2010, after Chip Kelly’s #11 2009 season, and it has been essentially flat ever since, despite football finishes ranging from #9 to #2, and UO’s need for new students to make up for the decline in the number of credits students have been taking.

This lack of correlation at UO is matched by the experiences of other schools. The latest research shows that football wins are, at best, an expensive way to get slight increases in applications from mid SAT range male students. Not every parent wants to spend $45K a year sending their child to a football-factory party school.

U of Chicago gets free publicity for promoting free speech. UO doesn’t.

Chicago has some good public relations people, and a smart President and/or Board of Trustees. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has the press release here, on their free speech efforts:

University of Chicago Reforms All Speech Codes, Earns FIRE’s Highest Free Speech Rating

CHICAGO, April 26, 2016—The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is excited to announce the latest university to earn its highest, “green light” rating for free speech: theUniversity of Chicago (UC). In cooperation with FIRE, UC revised all of its speech codes to join an elite group of colleges and universities that maintain policies respecting student and faculty free expression rights and meeting First Amendment standards. …

Here’s my take – sorry, long story:

In January 2015 Chicago announced the Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression, chaired by Geoffrey R. Stone, Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law. The full text of that long and self-congratulatory report is here. The gist:

From its very founding, the University of Chicago has dedicated itself to the preservation and celebration of the freedom of expression as an essential element of the University’s culture. In 1902, in his address marking the University’s decennial, President William Rainey Harper declared that “the principle of complete freedom of speech on all subjects has from the beginning been regarded as fundamental in the University of Chicago” and that “this principle can neither now nor at any future time be called in question.” Thirty years later, a student organization invited William Z. Foster, the Communist Party’s candidate for President, to lecture on campus. This triggered a storm of protest from critics both on and off campus. …, …, …

In a word, the University’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the University community, not for the University as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose. Indeed, fostering the ability of members of the University community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of the University’s educational mission. …, …, …

Actually, that’s a lot of words.  The University of Oregon Senate and President Richard Lariviere said it less pompously, more forcefully, and five years earlier in UO’s 2010 Freedom of Speech and Inquiry Policy. The full text:

The University of Oregon values and supports free and open inquiry. The commitment to free speech and freedom of inquiry described in this policy extends to all members of the UO community: Faculty, staff, and students. It also extends to all others who visit or participate in activities held on the UO campus.

Free speech is central to the academic mission and is the central tenet of a free and democratic society. The University encourages and supports open, vigorous, and challenging debate across the full spectrum of human issues as they present themselves to this community. Further, as a public institution, the University will sustain a higher and more open standard for freedom of inquiry and free speech than may be expected or preferred in private settings.

Free inquiry and free speech are the cornerstones of an academic institution committed to the creation and transfer of knowledge. Expression of diverse points of view is of the highest importance, not solely for those who present and defend some view but for those who would hear, disagree, and pass judgment on those views. The belief that an opinion is pernicious, false, and in any other way despicable, detestable, offensive or “just plain wrong” cannot be grounds for its suppression.

The University supports free speech with vigor, including the right of presenters to offer opinion, the right of the audience to hear what is presented, and the right of protesters to engage with speakers in order to challenge ideas, so long as the protest does not disrupt or stifle the free exchange of ideas. It is the responsibility of speakers, listeners and all members of our community to respect others and to promote a culture of mutual inquiry throughout the University community.

But that’s not the whole story. Randy Geller, UO’s General Counsel at the time, tried to subvert this straight-forward defense of free-speech rights with a “Facilities Scheduling Policy” restricting free speech with weasel words like these:

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The UO Senate fought Geller off, passed a policy with none of this language, and President Lariviere signed that too.

Then in 2013, during negotiations with the new UO faculty union, new UO President Mike Gottfredson tried to argue that UO faculty could be disciplined for criticizing the UO administration. Colleen Flaherty had the story in Inside Higher Education, here:

But the university’s counterproposal decouples academic freedom and free speech, addressing them separately. Academic freedom is “necessary to teaching and research,” it says, with no mention of the role of academics in speaking out if not related directly to teaching and research. Rejecting explicit union language on free speech, the counterproposal instead guarantees protections afforded by the First Amendment and state law. [Which are weaker for public employees.] …

Margaret Paris, professor of law and president of the Faculty Senate, has not been involved in union negotiations but said that the union statement likely would influence the ultimate Senate document, since it would be difficulty to work off two different policies when most of the faculty belong to the union (although law professors do not).

Paris also said she was aware of the university’s preference to decouple academic freedom and free speech in the final Faculty Senate statement, and that she would likely support it. Because the policies “spring from different sets of values,” it makes sense that each deserves individual attention, she said.

Oregon’s administration works closely with the Faculty Senate and Paris is looking forward to a collaborative process finalizing the document, she said.

But those involved in union contract negotiations said otherwise.

Bill Harbaugh, professor of economics and moderator of the “UO Matters” blog, which is frequently critical of university policy, said decoupling academic freedom from free speech left room for administrators to punish those faculty – like him – who say things administrators don’t like. He also objected to the idea that administrators would be the ones deciding what qualifies as “civil.”

The university has previously publicly accused Harbaugh of including “consistently anti-university” statements on his blog.

“The university is place of higher learning,” warranting explicit protections of free speech, Harbaugh said. “The new policy takes out all the pro-free speech stuff and instead includes many restrictive rules about how faculty can be engaged in free speech. It’s aimed in part at limiting the critical faculty right to criticize the administration outside of [the formal university setting].”

(Full disclosure: that would be me, and this blog.)

The UO faculty union fought off Mike Gottfredson with the help of Mike Mauer of the AAUP. The UO Senate then set up an academic freedom working group to work around the obstructive efforts of Senate President Margie Paris, and her support for Gottfredson’s efforts to make criticizing his policies on a blog a disciplinary offense.

Margie Paris was out-maneuvered and out-voted, and in the end Gottfredson had to sign a new UO Policy on Academic Freedom that augmented Lariviere’s policy on free speech with specific language on the right to criticize the UO administration:

c. POLICY AND SHARED GOVERNANCE. Members of the university community have freedom to address, question, or criticize any matter of institutional policy or practice, whether acting as individuals or as members of an agency of institutional governance.

… These freedoms derive immediately from the university’s basic commitment to advancing knowledge and understanding. The academic freedoms enumerated in this policy shall be exercised without fear of institutional reprisal. Only serious abuses of this policy – ones that rise to the level of professional misbehavior or professional incompetence – should lead to adverse consequences.  Any such determinations shall be made in accordance with established, formal procedures involving judgment by relevant peers.

Reviewed and Approved By: Michael Gottfredson, President. Date: 05/28/2014

So why is Chicago getting all the good press, instead of UO?  Because Chicago agreed to work with FIRE to ensure that *all* their policies are consistent with their policy on free speech. UO has not, and therefore we are on FIRE’s “red light list”. Details and examples from the UO Student Code of Conduct and more, here.

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And the UO administration recently added this disclaimer to our Academic Freedom Policy. And, from a cursory search of AVP Chuck Triplett’s policy library, only to this policy. How odd:

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DBAG alert: 12.4% cuts to UO Library acquisitions

The link is here, courtesy of an anonymous correspondent. Duck athletics used to contribute $50K a year to the library. With football revenue increasing so quickly it’s getting hard to spend it all on coach’s salaries, now seems like a good time for Library Dean Adriene Lim to hit up Athletic Director Rob Mullens, and ask him to restart that tradition with some serious money – serious by Library standards that is. Rounding error to the Ducks:

Library Collections News – Updated 4/28/16

Spring 2016:  Library to Reduce Spending on Collections

Collection Reduction:   On April 6, 2016, a memo went out from the Dean of Libraries, Adriene Lim, to the campus community announcing the need for reductions to library collections in FY 17.  These reductions stem from a $115,000 cut to the collections budget as a result of the UO’s current budget realignment process, compounded by a reduction of $450,000 due to the lack of increases to cover inflationary costs.  During the month of May, library subject specialists will work with UO faculty to develop reduction plans to offset the campus-mandated cuts as well as the erosive effects of Inflation on library materials. The reduction targets for each discipline have been finalized (see below). If you have questions or concerns, please contact the appropriate subject specialist. As always, the UO Libraries will continue to provide robust resource sharing services to help supplement local holdings in order to meet the research and instruction needs of faculty and students.

Reduction Targets to cover inflation in FY 17:  Fixed costs were subtracted from the allocations for each discipline (i.e., a dollar amount representing actual expenditures) producing an across the board reduction of 12.4% on all funds over $3,000 (funds under $3K are being protected from the cut).

Collections Reductions FAQ

UO’s new Dean of Journalism and Communications is PR expert Juan-Carlos Molleda from UFL

4/28/2016 announcement from Provost Coltrane:

(His application materials have been removed from the Provost’s website, here’s a backup of his letter.)

Colleagues, 

The University of Oregon is pleased to introduce Juan-Carlos Molleda as the new Edwin L. Artzt Dean of the School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC). He is coming to the UO from the University of Florida, where he is a professor and chair of the Department of Public Relations. Molleda will start in Eugene on July 1.

With impeccable academic credentials, Molleda’s commitment to experiential learning, desire to expand doctoral programs, and experience with strategic planning made him an incredible fit for the SOJC and the University of Oregon.

At the University of Florida, Molleda directs an online master’s degree program in public relations and communications management that helps students acquire broader critical thinking abilities, bolster creativity, and develop stronger communication, leadership, and business skills. In addition to his work in the Department of Public Relations, Molleda is also an affiliate faculty member of the UF Center for Latin American Studies and a Fulbright senior specialist.

Molleda’s research interests are in global corporate public relations management, public relations practices and regulations, and social roles in Latin America. He has introduced to the international academic community the concept and theory of cross-national conflict and the social roles of public relations in Latin America. He also is active in the professional community—currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the Institute for Public Relations and a founding member of its Commission on Global Public Relations Research. He serves as Latin American liaison of the Public Relations Society of America’s Certification in Education for Public Relations and a board member of the LAGRANT Foundation.

We expect that Molleda’s wealth of experience internationally will significantly expand the global reach of the college and dramatically enhance learning opportunities for of our SOJC students as the journalism and communications fields continue to rapidly evolve.

I want to thank Julianne Newton for her service as interim dean of the School of Journalism and Communication. Her leadership of the school has been an incredible contribution since November 2013.

Please join me in extending a warm welcome to Juan-Carlos Molleda.

Sincerely, Scott Coltrane, Provost and Senior Vice President

4/26/2016: UO’s new VP for Research, David Conover from Stony Brook

Good news for UO. His application materials have been taken off the Provost’s website, but here are backups:

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De-Budget Advisory Group (DBAG) needs your help on what to de-fund

A few years back VPFA Jamie Moffitt set up a “Budget Advisory Group” (BAG) to help her sort through the proposals for millions in dollars of urgently needed new funding – stuff like giving the library enough money to keep its book-buying budget from shrinking, upgrade the wifi, retention money for faculty, and so on. The BAG advises Moffitt on how to spend $1M or so – though of course JH gets the final call.

I think it was in 2013 that the BAG allocated $500K, plus $150K recurring, on a computer system to interface the newly armed UOPD with the EPD. I was on the BAG this year, I think all the money ended up going to wifi and IT consultants, except maybe a token amount to the libraries. Chump change when VPFA Moffitt is giving $10M to bail out Dean Moffitt’s law school.

Obviously the BAG needs more money to work with. Therefore I’m following up on today’s Senate Realignment Town Hall with a proposal for a De-Budget Advisory Group (DBAG) composed of faculty, OA’s, staff, and students. Its charge will be to search for things that UO really should stop spending money on. Membership will determined by the waste and irrelevance to UO’s core academic mission of the expenditures that self-nominees identify for de-funding.

The DBAG concept has already been enthusiastically endorsed by at least one senior UO administrator – but it’s up to all of us to make it work. Your suggestions are welcome in the comments.

4/26/2016: Senate Town Hall on Realignment, Wed at 3:30 in Straub 156:

University Senate Town Hall meeting

The University Senate will be hosting a Town Hall meeting to discuss the impact of the resource realignment process on academic units. All members of the university community are welcome to attend.

April 27, 2016 in Straub 156 from 3:30 P.M. to 5:30 P.M.

The forum will address the principles, goals, processes, and results of the realignment thus far—with an eye to our institutional future.

If you are unable to attend in person, you can access the live-stream here: Watch Live

Harbaugh brings in $174M in Nike money for university

Sports Illustrated has the details on the ~$11M a year deal here.

Meanwhile the Ducks get only $600K a year from Nike, plus free shoes and clothes for UO administrators, of course. Frances Dyke renewed this contract in 2009, and it expires November 30, 2017. This deal is so bad.

Unfortunately the Nike contract renegotiation will likely be in the hands of the Duck’s feckless – but well paid – Associate AD for Finance Eric Roedl:

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Roedl talks tough to UO students when it’s time to squeeze them for more football ticket money. But, according to the legal briefs filed over his botched attempt to buy insurance from Lloyds of London for Duck football coach bonuses, it’s not clear Roedl knows how to read a contract, much less write one:

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OK, the truth is that Cousin Jim brought in the $174M for Michigan, not me.  But my muckraking here at UO did play a small part in setting up the AD’s $100M reserve fund for the $235M arena bonds – along with work by John Chalmers (Finance) and Dennis Howard (Marketing) and the Senate Budget Committee. And my well-researched complaint to the state auditors did force VPFA Jamie Moffitt to make a modest $455K a year increase in the AD’s overhead rate. Frohnmayer and Bellotti had set up a sweetheart deal for the jocks, the auditors decided it violated state rules after the DOJ made Jamie Moffitt and Rob Mullens give up the secret MOU they’d had been hiding from the Senate IAC.

President Schill & VP for Diversity Alex-Assensoh on Black Student demands

Sent out this afternoon:

Dear campus community, 

One of the hallmarks of a great university is that it does not shy away from tough questions or difficult topics, be they cultural, theoretical, or scientific. Rather, a great university embraces challenges and applies intellectual, academic, and research rigor to delivering solutions that move the community, the nation, and the world forward to make it better.

In this case, the challenging issue for the University of Oregon is one of enhancing our commitment to diversity and inclusion. Ensuring that all UO students have a world-class campus experience is one of this administration’s top priorities. We are dedicated to doing all we can to foster a campus climate that embraces diversity, encourages equity, and values inclusion. In particular, we recognize that we can and must do more as an institution to meet the needs of Black students. We cannot and will not shy away from this conversation, and today we are pleased to share some of the progress we’ve made to address this important issue.

In December, following a rally on campus, the Black Student Task Force released a list of demands, highlighting specific action steps the university can take to enhance diversity and inclusion on campus. This list prompted more discussion, and 13 working groups were created to address concerns raised by members of the BSTF. Those groups—led by university senior leaders and composed of faculty, staff, and students—have been meeting through the winter and spring to review promising practices in each of these areas, analyze the opportunities as well as the challenges, and develop meaningful action steps for moving forward. In collaboration with UO faculty, staff, and administration, members of the BSTF have been an integral part of developing these recommendations, and we want to recognize and thank our students for their input and partnership. We will continue to work with BSTF and other stakeholders within the UO community as we endeavor to strengthen services and resources that support equity and inclusion.

Recommendations that are moving ahead include the following:

  • African American Opportunities Program—Beginning in fall 2016, the university’s Enrollment Management team will significantly expand its efforts to attract and recruit African American students, including programs and activities that enhance the UO’s outreach to and partnership with African American students, their families, and community partners. This will also include additional staff members who are experienced in working with the African American community.  
  • Fraternity and Sorority Life—Beginning in fall 2016, the university will invite six historically Black Greek letter organizations to the UO to become part of Fraternity and Sorority Life, including
    • Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity
    • Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority
    • Delta Sigma Theta sorority
    • Omega Psi Phi fraternity
    • Phi Beta Sigma fraternity
    • Zeta Phi Beta sorority
  • Exploratory information sessions will begin this spring term. The UO will work with civic organizations from Eugene as well as Black faculty and staff who are members of these Greek organizations to promote and encourage the success of this initiative.
  • Academic Residential Community—The Umoja Pan-African Scholars Academic Residential Community will be launched in fall 2016. It will accommodate 25 students and will be housed in the Living-Learning Center.
  • Student Advisory Boards—Beginning in fall 2016, an African American advisory group will be added to the existing multicultural Student Leadership Team in the Division of Equity and Inclusion to assist with the development of strategies related to African American student retention and advising. This group will comprise members of the faculty, staff, and student body.  
  • Speaker Series, Seminars, and Workshops—The African American Presidential Lecture Series will bring a range of African American scholars and practitioners to campus—authors, scientists, and innovators, world leaders, game-changing policymakers, authors, and artists—to share concepts, information, and perspectives for the intellectual enrichment and development of the UO community. Speakers next year will include Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me, and Kelly Mack, vice president for undergraduate STEM education at the American Association of College and Universities. These events are being scheduled and more details will be provided as soon as they become available. We also will seek input from across campus as we create a list of additional prospective lecturers. 
  • Diversity Data—Beginning immediately, the university will publish campus diversity data at https://inclusion.uoregon.edu/content/facts-and-figures. This includes a link to published safety data from the Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety Report in compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. The university will annually review the data that is provided on this site and add or change data as new information becomes available.

These six initial investments reflect a commitment to enhancing the recruitment and retention of Black students on our campus, but they are only the beginning. We are analyzing recommendations recently received on the remaining issues, including building de-naming, advising and retention, faculty hiring, scholarships, and more. We will make decisions on these outstanding recommendations or refer them to the appropriate university body in a timely manner, and our sincere expectation and hope is that we will be able to make progress on each proposal. We are committed to completely analyzing the issues, examining their feasibility, assessing available resources, studying alternatives, sharing progress, and moving forward in a thoughtful and reasoned way.

We want to again thank members of the Black Student Task Force for raising these important issues about race, diversity, and inclusion on the UO campus. We have much work to do, and will continue to engage members of the campus community in this important discussion. 

Michael H. Schill

President and Professor of Law

Yvette M. Alex-Assensoh

Vice President for Equity and Inclusion  

Let’s blame it on Gottfredson

The UO Board paid him $940K to leave, so let’s get our money’s worth.

The UO Senate spent a fair amount amount of time at its 4/20/2016 meeting discussing the proposed Responsible Reporting Policy for sexual assaults and sexual and racial harassment, brought to the Senate by its Committee on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, chaired by Carol Stabile (Journalism). The committee minutes show that this proposal was thoroughly discussed, and carefully crafted.

This is the policy formerly known as Mandatory Reporting. The proposal is here. The gist is that faculty and most other UO employees must tell the UO administration whenever a student tells them about sexual and racial harassment and sexual violence:

Responsible Employees [i.e. faculty, OAs, staff and some others, with exceptions for crisis counselors etc.] who receive Credible Evidence of Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment or Sexual Harassment are required to promptly report that information as follows:

A. If the Credible Evidence relates to Sex Discrimination [which includes sexual assault] of a Student, Responsible Employees should report any information received to the Title IX Coordinator or to the Office of Crisis Intervention and Sexual Violence Support Services. …

The Senate’s involvement came out of one of the many failures of Mike Gottfredson’s administration that were revealed after sports reporters foiled his administration’s attempts to keep the basketball rape allegations quite. Gottfredson had sent the university community a letter announcing that we were all mandatory reporters, and that AAEO had set up a silly web-based training on what this meant. But Gottfredson and his leadership team failed to follow through with an actual university policy – 4 years after the DoE’s Office of Civil Rights recommended one to VPFA Robin Holmes’s office.

The Senate stepped into the gap and put the Committee on GSBV on the job, with input from new GC Kevin Reed and some other new Schill hires. This policy is the result. Not everyone agrees with the idea that the definition of mandatory reporters should be this broad. (See below for Jennifer Freyd’s arguments against.) On the one hand students might be reluctant to talk to faculty if they know their names and the details will be reported to the administration and the perpetrator might learn that they’d talked, if their report results in action. On the other hand the policy cuts our famously incompetent AAEO director Penny Daugherty out of sexual assault matters, and mandatory reporting gives Schill’s new Title IX Coordinator specific information about serial perpetrators. Knowing this might make students more likely to report. I’m sure there are other arguments on both sides as well.

I’m no expert on this, but given all the uncertainty I think the CGSBV proposal falls well within the 95% confidence interval around the optimal policy, whatever that is, and it is certainly an improvement over the current Gottfredson non-policy policy.

But dissent and diversity of thought generally make things better, and as the video of Stabile’s presentation and the ensuing productive discussion shows, the UO Senate is the place for both. (Or, if you’re the administrator in the lower right corner, a good place to catch up on your sleep.)

The policy will likely have some revisions after this meeting, and come back for a vote at the May 5 meeting, or early this fall. Video of the Senate discussion here:

4/25/2015: Prof. Jennifer Freyd objects to mandatory reporting rules for sexual assaults. 

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Phil Knight to discuss “Shoe Dog” autobiography with Adam Gopnik

The Portland Business Journal has put up a series of interesting stories in advance of the release of Knight’s Shoe Dog autobiography:

Nike’s Knight: I’ll give my $25B fortune away

On eve of publication of Phil Knight’s memoir, welcome to the Knight Files

10 business lessons from the lawsuit that gave birth to Nike

Phil Knight on founding Nike: ‘A strange way to form a company’

The rumor down at the Faculty Club is that Knight will be in Eugene this week for a practice run of his book tour talk, but the official May 2 opening with the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik in Portland is sold out:

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UO accounting alum’s scholarship gifts end with student-loan Ponzi scheme

I’m no expert on the use of charitable contributions to buy prestige, but this case out of UO sure has some interesting twists, and might even displace the Avery Fisher Hall naming rights buy-back and the Central Park Zoo story on my syllabus.

The Securities and Exchange Commission alleges that UO accounting alumnus and donor Bob Jesenik raised $350M from investors in his Aequitas firm, promising them high returns from buying up and aggressively collecting on the student-loan debts that students at the Corinthian for-profit business and technical colleges had taken out to pay their tuition.

Corinthian had low completion rates and high default rates. In 2014 the Obama administration caught them lying to students about their job-placement record, and let students apply to have their tuition loans forgiven. The SEC alleges that Jesenik knew Aequitas couldn’t collect on these debts, and was lying to his investors – except of course some special insiders – while he used their money to pay his own salary and perqs and keep Aequitas’s creditors quiet. I’m no finance professor, but they’ve got a name for this kind of scheme. (The role that the strict defamation laws of the time played in preventing newspapers from reporting on the fraud is particularly interesting.)

While this was going on Aequitas was pledging to give scholarships to UO finance students – with plenty of publicity from UO – and Jesenik was using the prestige to get stories in the business trade press that helped make his company look profitable and encouraged new investors.

Diane Dietz has the story in the Register Guard, here, complete with quotes from Duck PR Flack Tobin Klinger, who is uncharacteristically spin-free about this sad story:

The SEC lawsuit filing, here, has the gist:

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From the RG:

As part of Aequitas Capital Management’s effort to look solvent — even wealthy — in the eyes of investors, the company earlier this year announced it would give scholarships to students of finance at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University.

The image-polishing tactic by the high-flying Lake Oswego finance firm went along with opening a swank new office on Park Avenue in Manhattan, the use of a private jet, and “posh dinner and golf outings,” the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said.

…  It’s unclear exactly what the Aequitas collapse means to the universities. The UO faced a similar situation in the late 1990s with Capital Consultants, a Portland investment firm owned by class of ’64 alumnus Jeffrey Grayson.

Grayson, like Jesenik, had prospered financially and also volunteered for his alma mater. He served as president of the UO Foundation in the mid-1990s. He became co-chairman of UO President Dave Frohnmayer’s “Campaign for ­Oregon,” a then-record-setting UO fundraising drive.

In 1997, Grayson pledged $1.5 million toward a remodel of the UO’s old law school building. The UO was so pleased that it sought special dispensation from the state to name the building after a living donor, and upon completion, it became Grayson Hall.

But Grayson had provided only $850,000 by the time his investment firm — known for its risky, unorthodox deals — collapsed amid an SEC investigation and accusations that he was hiding losses from his investors.

… Because of the donor secrecy provisions in the state law — requested by Frohnmayer and adopted by the Legislature — there’s no public account of how much Aequitas or its principals gave to UO or to OSU.

Actually, I don’t think it does. The Oregon DOJ’s Task Force on public records reform, led by AAG Michael Kron, has catalogued all the public records exemptions in a spreadsheet here. The donor exemptions are narrow:

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And while the secretive UO Foundation’s lawyer was able to convince AG John Kroger to claim the public records law didn’t apply to them, from what I can tell UO has never claimed to be exempt, and has provided donation amounts in the past:

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Can hard data support the case for soft humanities?

Inside Higher Ed raises the question and provides some sources, here. My comparative advantage isn’t in reading, so any comments on the research cited below, or links to other research, would be appreciated. (I’ve stripped out most the superfluous verbiage and links to wordy sounding opinion pieces in this excerpt from article without using ellipses):

A friend who teaches classics at a fine liberal arts college told me that she had met the president of the institution walking across campus. He greeted her, and they chatted for a few seconds. Then the president asked, “How can we justify putting resources into Ancient Greek 101 where the enrollment is eight, while the enrollment in Economics 101 is 189?” My friend reported she had become flustered because she was unprepared for that question. She told me she believed that we needed to be doing a better job of making the case for the classics, the humanities and liberal education in general.

Wait a minute, I thought. That’s his job, or ought to be. Her job is to advance and transmit knowledge in a core humanistic discipline. What’s his game? Intimidation? Making himself look good because, in fact, he was not about to let the teaching of ancient Greek end on his watch after more than two centuries on that campus? Or was he genuinely asking for help?

Many important studies and some eloquent advocacy for the humanities have appeared in recent years: a report by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University’s 2013 report “Mapping the Future: The Teaching of the Arts and Humanities at Harvard College,” and “Securing America’s Future: The Power of Liberal Arts Education” from the Council of Independent Colleges, to name just a few. Douglas MacLean, a professor in the philosophy department at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, got thinking about that after Marco Rubio made his famous pronouncement, “Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less (sic) philosophers.” Answering that claim led to collecting data, as MacLean explained in a Time magazine article, some of which was posted on the department’s webpage. MacLean notes, “Studies have shown philosophy majors have outperformed nearly every other major on the law school aptitude test, the GREs and the GMAT, the admission test for business schools. (They also outearn welders.)”

Most important, however, is a carefully structured dialogue among parents themselves. Make sure they have before them the 2014 Purdue-Gallup Index report, a study of more than 30,000 college graduates, showing what aspects of education make a positive difference in the workplace and the community. That report should move the conversation from nervous chatter about debt loads and return on investment to an exploration of what parents really want for their kids and what can best build satisfaction over the long run.

Students arrange marriage of Duck & CO2, mock secretive UO Foundation

4/22/2016:  Those transparent beavers up at the OSU Foundation have set up a committee of trustees to study divestment and other proposals from the OSU community. Meanwhile the secretive UO Foundation has been calling our students liars, telling them “you have now lost the opportunity for further dialogue”, and “I hope in years to come you will appreciate a life’s lesson in this affair.”

Why so nasty? The word down at the faculty club is that the Foundation’s got some money stuck in a disastrous tar-sands private equity deal, and can’t find a buyer at a price that won’t make them look ridiculous. Bit late for that, really.

I’ll go out on a limb and predict that UO Foundation CEO Paul Weinhold and CIO Jay Namyet will soon throw our students a bone by offering to meet with them about alternative energy investments. If they follow through, it means that instead of making a clean break with dirty oil and coal, the Foundation’s officers will start using our endowment to buy themselves some expensive green-washing, presumably like these under-performers:

Red for the good old S&P, Black for coal and tar-sands, Green for wind and solar:

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But meanwhile, since Weinhold and Namyet won’t talk, our students have taken the logical next step – A shotgun wedding:

Divest Wedding #3

Lovely bride, but she really should look into the groom’s finances. Oh, right, the secretive UO Foundation is still delaying release of its required annual reports to the IRS and Oregon DOJ. And I’d advise a pre-nup covering any potential defamation lawsuits from the Foundation – they’ve got a nasty history of that sort of thing.

The wedding made the front page of the RG:

The bride was lovely in a white dress, although she wore a three-smoke-stack hat and represented the coal industry’s betrothal to the University of Oregon Foundation, which as groom, was represented — of course — by a duck.

She carried a $100 bill bouquet. The mock wedding Thursday at the EMU Amphitheater was staged by Divest UO and other climate action groups protesting the UO Foundation’s refusal to drop its fossil fuel company holdings.

UO Foundation CEO Paul Weinhold has said the foundation doesn’t make investment decisions based on social causes and strives to get the best return on its dollar. At the mock wedding, the “foundation” best man said: “This union is about maximizing returns in a beautiful way,” according to the Daily Emerald student newspaper.

Part of the speech was a parody of recent communications between Divest UO students and UO Foundation Chief Investment Officer Jay Namyet.

An earlier meeting between the two ended unhappily, according to an email chain posted on the uomatters.com blog. [below the break.] Students pressed for divestment, while the foundation offered to let the students help research alternative investments, according to the e-mails.

Subsequently, after students took their divestment case to the UO administration, Namyet cut off communications with them, writing, “you have now lost the opportunity for further dialogue with me.”

The Oregonian’s Andrew Theen also had some fun with this, and brings up the UO Divest Campaign’s fiendishly clever alternative to UO’s current $2B fundraising drive:

Student organizers first started discussing a disinvestment plan two years ago. The UO’s Faculty Senate unanimously supported the student’s proposal in 2015.

Student groups are asking private donors to give their money to a nationwide divest fund. It’s a tax deductible donation, and the money will go to the UO Foundation if its organizers decide to divest by the end of 2017. Jung said the donations would go to the school’s general scholarship fund.

As of Thursday, the foundation wasn’t changing its stance.

More on the “Divest Fund“. Make a donation to the Divest Fund for UO scholarships, and they will hold it in escrow until the end of 2017. If the UO Foundation’s Jay Namyet has divested by then, UO gets the money. If not, it is divided among those universities that have divested. Someone knows their game theory.

I tried it out, and they even sent a receipt for my taxes.

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4/4/2014: UO Foundation CIO Jay Namyet calls CO2 divestment undergrads liars, thinks he’s teaching them a valuable life lesson

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