University Board may sue Foundation for refusal to provide public records

The Student Press Law Center has the latest news here (from Kentucky, not Oregon):

But even the university has taken issue with the foundation’s records-request compliance practices. In a 14-1 vote earlier this month, UL’s Board of Trustees decided that it may sue the foundation if it does not turn over financial documents.

“That pathway towards restored confidence for our community is critical at this most vulnerable time for the reputation of our university, which quite frankly has been damaged severely because of the secrecy and the veil of secrecy and the shenanigans… that have gone on at the University of Louisville Foundation,” Larry Benz, the chairman of the university’s board of trustees, told Insider Louisville.

No correlation between students’ course evaluations and learning

InsideHigherEd has the report on a new meta-analysis, here:

A number of studies suggest that student evaluations of teaching are unreliable due to various kinds of biases against instructors. (Here’s one addressing gender.) Yet conventional wisdom remains that students learn best from highly rated instructors; tenure cases have even hinged on it.

What if the data backing up conventional wisdom were off? A new study suggests that past analyses linking student achievement to high student teaching evaluation ratings are flawed, a mere “artifact of small sample sized studies and publication bias.”

“Whereas the small sample sized studies showed large and moderate correlation, the large sample sized studies showed no or only minimal correlation between [student evaluations of teaching, or SET] ratings and learning,” reads the study, in press with Studies in Educational Evaluation. “Our up-to-date meta-analysis of all multisection studies revealed no significant correlations between [evaluation] ratings and learning.”

These findings “suggest that institutions focused on student learning and career success may want to abandon SET ratings as a measure of faculty’s teaching effectiveness,” the study says. …

President Schill’s reorganization of Johnson Hall moves on to VPSL

Dear Campus Community,

By now everyone knows that I am focused on three pillars for achieving excellence and preeminence at the University of Oregon—building academic quality and research, improving access and success, and enhancing the student experience. So it should come as no surprise that these priorities are driving my decisions to fill the leadership needs for our student life programs and services. As I announced last week, after nearly 25 years at the UO, Vice President for Student Life Dr. Robin Holmes has accepted a new job with the University of California System. Her last day with the UO is October 18.

Maintaining strong and consistent leadership within the student life portfolio is my key objective. We have a world-class student life division that does an amazing job supporting students’ social, emotional, health, and residential needs on campus. But we also must recognize that the demands placed on student life here and nationally have changed dramatically over the years. Today it includes much greater responsibility to address conduct issues, sexual assault, and a myriad of student health and welfare issues, ranging from the needs of fraternities and sororities to the aspirations of many of our multicultural groups. Student tastes and expectations of the basic services provided by a university have evolved and the housing, dining, and recreational offerings are also vastly more sophisticated as a result. Our Division of Student Life budget is more than $110 million per year and the division employs about 850 professional staff members and more than 1,500 students. 

While our departments and infrastructure are world-class, there are always opportunities for growth and improvement in an organization of this size and complexity. Recognizing this evolution in student life and our need to continue to create an exceptional student experience, I have decided to build upon the strengths of the departments and reorganize several of the division’s auxiliary business functions to a different administrative portfolio, which I’ll address in a moment. 

The Division of Student Life will remain one of our largest and most complex units on campus, providing services through the Career Center, the Office of the Dean of Students, the Erb Memorial Union, Department of Physical Education and Recreation, and the Holden Center for Leadership and Community Engagement. I am delighted that Kevin Marbury, director of physical education and recreation, has agreed to serve as interim vice president for student life.  

Kevin has a strong background in higher education administration and student life. Prior to joining the UO in 2012, Kevin was director of recreation and wellness at Old Dominion University and he has served as vice president for student life at Edward Waters College. Under Kevin’s leadership, recreational programs and facilities at the UO have become the benchmark of excellence for universities across the country. Equally important, Kevin has time and time again demonstrated that he is a trusted advisor to our students, always placing their welfare above all else. I am confident in Kevin’s ability, with the support of the already outstanding team of directors, to maintain the exceptional student experience at the UO while we conduct a national search for new vice president for student life.

In addition, I am promoting Roger Thompson to the position of vice president for student services and enrollment management. In doing this, I will move some key pieces of student services under the leadership of a talented and capable administrator. In this new structure, Roger will continue to oversee Enrollment Management, but we will add the auxiliary services of University Housing, Academic Extension, the University Health Center, and the University Counseling and Testing Center to his portfolio. This move is permanent and takes effect October 19. 

Since joining the UO in 2010, Roger has helped make tremendous strides in our student recruitment and retention efforts, including significant growth in the diversity and academic quality among incoming students. Roger and his team know our students well and understand their needs and aspirations. Putting housing, health, and counseling and testing services under Roger’s leadership creates strong alignment between the expectations we set for prospective students and their families during the recruitment process and the experience we provide those students on campus. Having these services under one administrative roof also creates real opportunities for operational efficiencies, while supporting our student success priorities.

Likewise, having Academic Extension housed within this organization offers tremendous opportunities for growth and enhancement of programs that extend our teaching and research mission beyond traditional campus boundaries. This includes distance and online education, summer session, continuing education, and lifelong learning courses. I expect this closer relationship among student recruitment, student services, and academic extension will result in new ideas and entrepreneurial efforts that support local, regional, national, and international engagement. Roger will work closely with academic partners across campus and the provost’s office to deliver a successful implementation of this change.

Kevin and Roger will quickly create a transition committee that will work to ensure the reorganization efforts are a success. Please join me in thanking both of them for their willingness to take on these new responsibilities. I know each will be supported by the excellent existing employees and departments, and each is committed to our shared vision for the UO, to supporting student success and experience, and to maintaining the strong upward momentum we have built together. 

Sincerely,

Michael H. Schill

President and Professor of Law 

$16M donation for education scholarships

Around the O has the good news here:

Thanks to a $16 million estate gift for scholarships, scores of high-achieving UO students on the path to becoming public school teachers will be spending less time worrying about debt and more time focused on becoming outstanding educators.

The R.H. and Jane Logan Scholarship program is for students with financial need who seek a degree in education and intend to teach in public schools. The endowment will generate $640,000 annually in scholarships for freshmen and sophomores majoring in pre-education, juniors and seniors majoring in educational foundations (a focus area for elementary education), and graduate students in both the UOTeach licensure program and special education.

President Schill on UO, excellence

From his “Open Mike” emails:

Dear Colleagues,

As I look at my calendar, I am excited about the start of the new academic year and eager to welcome our students back to campus. While every fall brings a fresh opportunity for us to build upon our high aspirations for the university, this year is especially thrilling. We have a year of strong momentum at our backs—fueled by the arrival of new academic leadership and brisk faculty hiring; the launch of the Oregon Commitment for student success and on-time graduation; strong research collaborations reported almost daily in Around the O; the creation of new diversity and inclusion initiatives; the opening of the renovated EMU; the achievements of our athletes on campus and in Rio; and our passage of the halfway mark in our $2 billion campaign. The enthusiasm on campus is palpable.

In my “sophomore year” as president, I will not slow the pace of progress. In fact, we must accelerate our work to ensure that the new initiatives we have begun are successful and fully realized. As many of you may remember, in my investiture speech last June I talked about how important it was for our university to constantly strive for excellence in everything we do—particularly in our work to create new knowledge and to pass this knowledge on to our students.

But what do I mean by excellence? Some members of our community hear the word “excellence” and yawn—treating the word as a noun with no content. However, I strongly believe that while it may be difficult to define in a few sentences, excellence does indeed mean something and must guide us as we move our university forward. I was once told by a very wise mentor to be careful of people who believe that there is only one type of excellence and that they know what that is. Excellence in an educational institution can take many forms and be found in virtually all of our disciplines.

Indeed, at the UO I see excellence around me every day. With respect to research, I see faculty members in the humanities and social sciences filling my bookshelves with extraordinary books that examine the history of religion and gender, the determinants of social movements and language, or the economics of trade and the politics in the United States. From our professional schools, I read books that probe environmental legal issues, analyze global markets, illuminate media trends, display wonderful art and design, and I listen to CDs of beautiful music—all created by members of the UO faculty. I read (or try to read) articles authored by our faculty on genetics and molecular biology, green chemistry and high energy physics, algebraic geometry, and exercise physiology. I host dinners with faculty members who have earned early career research grants, been inducted into the national academies, and earned recognition and honors for their books and publications. Their accomplishments take my breath away.

I also get to celebrate excellence in teaching. I sometimes have the opportunity to sit in on a lecture where I can hear firsthand a faculty member’s mastery of a subject. I have also had the privilege of surprising faculty members in their classrooms with distinguished teaching awards to the applause of students. And perhaps most significantly, I have talked one-on-one with so many students about faculty members who have changed their lives by opening them up to new worlds and insights.

Does the fact that there are different types of excellence mean that all scholarship is equally important or that excellence can only be found in the eye of the beholder? Of course not. Our profession guards excellence with peer review. While we at the University of Oregon certainly get to weigh in on what is excellent, we also look externally to our disciplines and our peers to ensure that we have sufficiently high aspirations that are undistorted by personalities, politics, or self-interest. The surest way to mediocrity is to tell ourselves that the metrics widely adopted in peer review don’t apply to us. While objective indicators such as those provided by the AAU, Academic Analytics, or the National Research Council may not always put us in a flattering light, the appropriate response isn’t to ignore or disparage them. Instead, where the indicators are appropriate we should redouble our efforts to get better. And where the indicators are inapt, we should strive to understand where they fall short and supplement them with other indicia.

As for me, as many of you have come to understand, I hold traditional academic values. Academic excellence is built on research faculty members who are ambitious and productive scholars like so many I have met over the past year. Excellence is reflected by peers who read what we write and find it valuable. Excellence is reflected in productivity, in the striving to create knowledge, and in the desire to transmit knowledge to the next generation. Excellence is reflected by success in getting peer-awarded research grants, recognition, exhibits, and lectures. As we build our faculty, it is this excellence that I will seek to encourage and promote.

One way that we will build academic excellence is to retain our outstanding scholars and recruit more extraordinary professors, researchers, and graduate students to the university. In the sciences we need to provide the facilities that will make possible discovery and invention. In the nonscientific fields, we need to find ways to expand seed support for research, summer support, and, where possible, teaching relief. We need to make sure that merit-based compensation truly rewards merit. And we must break down any barriers that exist to doing what we have always done best—interdisciplinary research.

In short, we need to incentivize excellence throughout our university. Last year we made a number of decisions that reflect this commitment. The Graduate School allocated new graduate fellowships to departments that had strong records in on-time degrees, placement, and student satisfaction. New faculty hiring was focused in departments with high productivity and clusters with strong academic leadership. In the coming year, the new financial model will reward departments that both attract students and reflect excellence in research productivity.

Our state deserves a world-class flagship university devoted to the principles of academic excellence. I will do everything in my power to make that happen. I invite all of you to join me in that endeavor. If you have further ideas about what we can do to support this mission, please send an e-mail to pres@uoregon.edu. I look forward to the coming academic year and wish you a wonderful start to the fall term.

Sincerely,
Mike

Are universities playing musical chairs with minority faculty?

Insidehighered has the report here:

Increased faculty diversity has long been a goal of many colleges and universities. But a number of institutions have recently put their money where their mouths are, so to speak, launching expensive initiatives aimed at making their faculties more representative of their respective student bodies and the U.S. population. And while these initiatives are comprehensive, targeting multiple potential points of entry into — and exit from — the faculty candidate pool, a good portion of the funds are reserved for recruiting underrepresented minorities already working in academe or new Ph.D.s.

These patterns have led some to wonder whether the net effect of these individual initiatives across academe will be zero — just a shifting of diverse candidates from institution to institution — instead of a real demographic change.

Are those concerns legitimate? And how can a net-zero outcome be avoided? Experts say the answers lie in trial and error, inclusivity efforts, earlier interventions with students, and — perhaps less obviously but no less crucially — collaboration.

One of the biggest such initiatives is under way at Brown University, which earlier this year said it was dedicating $100 million to diversity and inclusion, including $50 million for faculty diversity efforts. Richard Locke, provost, likened the potential pass-the-faculty problem to a costly game of “musical chairs.”

“That’s the biggest concern,” he said. “When we released our report and everyone else released their reports around the same time, I kind of froze and said, ‘Oh, God, if we’re all doing this, what’s going to happen?’ Our approach has to not be simply going out and poaching people from other universities, but building up the population — not just for us but for all universities.” …

Is UO spending its diversity money on poaching, or on filling the pipeline? There’s some data on UO faculty by race and gender, in comparison to the available pools of PhD’s, on page 34 here. The Underrepresented Minority Recruitment Plan is probably UO’s most expensive diversity program, and it’s all about existing PhD’s.

The Next Generation of Higher Ed Management Fads

Interesting story in the AAUP’s Academe, here:

More than fifteen years ago, higher education scholar Robert Birnbaum wrote his influential book Management Fads in Higher Education: Where They Come from, What They Do, Why They Fail, arguing that claims of crisis are ubiquitous in higher education. “Hundreds of claims of crisis have been documented,” he writes, “ranging from the pandemic (the crisis of finance) and transcendental (the crisis of confidence) to the logistical (the crisis of parking).” In addition to supplying journalists with a steady stream of headlines, these claims of crisis make college and university leaders vulnerable to the promises of new management ideas, many of them imported from the private sector. By subscribing to and implementing the techniques, systems, and processes these ideas inspire, institutional leaders hope both to assuage critics and to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of their campuses.

… The conversation surrounding [Incentive Based Budgeting, a.k.a. Responsibility Centered Management or the New Budget Model] has devolved into debate. Critics argue that the pursuit of students and resources by different units impedes collaboration and erodes institutional unity. IBB may engender perverse incentives to lower admission standards or create “in-house” courses (for example, writing for business majors) as a consequence of enrollment-based revenue generation. At the same time, IBB assumes that unit leaders and faculty members have the skills or desire to “unleash” their inner entrepreneur, which may not be a safe assumption. In response to these criticisms, Curry and Strauss, in a second book, Responsibility Center Management: A Guide to Balancing Academic Entrepreneurship with Fiscal Responsibility, concede, “As one might expect, the takeaways are mixed, with both success stories and failures.” At present, the future of IBB is uncertain, although Curry and Strauss report that at least forty-three major universities had implemented some form of the approach as of 2013.

Consolidated Administrative Services

Management consulting firms have argued that higher education is experiencing a crucible moment in which dramatic change is necessary to stem hemorrhaging spending and produce more skilled laborers. For several of these firms, such as Accenture, colleges and universities can achieve desired efficiencies by consolidating, or sharing, noncore or support services. The consolidated-services model was pioneered in the private sector before traveling to higher education. The basic premise is that economies of scale result when disparate administrative and business support units are combined into a single entity. Rather than having each academic college of a university house its own information technology office, for example, one hub might serve all or some subset of the colleges.

According to Accenture, shared service centers feature several key characteristics, chiefly treating the users as customers and operating with a performance-based culture that uses metrics and feedback. By “taking a page from business,” Accenture explains in a 2013 brochure, colleges and universities can “gain operational efficiencies and maximize service delivery quality, without sacrificing their institutional missions.” Accenture highlights stories of prestigious early adopters such as Yale University. Versions can now be found in many public institutions, including most of the University of California system.

Academic Leadership Retreat

Today at Ford Alumni Center, https://academicaffairs.uoregon.edu/content/fall-leadership-retreat. President Schill’s speech focuses on improving academic research and undergraduate retention and graduation. The New New Budget Model will not mindlessly allocate money on the basis of how many easy on-line gen-ed/MC credit-hours departments can churn out, but instead it will allocate at least some money on the basis of its potential for increases in academic quality. For undergrad graduation, talks about working with the faculty to reduce barriers to 4-year completion, better advising, etc. Lots of talk about diversity.

This is being recorded, but I’m not sure where the link is.

Tuition increases and state funding decreases

Or is it vice-versa. The 538 website has an interesting post on explanations for tuition increases, here:

All of those trends add to the cost of college, but not by that much. At most, about a quarter of the increase in college tuition since 2000 can be attributed to rising faculty salaries, improved amenities and administrative bloat. By comparison, the decline in state support accounts for about three-quarters of the rising cost of college.

 

AG Ellen Rosenblum’s DOJ reverses Hardy Myers on public record fees

But just a little. The Bend Bulletin has the story here:

The Oregon Department of Justice on Monday lifted an order requiring some state agencies to charge the public for government records, overturning its own 14-year-old advice.

Deputy Attorney General Frederick Boss ruled that the Public Employees Retirement System declined to reduce or waive a fee it charged a journalist seeking records based on a 2002 DOJ order the agency no longer believes is valid.

Boss said in his opinion that PERS may be “legally required” to waive or reduce fees for public records, a reversal of the agency’s 2002 order, issued under former Attorney General Hardy Myers, that said it was required to charge full price for records requests.

“Although a public body enjoys discretion with respect to whether to grant or deny fee waivers and reductions, that discretion is not unlimited,” Boss wrote. “In some circumstances, waiver or reduction can be legally required.

There are many ways that that Rosenblum’s office can increase state transparency using opinions like this – if she really wants to. The DOJ order from last year requiring the OPBE to waive a $2.50 fee they tried to impose is here. As you can see it was very narrowly written, to avoid creating a precedent in favor of public access,  and apparently it is still the only opinion her DOJ has ever written *requiring* a fee waiver.

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