Why are faculty reluctant to help with university governance?

From the Encyclopedia of Virginia:

The University of Virginia Riot of 1836 occurred on November 12–13 of that year when members of the student drilling company, the University Volunteers, commandeered the Rotunda and marched through the university’s grounds, destroying property. In some respects, the violence was the culmination of a decade of misbehavior among students who hailed from elite backgrounds, were bound by an honor culture, and were unchecked by a university founded on the belief that its charges could police themselves. The University Volunteers were allowed to drill with muskets only during specially sanctioned exercises, but in 1836 the company began ignoring the rules.

When the faculty chairman, John A. G. Davis, threatened to disband the group, the Volunteers defied authority, each pledging an oath of solidarity to one another. That promise bound members of the group even when some wavered in the face of violence and expulsion. Students rioted for two nights, focusing much of their ire on Davis, who called in civilian law enforcement to restore order. After debating how to handle punishments, the faculty voted to allow members of the Volunteers to remain at the university if they made “proper atonement” for the participation in the riots. Riots continued to occur in subsequent years, and the anniversary of the 1836 disturbance was marked with mischief, revelry, and, in 1840, murder, when Davis was shot dead.

Three-day faculty strike ends with ~15% raises

That would be at Clark (community) College in Vancouver WA. Story here:

Clark College’s faculty union voted to ratify its contract Wednesday afternoon, drawing 15 months of bargaining and a three-day strike to a close.

… Full-time faculty had made anywhere between $53,416 to $76,339 per academic year.

… The new salary range for full-time Clark College professors now starts at $62,049 and tops out at $87,403 for the 2019-20 academic year.

That’s on top of a step system that provides regular raises. Raises for part-time faculty are higher.

Bargaining live-blog MMXX-II: PIPs for tenured faculty, Senate & IHP

In 125 CHILES, Thursday 1/16/2020, 12-3PM. 

MMXX-I is here. My continuing series on Budget Buckets is here. If you don’t like my blog read the official Union tweets.

Recap from MMXX-II: The union proposed a new article on faculty Performance Improvement Plans, which would allow departments to make tenured faculty who had failed at research get their shit together or do more teaching. The fact that a faculty union is proposing serious consequences for those few members who are not doing their job and making others cover for them should come as no surprise to anyone who understands basic economics. But it will probably throw Board of Trustees Chair and one-time B-School Dean Chuck Lillis – who apparently believes that the median faculty is deadwood and that the union is their agent – for a loop.

Other important proposals include reasserting shared governance control of faculty hiring, and figuring out how to keep the temperature in PLC to somewhere between 60 and 85 Fahrenheit.

See below for the details, Chuck, because the next proposal will be PIPs for you and your Trustees.

Continue reading

Oregon’s strange and interesting higher ed tax credit auction

Instead of raising taxes to fund higher education, Oregon is holding a tax credit auction. You bid on a $500 tax credit, which you can then use, dollar for dollar, to offset your state income tax payments. The bid “contributions” go to support HECC grants for low SES college students. The minimum bid is $450, and there are $1.49M in credits for sale. I’m guessing these will sell at 95% percent of par, meaning this program will cost the state’s general fund $1.49M plus administrative costs, and raise about $1.42M for higher ed.

Let’s call it a $100K net loss to the state. If anyone understands why the state would do this rather than just appropriate $1.59M, please post a comment.

REMINDER: College Opportunity Grant Tax Credit Auction on February 10-12 to Benefit Need-Based Financial Aid 

Instructions will be made available on the Oregon Department of Revenue website on how to bid online.
Salem, OR – The Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) is pleased to announce that a second College Opportunity Grant Tax Credit Auction for tax year 2019 will run on February 10-12, 2020.  A College Opportunity Grant Tax Credit auction for tax year 2019 was also previously conducted in December, 2019.

In 2018, the Oregon Legislature passed legislation creating a tax credit auction for contributions to the state-administered Oregon Opportunity Grant (OOG) fund. The auction gives Oregon taxpayers the opportunity to benefit from state tax credits while supporting a state financial aid program for Oregon students.

  • WHO: Individuals and businesses with Oregon income tax liability are eligible to place bids on tax credit certificates. The Auction is administered by the Oregon Department of Revenue (DOR). The contributions will go to the Oregon Opportunity Grant, which is administered by the HECC Office of Student Access and Completion. Interested parties should subscribe here for updates to the College Opportunity Grant Tax Auction email list.
  • WHAT: Modeled after the Oregon Film and Video Office tax auction, the College Opportunity Grant Tax Credit program is held online. The State is authorized to issue up to $14 million worth of tax credits per year, and will be authorized to issue $1.49 million during the February auction. The credit certificates will be in $500 increments and the minimum bid amount has been reduced from the prior year minimum to $450.
  • WHEN: The online auction is open from February 10-12, 2020. The bidding begins at 9 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) February 10, 2020, and ends at 5 p.m. PDT, February 12, 2020.
  • WHERE:  Instructions on bidding will be available on the Oregon Department of Revenue (DOR) Tax Credit Option webpage here prior to the auction. The bids must be made online on the Oregon DOR website according to the DOR instructions. There is not a physical auction event.
  • WHY: Individuals and businesses with an Oregon income tax liability may bid on certificates and claim the credits on 2019 state tax returns.  Any amount not allowed on a 2019 return can be carried forward up to three years. The contributions will increase funding for the Oregon Opportunity Grant, the state’s longstanding need-based grant program for postsecondary education. The OOG is critical to supporting college affordability for approximately 35,000-40,000 students a year, but state funding for the OOG has for years been insufficient to support the college costs of all eligible students. The contributions from the auction will be used to increase the number of grants to eligible low- and middle-income students, increase the value of the per-student award, or a combination of both options, beginning in fall 2020.

Daniel Libit posts podcast with UOM, despite GC Kevin Reed threat

Daniel Libit has won many public records lawsuits against the athletic department at the University of New Mexico, his alma mater, trying to bring some light to their various athletics scandals. He’s recently gone national at “The Intercollegiate”, and asked me to do a podcast about my muckraking experiences with Duck athletics. I’d never even listened to a podcast so of course I said yes, and this is the result:

During the recording of this Daniel asked me about the time – reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education – when UO GC Kevin Reed made this public records request:

From: Kevin Reed <ksreed@uoregon.edu>
Subject: Re: Public Records – Request for Documents 2017-PRR-172
Date: February 3, 2017 at 3:04:14 PM PST
To: William Harbaugh <harbaugh@uoregon.edu>
Cc: Public Record Requests <pubrec@uoregon.edu>

Senate President Harbaugh:

In answer to your questions:

1) I seek all communications concerning or mentioning the STC you made in your capacity as an officer of the University Senate (Vice President, President or member or Chair of the STC), regardless of which media or device you sued for your communication.
2) No. I do not believe FIRE or SPLC qualify as “media.” If it helps in narrowing the search, please feel free to limit my request to communications with reporters, editors or other personnel associated with the Register Guard, the Oregonian, the Daily Emerald, The Chronicle of Higher Education or Inside Higher Ed.

But, given that you have shared that you correspond with FIRE, I will make the additional request under the Oregon Public Records Law:

Please share any communications you have had with persons associated with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in the past 12 months, made in your capacity as an officer of the University Senate or member of any of its committees, which communications relate to or concern freedom of speech or academic freedom at the University of Oregon.

Kevin S. Reed | Vice President and General Counsel
Office of the General Counsel
219 Johnson Hall | Eugene, OR 97403-1226
(541) 346-3082 | ksreed@uoregon.edu

(Yes, of course I sent him the records, at no charge, and then I sent his emails to the reporters. They laughed and then reported on it, as reporters will do.)

I told Daniel that I thought Kevin’s records request – which he clearly made as UO General Counsel, twice – was “illegal”. I’m no lawyer, but that seems like a reasonable conclusion given that the first page of the free online Oregon Attorney General’s Public Records and Meetings Manual says:


Under Oregon’s Public Records Law, “every person” has a right to inspect any nonexempt public record of a public body in Oregon. This right extends to any natural person, any corporation, partnership, firm or association, and any member or committee of the Legislative Assembly. However, a public body may not use the Public Records Law to obtain public records from another public body. Similarly, a public official, other than a legislator, acting within an official capacity may not rely on the Public Records Law to obtain records, although the individual could do so in an individual capacity. This does not prevent a public body from sharing records with other public bodies; it merely prevents a public body from using Public Records Law as a mechanism to obtain the desired records. [emphasis added] …

Sensibly, Daniel reached out to General Counsel Kevin Reed for his thoughts on this before including my comment in his podcast. Reed strenuously objected to my opinion of his public records request:

On Jan 13, 2020, at 4:59 PM, Kevin Reed <ksreed@uoregon.edu> wrote:


I say that the use of the word “illegal” is an absurd stretch, not that the AG’s position (which I took 10 years ago) is absurd.  Please don’t misquote me.

And saying that a lawyer has broken the law is not subject to “interpretation.”  If your publication has counsel, I suggest you check with them.  If you choose to defame me in your publication, you do so at your own peril.

Kevin S. Reed | Vice President and General Counsel

Office of the General Counsel

219 Johnson Hall | Eugene, OR 97403-1226

(541) 346-3082 | ksreed@uoregon.edu


“Your own peril”. Yikes.

So, I want to thank Daniel for deciding to redact my comments on Kevin’s public records  request from the podcast, and saving me the trouble of having to deal with still more peril from UO’s General Counsel.

Full email exchanges between Reed and Libit below the break. Poorly formatted, sorry.

Continue reading

Isaacson Miller, who gave PSU Rahmat Shoureshi, to lead VPR search

The announcement from Provost Phillips on UO’s VPR search is here, with a list of the search committee members etc. It will be an open, national, affirmative action compliant search. Good news. But the search firm will be Isaacson Miller, who ran the PSU Presidential search that brought them Rahmat Shoureshi.

Shoureshi lasted 21 months at Portland State, before his lies and various scandals caught up with him, at which point their Board fired him and then paid him another $880K. Apparently Isaacson Miller is not very good at due diligence. I wonder if they repaid PSU their ~$200K fee?

At UO, they recently ran the searches that hired Sarah Nutter for LCB Dean, and Bob Guldberg as Knight Campus Director, and the sham open search that Gottfredson held before promoting Scott Coltrane from interim to regular Provost.

UO Admins to run amok as RG reporter Christian Hill leaves for 4J job

Hill reported on many issues involving UO. This is sad news for transparency and responsible governance at UO. Here are some UOM posts, with links to some of Hill’s reporting:

Quid Pro Quo for Gov. Kate Brown for IAAF 2021’s public funds?

University to redirect Museum funds to Frohnmayer’s Steam Plant?

Secretive UO Foundation’s $68M Hayward Field tart-up delayed again

Eugene Budget Panel’s Josh Skov slows down $500K IAAF pork proposal

Administration posts embarrassing new transparency website

At https://transparency.uoregon.edu/ It’s better than I’d expected. A low bar to be sure, but there’s some useful info. If you know where to click, you can even find information on administrative bloat, such as this page showing that the General Counsel’s office has grown from 11 to 25 administrators and staff in just 9 years. The President used to scrape by with 6 OA’s, now he needs 16:

All this while the number of students decreases, and tuition increases. I wonder why.

President Schill lays out bold new vision for UO’s future

Just kidding, he’s decided to bet UO’s future on the same failed policies that got us to this point. Today’s Open Mike:

Dear University of Oregon colleagues,

Conversations I regularly have with students, faculty, staff, donors, and community members often go one of two very different ways. The vast majority of conversations are incredibly positive and optimistic. They are about the excitement of opening the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, hiring new faculty and academic advisors, opening new buildings and residence halls, celebrating the football team’s Rose Bowl win, or making programmatic investments in prevention science, environmental humanities, data analytics, and more. They focus on this transformational time for the university and its bright future.

But I have other conversations with some who are rightfully concerned about budget cuts made over the last few years, rising PERS costs, the annual drumbeat of rising tuition, and how we can best make the case to state lawmakers to boost state funding for the university, which currently receives the second lowest state assistance per student of any of our 64 AAU peers despite several years of state funding increases.

So, which is it? Is the UO a financially challenged school that struggles to balance the budget, keep tuition low, offer fair compensation to our employees, and provide strong student support services? Or, are we a school with sufficient resources to construct new buildings, hire more professors, and invest in new, cutting edge research and teaching programs? The answer is that we are both.

I want to use this Open Mike to talk through the factors that contribute to what sometimes feels like a tale of two universities. I believe the positive things happening at the UO and investments we are making will begin to address some of those persistent challenges. Bear with me, though, because these are complicated issues to explain, and solving many of our challenges is something that will take patience, determination, discipline, and a stiff spine.

Let’s start with the education and general budget, sometimes called the E&G budget, which is overwhelmingly comprised of tuition and state funds. This year it is estimated to be around $554 million. We also have separate auxiliary budgets for parts of the university that must generate and live within their own revenue sources to fund operations—areas such as housing, food services, the health center, and athletics. The goal is to have each of these auxiliary budgets break even so that they are not drawing on precious tuition or state dollars. The E&G budget funds most of the educational costs of the university as well as most financial aid. It covers everything from faculty and staff salaries to heat and water for academic buildings. This budget is continually under pressure because the primary sources of revenue (state funding and tuition) are often insufficient to fully fund increases in compensation or inflation.

Now, there are three other important funding streams: sponsored research, donations from alumni and friends of the university, and borrowing for capital expenditures. Sponsored research—which in fiscal year 2019 equated to $126 million in grants, contracts, and competitive awards—is restricted by contracts or grant agreements to pay for specific projects or research activities. Each year, the university raises approximately $200 million in philanthropic donations. Almost all of this money is also restricted by contracts (known as gift agreements) to purposes the donor specifies. When it comes to buildings, sometimes those restricted donations are matched with state-paid bonds (Knight Campus) and sometimes donor funds, state bonds, and/or our own borrowing are used to construct the building (Tykeson Hall, Pacific and Klamath hall renovations). On occasion, student fees support capital projects (the EMU, Health Center expansion) and once in a while we borrow 100 percent of the capital costs ourselves (Bean Hall and Walton Hall renovations).

If the E&G budget is starved for revenue, then why can’t we just take some money from the donations and borrow that to fund the construction of these new buildings? Money is money, isn’t it?

Alas, the answer is no. None of these one-time sources of revenue (restricted donations, state-funded bonds, our own borrowing) can be used to pay on-going operating expenses or to reduce tuition. If I were to authorize the use of state-allocated construction dollars for employee compensation, it would break the law. If I were to take restricted donations and use them for another purpose, then the university could be sued by the donor for breach of contract.

Surely, though, couldn’t I convince the donors who make restricted capital gifts to instead give money to keep our lights on and pay our employees? It turns out that this is every president’s dream—a big gift that is entirely unrestricted. But, with some notable exceptions, it is almost always a dream. Donors give to the UO because they love our university. Major donors also want to use their giving as a way to help the university get better and, in some cases, transform itself. It is the rare donor who responds to a request from a president to help him tread water or avoid sinking.

That isn’t to say that donors don’t care about the high cost of college or the importance of faculty research. Many, many donors give to scholarships. In our current campaign, we have received over $373 million in gifts for scholarships, student support, and student success initiatives. Of that, $245 million is for scholarships. Similarly, we often receive gifts to support faculty research and teaching in the form of endowed chairs. These gifts do not usually cover the salary of faculty members, but instead support summer compensation, research expenses, and graduate students. The gift of Penny and Phil Knight to create the Knight Campus was an unusual and wonderful gift; its endowment yield (along with federal contracts) will pay for faculty start-up costs, salaries, as well as the new campus’ facilities and operations. Over the long term, as we near completion of our $3 billion campaign goal and our institutional endowment continues to grow, I believe the returns generated by the endowment can play a role in helping stabilize the funding challenges we face from tuition limitations and cost increases not covered by state funding.

A related concern I have heard was that even if new buildings on campus are not funded out of the E&G fund and thereby don’t affect tuition or salaries, their maintenance would. It takes money to heat and cool buildings; we need to pay staff to keep them clean and in good working order. For a number of new capital projects—such as the Knight Campus, Hayward Field, and new residence halls—operation and maintenance costs will either be charged to the gift or to the auxiliary that built them. They will not burden the E&G fund. But it is true that we will need to fund a portion of the day-to-day expenses of Tykeson, Pacific, and Klamath halls out of tuition or state funds, which is completely appropriate.

The UO needs to invest in the future. Indeed, one of the reasons we needed to invest in renovating our science laboratories over the past five years is that most hadn’t been touched since they were built. To be a great research university—to attract and retain top faculty members, to provide world-class education to undergraduates, and to train graduate students—we must provide facilities and equipment that allow the people inside them to produce knowledge. And to fulfill our commitment to students that if they come here they will graduate in a timely fashion, we must provide them with a place to get advising. If the maintenance of these facilities or some of the debt service hits our E&G budget, that is a good investment that benefits our students and faculty.

Let me finally turn to the place some members of our community have suggested could relieve the pressure on the E&G budget—athletics. I would like to start by clearing up a misconception—that the athletics department doesn’t already pitch in to relieve pressure on our educational budget. It does. Many of our peer institutions waive tuition for student-athletes. We don’t do that at the UO; athletics pays full tuition for the resident and nonresident athletes, which equates to about $12 million annually that flows back to the E&G budget. They also contribute over $3 million in administrative overhead each year. In recognition of the unusual schedules and time constraints that student-athletes encounter, the UO provides about $2 million per year out of the E&G budget for academic support services. The vast majority of universities in the United States subsidize, sometimes deeply, their athletics departments. We are one of the lucky few—the only public institution in Oregon—that has a self-sufficient athletics department.

Taking money from athletics could come with side effects, particularly if it were to have a negative impact on the playing fields or courts. Prior to my time here at the UO, I might have said that would be okay. But, as president of the UO, I see day after day what athletics means to our university. Not only does it enrich our student experience and provide a rallying point for our alumni and community, but it also provides us with a powerful front porch to the rest of the nation. Those benefits were driven home quite poignantly by our recent win at the Rose Bowl, which drove measurable increases in traffic to our recruitment and admissions websites. Although the UO is increasingly recognized for all of the wonderful faculty and research going on in Eugene, athletics remains one of the principal ways prospective students first hear about the UO. And those students, especially those drawn to the UO from outside Oregon, serve as the central lifeblood of our operating budget. A strong athletics program is synergistic with our academic program and, through its impact on enrollment, actually benefits our efforts to keep tuition low and fund decent wage increases for our faculty and staff.

If you have stayed with me thus far, you can see there is no silver bullet for our fragile operating budget. It isn’t lost on me that the UO can appear to be two universities—one in which new, gleaming buildings and ambitious programs grow and another where tuition goes up and expenditures need to be reduced or at least controlled.

Ultimately, it is vital that we make sure that the investments we are making pay off, because these are the programs, people, and initiatives that will set the UO up over the long term to solve our budget and operational challenges. The research and teaching that will take place in these buildings will enhance the reputation of our school, add new and innovative curricula, and fuel enrollment growth in what promises to be an evermore competitive environment. The focus and attention given to student advising and career counseling in Tykeson Hall will enable us to achieve our mission of student success with similar reputational advantages. These changes may not happen next year or even in the next five years, but I believe the steps we are taking now and the excellence we are building will position the UO to move into a new era of financial stability in the future.

My hope in writing this Open Mike is to be as transparent as possible about this challenging issue. On that topic, we have recently launched a new transparency website to provide our community with easier access to all of our financial, student, employment, and other data. We also try in the FAQs to answer similar questions such as the one posed in this Open Mike, albeit more briefly.

In closing, I have great hopes and aspirations for our university. I am excited about working with those of you who, like me, see the endless possibilities of our university as we get better and better. The effort will require hard work, not silver bullets. But it is achievable.

Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law

Are enrollment plans realistic, or just admins padding their resumes with student money?

Ryan Nguyen has a good report in the Daily Emerald, here:

But the plan to build new residence halls does not entirely square with the findings of a residence hall feasibility study from September 2011. The report, meant to inform UO’s future housing projects, states that the university should “not demolish its existing debt-free housing, but rather maintain it and renovate it.” That conclusion is based off of the costs of adding additional housing and the subsequent changes to room rates.

“We are experiencing a significant student demand for a greater percentage/mix of larger rooms and rooms with in-room private bathrooms,” Housing Director Michael Griffel said in a statement when asked about the feasibility study. “There is also demand for lower cost, smaller double style rooms and triple occupancy rooms. The combination of legacy residence halls (Justice Bean, Earl, Carson, Riley) and new residence halls with some triple room occupancy spaces, currently meets and is projected to meet future student demand.”

The word in Johnson Hall is that these new dorms and renovations are being done now because they’ll form the core of the “Athletic Village” for the 2021 IAFF championship – paid for by higher housing costs for a generation of UO undergrads. The state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission is skeptical as well. Their thorough October 2019 analysis of future enrollment is here. It’s not good news.

As Nguyen’s story goes on to report, the administration’s latest silver bullet to increase enrollment – now that we’ve seen millions in subsidies for the Ducks don’t deliver new students – is guaranteed tuition. This has been tried at many universities, with varying success. Several have since abandoned it. If it works, it will be only a short-run boost, as other universities will copy it.

But that’s all the JH leadership needs – a few promising looking initiatives so they can pad their resumes for the next job.