All Hail the Glorious New 5 year Strategic Academic Plan!

10/23/13: Last December President Gottfredson gave then Interim Provost Bean the job of starting a blog, to to get faculty input into rewriting UO’s Academic Plan. It was a bad idea. Bean had botched the previous plan, which ended up in the dustbin of Johnson Hall, and his “5 big Ideas” initiative was something of a campus joke. Bean didn’t follow through on this either.

CAS Dean Coltrane wisely told his departments to ignore Bean and prepare 5-year plans for faculty and GTF hiring, etc., to be used in resource allocation. These plans were made, then ignored. No one ever took the next steps of coordinating them and prioritizing them with a set of overall university objectives, much less putting it all into a coherent plan to be used in budgeting and fundraising.

Now it’s suddenly come to Gottfredson’s realization that we’re about to start a major capital campaign, and we have no plan for the university’s long run objectives in terms of research, teaching focus, new buildings, faculty hiring, and so on. So the pressure is on for the central administration to slap something together by December. Don’t expect a chance for much input to come up from the faculty, or much coherent thought to come down from the top.

In the absence of coherent planning and budgeting, UO’s money gets frittered away on a variety of pet administrative projects – police, athletic subsidies, Portland, new assistant vice provosts, strategic communicators, consultants, lawyers, and so on. And UO’s donors look at the academic side’s confusion and decide their gifts will be more effective over at the athletic department – because they sure as hell have a plan for the money!

But I know what you’re really wondering: Why does it always have to be a 5-year plan? It’s simple. The Nazi’s gave the 4-year plan a bad name. The Poles tried a 6-year plan, but gave up after 5. Jesuits do 7-year plans, but they’ve got eternity on their side. So while the inventor of the 5-year plan was not exactly a saint, 5 years it will be.

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16 Responses to All Hail the Glorious New 5 year Strategic Academic Plan!

  1. Anonymous says:

    You need a lot of reserves when you don’t have a plan.

  2. UO Matters says:

    Comment of the week.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The athletic side has figured out that spending more on sports results :

    Better coaches
    Better recruits
    More wins
    More money

    Maybe the admin side could figure the rules aren’t to different for academics.
    Retain and recruit high quality senior faculty (and pay them enough so they are HAPPY to be here)
    Recruit great young junior faculty
    Better academic success (grants, publications, books, etc.)
    Better grad students come
    Better undergrads come
    The students are happy and are willing to
    1. Pay more in tuition
    2. Give donations

    You can’t expect students to pay 30k a year so they can pay for football tickets.
    Students (and their parents) want more.

    • Anonymous says:

      “You can’t expect students… want more.”

      You built a new Rec Center, talk about the “college experience”, benefit from UC’s rejection rates and provide de facto childcare in a small college town environment at relatively low cost of living (compared to California). And if there would be a decrease in demand, you offer more Game Days and a new flashy EMU on campus. It’s probably the reason why the “effective” Robin Holmes got a high retention raise without an official offer. The admins know her value. Tada, the admins make big bucks.

      As long as nobody gives admins an incentive to increase quality (the board? donors?), they will find students who will pay their handsome salaries and don’t care much about faculty conditions and academic prestige.

    • Anonymous says:

      The quality of incoming students has increased

    • Anonymous says:

      Because of the admins’ effort in “retainment and recruitment of high quality senior faculty, great young junior faculty, etc.”?

      I might be wrong – I don’t know the changes in in-state and out-of-state SAT scores – but UC’s rejection rates may have helped more.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I think you are right. The student quality has gone up because UC has had a tough time, and no one wants to go to their expansion campus (UC Merced??).

    Just think how much better we could recruit if they started investing the education of students (better faculty, facilities, and opportunities) in addition to amenities of college.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Nothing you say here represents a fair or accurate depiction of reality, and your consistent negativity about everything having to do with UO doesn’t do our university any good. If you have suggestions for where we should go, then communicate them constructively. All you do here–all you’ve ever done, in fact–is smear and denigrate, often in a highly dishonest way.

    • Anonymous says:

      Do you say that all we have to do is to say that we are great and then we are great?

      I am not the UC Merced commenter but the bitter one above. I made a constructive comment: “As long as nobody gives admins an incentive to increase quality (the board? donors?), …”

      All the points earlier are great but admins don’t show any signals that they have the same objective. I am pretty sure they know how to raise academic quality but they have more fun or receive greater rewards for spending money on other projects (athletics, police, more admins, etc.) than UO’s core mission.

      So change their incentive structure and they will – if they are not incompetent – increase academic quality.

  6. Anonymous says:

    So what is the plan for the University for the next 5 years? Where do we want to build? What are weaknesses and strengths realistically? I do think the UO truly has a chance to elevate its profile to be a great institution, and if priorities are set, that the new board can help steer resources in ways max the improvement of the university and improve outcomes for students.

    Frankly, we need to really improve our 4 year, 5 year and 6 year graduation rates. Part of that is making sure we have enough TTF or career NTTF that we can offer a consistent curriculum to help students progress on time. Part of that might be turning down students who are marginally qualified to go to a 4 year college, and neither of us really wins when they drop out 1 or 2 years in.

    The AD clearly has a vision of where they want to spend resources.

    Where’s the vision for the rest of campus?

    I would start with
    1. Remodeling Gerlinger
    2. Building new buildings on the edge of campus
    3. Replacing PLC with something much smaller

    4. Creating new research institues (partially focused on improving grant funding, as I think the process should be more decentralized so that the admin officiers get more specialized in dealing particular grant agencies, and that professional copy editors can help us lowly professors who have ideas but can’t write worth a damn).
    5. Recruiting more (and better) grad students, which probably means paying more
    6. To do that we need to recruit and retain better TTF (which might mean paying more, and increasing resources)
    7. Focus on recruiting career NTTF for particular classes, as opposed to part-time adjuncts (which probably means paying more).

    8. Find ways to increase chance for work-study and internships. Part of this probably concerns making classes smaller so faculty can actually learn students names and write letters of support. Part of this is keeping in contact with alum and encouraging them to return a hire UO students. I’ve never seen a job fair on campus? Why is that?

    9. Allocate classes more efficiently. Some gen ed or intermediate classes can have 100-200 or 300-500 students and thats actually great. Reducing a class size from 150 to 75 is a waste, if now two people are teaching classes of 75, because a class of 75 has the same structure as a class of 150. Focus on reducing classes from 75 to 30 or 30 to 20 for classes where that makes a difference, so that students actually benefit from smaller classes.

    Reduce class sizes uniformly everywhere is the biggest waste of resources I am seeing right now.

    • Anonymous says:

      What are some examples of this?

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s nice to see a meaty, specific post–thanks. But it raises a bunch of questions. Gerlinger? Why Gerlinger? I know we all hate PLC, but what sort of improvement would “something smaller” offer? I agree with the point you make about classes sizes (75 is no improvement on 150), but I don’t myself perceive a move to “reduce class sizes uniformly”. Where exactly is this happening? I see a lot of wasted resources all around us (thx to UOM), but not on the front you name.

    • Old Grey Mare says:

      Just to respond to point #8, there are pretty frequent career fairs on campus, and an active career center.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Great to hear about 8. I think given there are those services, departments should think carefully about whether they are duplicating them.

    Gerlinger – just a place I have taught in that had terrible chalkboards (so old you couldn’t really erase them) terrible ceiling height (a room for 120 with a 8th ceiling feels super cramped) and terrible air flow (was either 80 degrees or 60) and terrible sound proofing (we could always hear the classroom next door especially if the instructor showed a movie.

    PLC, is a gigantic eye sour. Honestly, its a building on the edge of campus but it dwarfs all others. Originally it was built with intention of inspiring a new push towards efficiency (by building upwards) that thankfully was not adopted elsewhere on campus. It was also bombed in 1970. Just the building design and bombing are also going to be impossible to get to a reasonable standard of safety regarding natural disasters. With that in mind, replacing PLC seems like a pretty obvious thing from a risk/lawsuit perspective (Jaime you’re reserves go up in smoke with a 5.0 earthquake because PLC would come crashing down).

    Regarding smaller classes, I do get the sense that there is a push to uniformly smaller classes on campus both from a perspective of improving stats and finding classroom space. This suggests that the people focused on the stats haven’t really thought about efficiency, and the people organizing construction don’t have enough classrooms that seat 120-200 students.

    To be a little more specific, a class that someone I know taught last year had two sections of 125. It was replaced this fall by 3 sections of 90 in order to teach more students and bring class sizes down. So an entirely unnecessary section is being taught because there would be no difference in class quality by increasing class size to 135. But either space constraints or desire to look good on stats pushed this. Either way, its inefficiency thats coming from the top down. Folks should be strategically thinking about where invest in infrastructure to maximize the education of our students, or our chances for research. That probably means unless there are plans to literally triple TTF and GTF hiring, we should think about letting some of our intermediate classes get larger, so we can devote more resources to smaller advanced classes where majors are studying content more closely related to their professional future. My 2 cents.

  8. Old Grey Mare says:

    Just to expand on #8: in addition to running Career Fairs (and I recommend all faculty walk through one some time) the Career Center has website listing internships and jobs; it runs frequent workshops on networking, and interviewing; it will vet a student’s résumé. It even holds dinners at which students learn etiquette. Representatives will come to departments or classes to speak to students, and it runs a series of classes under the CAS heading on careers for humanities majors, social science majors, and natural science majors. I try to put students in contact with the Career Center as early as possible. Their fees pay for this service, but many don’t learn about it until very late in their senior year.

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