Senate Pres talks to Trustees about UO Foundation, IAAF, academic freedom, internal audit

From June 8, just getting around to posting. Video here:

I’m posting this in part because of today’s Op-Ed in the Oregonian from Oregon Association of Scholars President (and PSU PoliSci prof) Bruce Gilley, which inaccurately characterizes the UO Senate’s resolution in support of the free-speech rights of our students as endorsing the “heckler’s veto”. Gilley:

… The protection of intellectual freedom on campus used to be the preserve of faculty. Yet the radicalization of faculty — conservative or registered Republicans have virtually disappeared from Oregon college faculties today — means that faculty today are more often the main threat to intellectual freedom. The disgraceful endorsement by the University of Oregon’s faculty senate of student mobs who disrupted the president’s annual address last October is the latest example. …

The UO Senate’s resolution is here. I can only assume Prof. Gilley has not read it. Among other things, it states:

2.1 BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the UO Senate supports the rights of students to peacefully protest during university events, even disruptively, so long as those protests do not prevent speakers from being heard and the audience from hearing what they have to say; [Emphasis added.]

See below for more. Back up the video to hear the remarks from incoming ASUO President Maria Alejandra Gallegos-Chacon, which end with a call for a reform of UO’s student discipline rules to ensure free speech cases are treated with the care they deserve.

My report to the Board of Trustees as written:

The report in the meeting materials is from outgoing Senate President Chris Sinclair. He is giving a presentation at a national meeting on the Senate’s Core Education reform program, so I’m his surrogate.
I was Senate VP this year, and will be Senate President for the coming academic year. Last week the Senate voted Elizabeth Skowron (Education) in as Senate VP this year, and so she’ll become President the year following this one.
Elizabeth has broad support from the faculty and other Senate constituents, and from Chris and myself. Her election was unanimous.
I’ll be happy to answer questions about Chris’s report, which explains some of the Senate’s work this year, i.e. including the plans we have put in place to improve core ed, teaching and teaching evaluation but first I want to add a few comments.
First, I want to report on a conversation that Chris and I had with UO’s internal auditor Trisha Burnett, this March, as part of her annual check-ins. We explained that we were particularly concerned about
1) UO’s diversity efforts: While you will hear a lot about the IDEAL diversity plan today, meanwhile UO is dropping the ball on basic practices like exit interviews for departing minority and female faculty and open hiring processes for administrators. Burnett agreed that these were problems. I hope you have got the same message from her office and will help address it.
2) The athletic department. As you know the NCAA is investigating UO over an incomplete grade  for a student-athlete. This is a side-show.
One real concern is about the  extent to which the “ Support for Student Athletes” operation is providing good academic support to revenue-sport athletes, and help for those that aren’t going to make it to the pros or graduate. I assume you’ve seen the graduation rates for the revenue sport-athletes. Burnett is worried about the potential for an UNC type scandal, or an Michigan State type one. The faculty knows little about how the AD and SSA operate, and our past oversight efforts have not been successful. The Senate’s IAC committee has been replaced by an advisory committee to the President. You should be aware of Burnett’s concerns about the risk, which she expressed clearly to us, although apparently not in her written reports to you.
3) The UO Foundation. The Foundation is heavily involved in the 2021 IAAF championships award, which is now under federal investigation. Your board was involved in this as well. We made our concerns clear, to Burnett, she made clear that the Foundation was not cooperating with her efforts to learn more. This is not a good situation, we hope you are keeping your eye on it.
Second, I want to explain the Senate’s resolution “In Support of the UO Student Collective”. This is the group of students that disrupted President Schill’s “State of the University”speech in October.
A personal note: One of the first courses I taught when I came to UO was on environmental economics. One of my students was an environmental activist, and frequently and loudly spoke up during lectures to object to the economic approach.
President Schill has said that with this resolution the Senate endorsed the sorts of disruption of classes by students who might object to something about the course content, as has occurred at other universities, such as Reed and Evergreen, where students have essentially shut down courses on particular subjects.
This is not at all what our Senate has endorsed. The resolution states clearly:
2.1 BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the UO Senate supports the rights of students to peacefully protest during university events, even disruptively, so long as those protests do not prevent speakers from being heard and the audience from hearing what they have to say; 
I’m not a lawyer, but this language is consistent with everything I understand about the First Amendment, everything I believe about academic freedom, and everything that UO’s other policies on these matters state. People have a right to speak, and those who object to that speech have the right to have their objections heard even if that disrupts and causes inconvenience for the speaker and the audience.
What those who object cannot do, and again I quote from our resolution, is prevent speakers from being heard and the audience from hearing what they have to say. 
Our resolution does not endorse the sorts of disruptions that prevent faculty, or our President, from teaching what they want to teach or saying what they want to say. It specifically speaks against that, only allowing “disruption” so long as that disruption doesn’t prevent the professor’s lecture, or for that matter the President’s talk, from continuing.
Our resolution does not endorse allowing the actions of the Students Collective taking the podium and shutting down President Schill’s address – although it does call for some leniency in their subsequent discipline, and some reforms to make sure free speech discipline cases are handled with special care. These were students, after all.
If this is not clear, please see the UO policy on Academic Freedom, which the Senate passed in 2014 and which the UO President signed, which states:
The University’s responsibility to help students to think critically and independently requires that members of the university community have the right to investigate and discuss matters, including those that are controversial, inside and outside of class, without fear of institutional restraint. 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.
Or see the UO Policy on Freedom of Inquiry and Free Speech, which we passed in 2010, which states:
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. 
I don’t see how the Senate and the faculty could be any more clear about our position, and I’m tired of hearing people misrepresent it. Though of course I’m open to any arguments, even disruptive ones.
Thank you. Questions?
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14 Responses to Senate Pres talks to Trustees about UO Foundation, IAAF, academic freedom, internal audit

  1. trumplackey says:

    Schill seems to specifically object to the “even disruptively” part of the motion, and I think he’s right to do so. Merely being able to hear the speaker isn’t really sufficient.

    As a thought experiment, if Elizabeth Warren comes to campus to speak, should students be allowed to play a quiet “war chant” sound track during her speech as protest against her dubious claims of Native American descent? Even one that does not prevent people from hearing her speak? Not in my book. The opportunity to protest outside the event–in a non-disruptive way–seems like the right approach.

    • OutsideTheUOBubble says:

      I suggest UO matters respond to Shill’s official Dec, 2017 letter where he replies to the student collective motion:
      [ it is here: ]

      In it he specifically objects to the ” even disruptively” part of the motion. He reaches the conclusion that it is contrary to university policy, exactly the opposite conclusion to that reached by UOM.

    • honest Uncle Bernie says:

      lackey — it is kind of a fine line, don’t you think? Is it disruptive to laugh sneeringly during a talk, even from someone as august as Mike Schill? Then I must plead guilty.

      Personally, I would come down on the side of civility, but I think it really is a fine line.

      In the example you cite — I think a sound track would be unacceptable. Silent mocking signs perfectly OK.

      • trumplackey says:

        If the sneering laugh is spontaneous and heartfelt, it’s kosher. If one is sneering just to be seen sneering, not so much.

        Myself, regardless of how I feel about the speaker, I assume that those disrupting speech are doing so because they’re rhetorically bankrupt (or more likely, uneducated, *sigh*).

  2. trumplackey says:

    On the subject of diversity, does the Senate have any thoughts about the yawning and increasing gender gap in the undergraduate population? (53.5% female to 46.5% male for 2016-17, presumably even larger this year; US population is 105 males per 100 females)


    • honest Uncle Bernie says:

      I would hope they are concerned, but not too concerned. It is evident that colleges already are employing affirmative action on male enrollment. Demonstrably lower gpa’s and all that. If the Trumpsters go all-out, there might be a lot fewer males admitted to college. Be careful what you wish for.

  3. Dogmatic Ratios says:

    Your anecdote about the disruptive student, who led you both to disrupt an influential paper, is wonderful. I’m not sure the trustees or the administration will take it to heart, but it was worth a try!

  4. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    Hey, why not interview all departing faculty members, including white males? If nothing else, members of the public from the latter category, however deplorable, might tend to have a more favorable view of higher ed.

    • Dog says:

      do you even think that one knows the right kinds of questions of ask for a meaningful and informative exit interview. I mean, do yo really care that anyone is leaving? We are all replaceable, and easily so in the eyes of the admin.

      • honest Uncle Bernie says:

        Dog — I don’t know that they really care. I have never had the impression that they do. If they were smarter, they would care more, if only out of self interest. They would also try to do more to keep people happy and eager to be here — instead of spending a fortune when people are about to leave.

  5. Mumstheword says:

    Note that freedom of speech on campus does not extend to classified staff.

    • uomatters says:

      In theory, academic freedom at UO includes staff. The Academic Freedom policy that the Senate and Union fought for and President Gottfredson signed says:

      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.

      Of course practice at UO often does not follow policy.

      • trumplackey says:

        Might just be a symptom of the times, but I feel less free to speak my mind at UO than probably any place I’ve ever worked. It’s the culture, though, not worries about the administration itself.

      • Fishwrapper says:

        Theory is alway great…in theory, at least…

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