¿CAS? task force to briefly discuss President’s assertions, consultants

Update: The Jan 22 meeting of this shambolic process is described below the break. They will try again this Tuesday Feb 12, the birthday of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin,  from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. in the Diamond Lake Room, EMU 119.

At this point I’m guessing that Johnson Hall has decided that the opportunity cost of this is too damn high and they’re just going through the motions. But then that’s what I thought they thought about Brad’s metrics scheme, and look what that’s going to cost us in real money. So I’ll try and do some live-blogging, on the off chance they raise a quorum.

From the official website. My comments in italics.

About half the members are present. Some have to leave early.

CAS Task Force on the Structure of the College Agenda for February 12, 2019

Angela Wilhelms reports that Pres Schill is willing to pay a modest amount for a consultant, and that the deadline will be extended. The committee is now expected to report in “early May” but there will no decisions until Fall, after opportunities for input from the Senate, etc. This will still allow for starting a search for new dean(s) in late fall.

1. Senate Meeting 2/13; please attend if able

Chair Ford will present something to the Senate and there will be time for Q&A. 

2. Discuss briefly President’s Strategic framework assertions

Apparently there’s an old strategic framework, from before Pres Schill, with something about the liberal arts and the sciences. Discussion about ensuring that the report articulates the importance of thinking of these holistically rather than doing a slice and dice. Discussion about that the names of new colleges. “Liberal Arts” and “Sciences”? This decision will take years. 

Long discussion ensues. Multiple members report back that their colleagues don’t see what problems a reorganization is supposed to fix, have noted that the source of current problems is lack of money, not a lack of organization. Ford explains out that the current CAS divisional deans are voting members of the deans council, do fundraising, etc. 

My impression of the sentiment of the task force is that they are still wondering what the point of this task force is. 

3. Survey question 1 responses

On the survey someone asked about how a reorg would affect unit’s definitions of teaching excellence. Answer is not clear since it’s not clear what the def of teaching excellence currently is.

Conversation moves on to the possibility that a complete reorganization of CAS might make it easier for instructors to get white board markers. I’m not kidding.

Members note that the survey collected many cuss words but not much deep thought or coherence. Suggestion is made that was to be expected, given the vague nature of the questions. Discussion of potential new questions, e.g.

“Can you thing of a more politic name for a new college than The College of Liberal Arts?”

“Since we can’t figure it out, what’s your guess on why the President created our task force?”

Discussion of whether to post the current survey responses, with or without redacting answers like “this is a shit show”.  

Discussion of Brad Shelton’s comment from last time that the point of a reorg is to “produce the right kind of leaders”. The Chair says she thought that was sinister, and asked if anyone had a more innocent interpretation of it.  

4. Discussion and feedback on Working Group & Meeting Plan

Five working groups. The whiteboard marker is running out of ink, but I think they are Research, Teaching, Inside (organization & operations), Outside (donors & PR), Structure/$, Writing. Those present are volunteering for these. To start meeting tomorrow.

5. Develop format for future meetings; i.e. what the report of each meeting will look like

6. Update on Consultant

7. Update on extending calendar for our TF process

8. Groups

Jan 22 update on CAS Structure Task Force meeting – cue the consultants

For the record I’m neutral on a split up, it seems like a crap-shoot. But I’d say the main takeaway from yesterday is that whatever happens, the decision process is going to burn through a lot of time, energy, and money that probably has better uses.

I went to the second of the two meetings. The first hour was devoted to an unsuccessful attempt to get an answer from Board Secretary Angela Wilhelms to the question (paraphrasing) of “what problem with CAS is this committee supposed to be concerned about?”

Guesses from the members included “the vision thing” and “JH just wants to control everything”. There was little detectable enthusiasm for a breakup among the committee and plenty of scepticism. One member reported that the science heads were opposed to a split. I’ve heard similar reports from one of the science institutes. Another talked about how many years (4-8) their previous university had taken to recover from a reorganization effort. One member talked about the potential fundraising benefits of a tripartite split. They also discussed a proposal from the last meeting on forming subcommittees. That went nowhere since no one could figure out what the subcommittees would do.

Finally, someone suggested hiring consultants – at least to research what had worked and not worked at other universities. Another pointed out that a consultant could take the heat if things turned out badly. Wilhelms liked the idea of consultants, but worried that faculty would complain about the money. Apparently she’s not worried about the money, just about the complaining.

Email from the Task Master:

There are TWO meetings on 1/22.

The morning meeting 10-noon, 260 Condon Hall, is not a typical Task Force meeting. This was scheduled based on questions that arose at the December meeting regarding budget, structure and organizational decision making. We felt it was important to hold this session prior to our regular Task Force meeting.

Angela Wilhelms and Brad Shelton will lead this session.  The agenda is:

  • Welcome and introductions – Karen
  • University structure overview – Angela
  • Academic structure and budgeting overview – Brad
  • Q & A

This, as with all meetings, is open to the public.  Please forward to your colleagues with an invitation to attend.

Our regularly scheduled Task Force meeting is 1:00-3:00 Miller Room EMU. You will find documents and minutes from the Dec meeting on this webpage:


Along with the meeting schedule.  We will post additional documents to this page following our regular TF meetings.

The meetings are 2 hours in length.  We recognize not everyone will be available to attend full meetings.  Whether you need to arrive late or leave early, please join for whatever period of time you do have available.

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12 Responses to ¿CAS? task force to briefly discuss President’s assertions, consultants

  1. Dog says:

    Surely the creation of a separate College of Sciences will result in a better measurement of student evaluation of teaching.

    Win-Win – what a great idea – in fact I suspect that the emergence of the CoS will also get the UO a better football bowl in 2019 …

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    • uomatters says:

      I’m not really into googling, so please give me some links to research that supports your claim of a positive correlation.

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      Rating: +2 (from 4 votes)
  2. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    My suspicion is it’s a done deal, but I have no way of really knowing. But I’m still not getting why the push for this reorganization. I haven’t heard much of an explanation from Schill. What are they trying to accomplish? Who is really behind it? These are meant as real questions. I just don’t think that I know, but I strongly suspect that I’m missing something, a big piece of the picture is missing.

    Are there a lot of faculty behind it? If so, are at least some of them being played?

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    • thedude says:

      Simplest explanation. The sciences of the college of arts and science want access to the Knight campus without sharing with the rest of the non-sciences.

      The other explantion: CAS was simply too big with too many diffuse interests. Basically CAS was almost entirely the UO so splitting it up makes the student split more comparably with other college enrollments.

      The final explanation: any negotiated teaching reductions/work conditions depend on the college you’re in. Create a new college and old teaching load policies get thrown out the window and the union can’t do shit about it.

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      • None of these explanations make sense (except maybe #3):

        (1) The Knight Campus has remarkably little money. Its $500m mostly goes towards buildings and endowing future operations (a good thing). The number of faculty to be hired in the foreseeable future (without large new funds) is about 15, maybe 20. (Smaller than a lot of departments, including mine.) This is an interesting topic in itself, by the way. Speaking of sciences, the considerable majority of scientist faculty I’ve talked to are opposed to a CAS split, often on general principles of being fond of liberal arts, or at least we can’t figure out what the point or benefit of a split would be.

        (2) CAS already has divisions; I have never had it explained to me how elevating each division to a college solves any problem.

        (3) Already, different department within CAS, and even within the same division, have very different teaching loads, etc. Perhaps you’re right that splitting offers a chance to re-create each of these, but this seems like a strangely convoluted and messy way to go about this.

        HUB’s question “What are they trying to accomplish?” is an extremely good one, that many people are wondering. Alternatively, what is the problem that we’re trying to solve? The only answers I’ve gotten to this are farcical.

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        • Dog says:

          Although no good will come of this, it is worth exploring history to better understand the highly differential teaching load, how that came to be accepted, and how the IMB really started this trend.

          Worse still, understand this in the context of a Public University …

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        • oldtimer says:

          many good comments. as for consultants, they usually get hired so that you can get the answer you want from someone else to shift the blame. Good luck to the committee.

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  3. Deplorable Duck says:


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  4. John Nicols says:

    I suspect that divisions will eventually lead to higher administrative costs for services and fundraising. And that means less available for instruction and research.

    Did the divisions of the AAA produce any cost savings? Have the faculty been pleased with the changes?

    This whole operation to divide CAS strikes me as another attempt to create the ILLUSION that a better world can be had by shuffling the cards again. If there really were significant new funds to distribute, funds that would improve BOTH teaching and research I could be persuaded. But such promises and illusions have failed in the past.

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  5. Why do we pay them so much? says:

    Every consultant contracted is another admission that the administration doesn’t have expertise in administration.

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    Rating: +14 (from 14 votes)
  6. Reiner says:

    One of the funniest “updates” ever.

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  7. Publius says:

    I suggest hiring a consultant to determine if hiring consultants is a good idea for this sort of decision— after another consultant has determined what sort of decision is at issue. Better yet, do away with the adm entirely and just farm out decisions to consultants on a case by case basis.

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