¿CAS? task force lunch with Pres Schill Wed 12-1

4/3/2019 free lunch update:

Pres Schill is buying the task force lunch. Burritos. Less than 1/2 the members are here. I’m free-riding. In response to the first question, Schill says that the motivation for this entire process was the lack of “vision” from Marcus and CAS. I guess Tykeson doesn’t count. This is news to the members, one of whom notes that this is the first they’ve heard that lack of vision was the point of this task force, except for a brief comment from Shelton early in the process. A discussion ensues of what “vision” means in practice, beyond mission statements and buzzwords like excellence. Schill says CAS needs some “jewels”. Shiny things he can show the board?

If inadequate vision really is the crux, perhaps this should have been explained to the task force at the start. They seem like an engaged, creative group who’ve revealed their commitment to CAS. Put them to work on creating visions, instead of discussing the optimal re-arrangement of the deck chairs!

The outside member notes that she believes an important vision that would excite donors and the state would be focusing on delivering the best possible liberal arts education, to students who will need a broad education to prepare for the many possible different futures.

The remainder of the meeting was a pretty interesting and engaging conversation between the members and President Schill, who told the task force that he will not be disappointed if they come back to him with the conclusion that the current structure is fine, and some visions.

4/2/2019 update: An ¿exciting? three hours of meetings this week:

Tuesday, April 2 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the Miller Room, EMU 107
Wednesday, April 3 from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. in the Gumwood Room, EMU 245. Lunch with President Michael Schill. Lunch is provided for task force members; guests and observers are welcome to bring their own lunch.

4/2 liveblog: A good 2/3 of the task force is present.

The task force has now agreed, explicitly, that there is no net benefit to be had from CAS devolution. At least that’s my takeaway from the start of this meeting. The focus is now on figuring out how to help CAS do its best with the (shrinking) leftovers that they are getting from Johnson Hall.

Today’s report is from the teaching subcommittee, and Tina Boscha does a very thorough job of explaining how CAS can improve teaching without burning everything down.

Brief reports from other sub committees. Spike still hasn’t been able to find an example of a devolution like that proposed which has been around long enough to have produced actual results. UO would be on the bleeding edge. The task force’s outside member reports that the development subcommittee is also also opposed to split up, based on interviews with fundraisers. Split-up would be a hard sell to donors.

3/19/2019 update: 

Maybe 1/2 the task force shows up. Elliot Berkman (Psychology) delivers the Research Subcommittee report. They are skeptical about the possibility that devolution would improve research activities, and see many possibly negatives. Kudos to Elliot for slipping “orthogonal” into an official report:

“Most research activities are orthogonal to the organization of CAS.”

He goes on to demonstrate that his committee has learned many things about problems with the organization and administration of research support at UO that can potentially be improved. None of these seem to require CAS reorganization. Here’s hoping JH will ask this subcommittee to refocus its energies from devolution to making positive recommendations focused on improving research administration and support at UO.

3/12/2019 update: Brad Shelton makes it through a ¿CAS? task force meeting

I missed today’s task force meeting because I had an important previously scheduled event forgot that this group of honest and hardworking faculty and OAs were still being forced to go through the motions.

Fortunately an always reliable source updated me on the proceedings. They agreed that my summary below of what Brad claimed about the Knight Campus in the previous meeting was accurate. They then said that this was not the first task force meeting that Brad had walked out off, for slights real or imagined. This was news to me, but not surprising news, and it explains the task force’s non-chalant reaction to Brad’s de-zooming of their last meeting.

As for today’s meeting, the elevator version is that the task force brought in a panel of deans from the various UO colleges for advice. The first question the task force put to them was something like “What improvements do you think a college reorganization might create?” This was also the second question. And the third, etc. They kept asking because no one had an answer. Which I guess is an answer.

The task force meets again Tuesday, March 19 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. in the Miller Room, EMU 107. I apologize for missing today’s meeting, and I will try and do better in the future.

2/26/2019 update. Brad Shelton tells ¿CAS? task force that Knight Campus was his and Jim Bean’s idea

This news does not seem to increase the task force’s confidence. Meeting live on zoom, here:

He goes on to claim that the proposal was “further developed by the faculty”. Someone points out that he means “some faculty”.

I zoomed in late, so I don’t know what prompted Brad to go off about this, but he goes on to claim it’s not taking resources from the rest of UO. Brad is ignoring the fact that UO made $100M in matching funds its #1 priority for legislative capital funding last biennium (and got $70M) rather than asking for money for other priorities.

This is water under the bridge, but it would be nice to have some honesty about it, as well as to see a copy of the gift letter, which Pres Schill has repeatedly refused to show.

~2:30 – Brad announces to the task force that he takes umbrage about something in my comments above, that he will have words with me later, and that he is leaving the call. The task force’s discussion of the various reorganization possibilities and their costs and benefits moves on unimpeded.

~2:55 – Karen Ford explains that, while there were some initial claims that CAS reorganization would not add to administrative bloat, Brad has since said that there would be transition costs, at least.

One NS member sums up by noting that if the task force accomplishes nothing else it has at least brought the sciences, social sciences, and humanities faculty closer together and increased their shared empathy and understanding of the issues they face.

~3:00 Ford orders the band to play La Marseillaise, meeting concludes.

2/12/2019 update: ¿CAS? task force to briefly discuss President’s assertions, consultants

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.

Agenda 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:

https://provost.uoregon.edu/task-force-structure-college-arts-and-sciences

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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45 Responses to ¿CAS? task force lunch with Pres Schill Wed 12-1

  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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  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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        • Dogmatic Ratios says:

          The idea that administrative initiatives ‘make sense’ is repeatedly contradicted by the evidence. Of course, we want them to make sense in our context, in support making a better academic community. But their initiatives are usually unjustifiable, wasteful, unilateral exercises in centralization, obedience, plutocracy, punishment, distraction, managerialism, etc. Why? The executive administration really isn’t necessary — it would be much better to have a democracy — but their real job is to increasingly surrender the university to private power. To accomplish this, ‘best practices’ dictate that they create confusing illusions, pointless reorganizations, and generally frighten people regularly. Makes perfect sense.

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  3. Deplorable Duck says:

    https://dilbert.com/strip/1997-11-06

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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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  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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    • Dog says:

      I was on the Jim Bean committee

      Brad Shelton was not

      and I think he attended only 1 meeting

      Its difficult to say whether or not the Bean committee had anything to do with the KC

      there will be a lot of revisionist history here
      and others will say different things

      I am pretty sure that BioMedical applications
      were NOT in our array of visions for the main purpose of the KC

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      • uomatters says:

        Thanks Dog, I’m hoping you can meet with Brad, work out who should get the credit for the Knight Campus, and report back.

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  8. derp says:

    Earnest plea to our local god: Please link to the prior conversation rather than updating it. Would be way easier to pick apart that way, for us poor, slovenly, barely literate readers.

    Also, is Jim Bean a pun on liquor? I approve, but want to be in on the joke.

    And perhaps also, a running summary on why Uncle Phil’s checks are a bad deal for the U?

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  9. Old Man says:

    Dog 01/23/2019 AT 3:50 PM wrote:

    “…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.”
    As one of the few remaining eye witnesses to these events, I feel I should expand on Dog’s cryptic comment:
    In the ’50’s, the University in O. Meredith Wilson’s presidency recognized the importance of strengthening its science departments. Adopting the advice of Chemistry Professor Terrill Hill, UO took the opportunity to move into the nascent field of Molecular Biology and did so boldly. (“boldly” because of the impossibility of attracting just one or two good people to a back-woods campus totally lacking in such activity.) IMB was created with slots for a Director and four appointees. To make the package attractive, appointments were half-salaried by the Graduate School, which gave appointees half-time UG obligations. It worked, and, when IMB was strong enough to attract good people without such an inducement, it voted to drop the Grad School affiliation to eliminate an evident cause of resentment among some colleagues.

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    • Dog says:

      To be clear

      I am okay with a highly differential teaching load at a Research University; in fact at a previous univeristy I was at there was
      Research Faculty that only taught graduate seminars – I think
      this is actually a good model, but I realize this model will not
      fly at all at the liberal arts UO

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  10. Old, but not as old as O.M. says:

    This is why I read this blog.

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  11. Dog says:

    I believe the orthogonal comment originates with me on one of my task force feedback boxes. But, you don’t have to believe that since it doesn’t matter – the point is that I strongly believe this and that reorg of CAS wouldn’t help. In general, there is a great deal of unawareness of actual faculty research Phd general PHD work that is going on across campus. Also, since we have no resources and as far as I can tell have never had resources since 1990 for the UO to help with better internal assistance for research – this is just another manifestation that the UO is not really a research University. This is my biggest regret in choosing to take a position at this particular University. Its far too hard to put one’s research ideas into actual production here …

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Okay, what aspects of Collective CAS Teaching actually need to be improved. Can anyone objectively elaborate on this?

    In my experience one of the main difficulties of the “teaching experience” is the inability to provide rapid assessment and feedback to students due to lack of person power.

    Now this is not going to happen, but I imagine if the number of GEs were doubled then wholesale teaching “improvement” as we currently measure it, would occur.

    The average faculty person in CAS is a reasonable to good teacher, they are just, in general, way under supported in pursuit of that teaching mission (Math being an exception to under support)

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  13. Anonymous says:

    and I stated this at the outset, in fact, directly to the provost,
    but no one listen’s to dogs.

    “It makes less than zero sense to split up CAS without an existing college of engineering. With such a college, it might make sense to move to a College of Sciences with an applied focus. ”

    I think some are trying to now retrofit the KC into the UO as an engineering school but that possible eventuality is many more years down the proverbial road.

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    • UO Community Member says:

      I do not come from an engineering background, but it is my understanding that the 4 traditional streams (Civil, Chemical, Electrical, Mechanical) provide the best foundation for undergraduates.

      If you want to work in the medical prosthetics field you major in Mechanical and work your way into the field instead of Biomedical. Likewise, if you want to solve water quality issues it makes more sense to major in Chemical Engineering rather than Environmental. More specialized training can be acquired in grad school or on the job.

      Therefore, it would be a mistake for UO to set up an engineering program that is specialized (Biomedical, Biological, Materials, etc.) at the undergrad level.

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      • Mechanical? Civil? Just trendy buzzwords. Knapping obsidian into arrowheads, measuring the width of bones for flute making, testing which type of rock is best for bashing the guy in the next cave, that’s real engineering! From these foundations, a good student can easily work up to new fields, in grad school or maybe the next interglacial.

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        • uomatters says:

          Professor Parthasarathy, your narrow focus on the mechanical reveals your lack of vision regarding the importance of the liberal arts. Which came first, the music of the flute or the maker of the flute? Would your first primitive engineer have measured bones for flutes without an appreciation for their music?

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          • Dog says:

            The first primitive engineer would have simply hit the flute maker or flute music composer or both of them, over the head with the engineered rock for head hitting. Who the hell needs music …?

            When it would be later discovered that bones are actually better flying projectiles than rocks, then the flute was a by product of that military technology …

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      • Dog says:

        the KC is years away from setting anything up at the Undergraduate level.

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        • Anonymous says:

          I think that is a good thing. The KC should focus on recruiting faculty, research staff and graduate students.

          I tend to think a separate engineering or applied science college makes sense in the long run. But then again this institution has always been strapped for cash.

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          • Anonymous says:

            I agree completely that the KC’s initial focus should be on improved graduate student programs in more interesting areas than we currently offer.

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            • charlie says:

              At the expense of undergraduate academic support? Just to let some of you know, it’s those pesky undergrads that pay the freight at U of Owe. May not be the best idea alienating them, or potential admits…

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  14. Dog says:

    Wow, that is even worse than I thought.

    The lack of vision? Of course there is a lack of vision around here and CAS DOES NOT lead that lack, though I agree that Marcus was lack luster.

    Now, it’s my considerable experience that in higher ED when someone tries to exercise vision , that someone is subject to being called a disruption force and the vision is squelched. Schill doesn’t know shit about vision.

    Indeed, I call upon readers of this forum to, in 25 words or less, actually articulate a vision for the UO:

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    • Hippo says:

      Schill’s vision for the UO is to ignore it’s entire historical and geographical niche and strengths and make it similar to, say, UC Irvine, on his way to a leadership position, at, say, someplace more like UC Davis.

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    • Canard says:

      Keep us in the AAU, please!

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      • Hippo says:

        Do you think the folks at Cal/Michigan/Harvard have spent half a second thinking about the AAU? How has being in the AAU made your research or teaching better? Administrators here have it backwards: instead of chasing whatever metrics are deemed by the outside to indicate quality, why not instead decide what kind of University we want to be, and build what we need to achieve that? [And it is cheating to say: well, of course, we want to be a University with all the metrics associated to quality!]

        Instead of beating the faculty for not being “excellent” (and I assert that we are in fact an amazing collection of talent and resource — I choose to avoid the word “excellent” in all contents), how about asking what the institution can do to help with our dreams? Do you think Cal [or insert your favorite research university here] is amazing simply because it is “excellent”, but rather perhaps it is so vibrant because it provides an environment which builds on its considerable talent rather than talks them down.

        For example, does Schill really think CAS has no “jewels”? This alone is the thinking of poor leadership. Perhaps he should spend some time looking at the hard and inspired work of many of the people who have been here for a long time, making do with limited resources and demoralizing rhetoric from our leadership.

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        • UO Community Member says:

          I always thought UO should focus on its strengths. That said, I think the applied sciences are needed here.

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        • Canard says:

          Sarcasm alert. I make joke.

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  15. Hippo says:

    I guess this is exactly why I no longer do University service, after a long period of doing an excessive amount. Much work was put in by the committee, only to discover the exact mission was hidden from them from the beginning. Typical of the shitty administrative leadership we suffer from here.

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    • Dog says:

      yeah, exactly

      Transparency R Us

      is the UO creed …

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      • prof from another school says:

        A good rule-of-thumb when someone calls for a NEW search for ‘vision’ is to first look for the LAST strategic framework [ ‘aka plan’] ; there will always be one, since universities do them as a recurring exercise . And they always involve a big committee of some sort, or broad community involvement.
        UO’s appears to be here, 3 yrs old [ https://provost.uoregon.edu/files/strategic_framework_-_final_w_memo_and_app.pdf.

        Actually I thought UO’s call for faculty suggestions for possible cluster hires , and the follow up decisions to go in certain directions was quite sensible. Clearly builds on existing strengths.

        perhaps UOM could tell the community what the UO president meant by jewels?

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        • Dog says:

          I was a member of some cluster hire searches
          I would say some success was achieved here
          although the cluster hires were never correctly
          funded in terms of needed infrastructure and
          startup costs

          Nonetheless, they did represent some reasonable
          sort of vision

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  16. Seriously? says:

    Not surprisingly insulting. Schill is so offensive. He routinely vilifies anyone who does not tow his line. Sound familiar…maybe like our current White House occupant? The similarities between Schill’s and Trump’s methods of doing business and treating staff are monumentally similar. Are we really OK with this?

    Why aren’t more people asking why in one single academic year the deans from the two largest colleges AND the provost have all quit their jobs?

    Hello Board of Trustees!! Maybe the problem lies at the top. You know, with the guy who seemed so shocked about the announced budget deficit, something that was so very, very easy to predict. Though, it does require getting your head out of your a**.

    But, those new shiny faculty members are worth so much more than the rest of us dregs.

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    • uomatters says:

      Uh, maybe your Schill/Trump analogy is just slightly over the top.

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  17. Anonymous says:

    If defining a vision for CAS is the task, then a different committee should have been put together. There is almost no representation of the natural sciences in this committee.
    This sounds like bs.

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