Reporting a potential violation of UO’s Academic Freedom Policy:
Pres Schill’s response to an inquiry from the Senate President and Past President:
From: Mike Schill <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Reporting a potential violation of UO’s Academic Freedom Policy
Date: May 29, 2019 at 9:35:40 AM PDT
To: Senate President <email@example.com>, Jayanth Banavar <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Kevin Reed <email@example.com>
I do not believe that there is sufficient evidence here to warrant an investigation of Kyle Henley. I have asked Kyle what he meant when he asked Dave to request that all media inquiries go to Molly Blancett. His response was that he wanted there to be a consistent response about what the provost was proposing so that rumors filled with inaccuracies didn’t spread. While the cuts we have been required to make are expressed in dollars, they will, by necessity, be felt by human beings. It is very important that accurate information be given to the media and thereby transmitted to potentially affected individuals.
I believe Kyle when he states that he never meant for this request to silence dissent on campus with respect to the wisdom or necessity of the cuts. Indeed, we have encouraged folks to give us their views even when those views have been inaccurate, insulting and/or entirely infeasible. Kyle joins me in his belief in the value of free speech and respectful, robust debate on campus, even when that speech is critical of Johnson Hall.
Kyle’s explanation rings true with me so I am rejecting your request for an investigation.
I appreciate your commitment to free speech.
Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law
University of Oregon
From: Senate President <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Reporting a potential violation of UO’s Academic Freedom Policy
Date: May 28, 2019 at 8:16:26 PM PDT
To: Mike Schill <email@example.com>, Jayanth Banavar <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Kevin Reed <email@example.com
Dear President Schill, Provost Banavar, and General Counsel Reed:
We are writing as UO Senate President and Immediate Past President, to report a potential violation of UO’s Academic Freedom Policy by VP for University Communications Kyle Henley.
UO’s Academic Freedom Policy was adopted by the UO Senate on 4/9/2014 and signed by then UO President Michael Gottfredson on 5/28/2014. The full policy is appended below.
This policy states:
“… The University of Oregon encourages and supports open, vigorous, and challenging debate across the full spectrum of human issues as they present themselves to the university community. The University of Oregon protects free speech through Policy No. 01.00.16. This policy on Academic Freedom builds on these existing commitments by recognizing the special contexts of scholarship, teaching, governance, and public service. …
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.”
The email below, sent on 4/11/2019 by the Provost’s Office Communications Director David Austin at VP for Communication Kyle Henley’s request, to Angela Wilhems, Provost Banavar, and Exec Provost Scott Pratt, directs them to email the directors of the Labor Education and Research Center, the Museum of Natural and Cultural History, and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, states
“Kyle [Henley] wants to make sure that people from these areas don’t “freelance” and talk to the media about their frustrations.”
The email goes on to tell these Directors to run media inquiries through Central Communications – meaning Mr. Henley’s office. This sort of warning to administrators not to speak freely to the press is exactly the sort restriction on academic freedom that UO’s Academic Freedom Policy is meant to prohibit. The policy says
“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.” (Emphasis added.)
Restrictions such as that imposed by this email prevent the university community and the public from obtaining accurate information about the governance of the university, and they reduce trust in the university administration. As President Schill in his 5/17/2019 “Open Mike” email put it,
“Transparency is the best policy. Whenever possible administrators should be as forthcoming as possible, subject to the privacy rights of members of our community.”
I ask you to investigate this potential violation of the Academic Freedom Policy, determine if there have been other similar violations by Central Communications, and take appropriate disciplinary actions to discourage further such violations.Bill Harbaugh
UO Econ Prof & Senate Pres
UO Math Assoc Prof & Immediate Past President of the Senate