Influential UO neuroscientist Helen Neville dies

In her sleep last night, at home, surrounded by her family, at the age of 72, after a very full life. The link to her Brain Development Lab is here:

Helen Neville uses psychophysical, electrophysiological (ERP), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to study the development and plasticity of the human brain. Over the course of this research, her lab has observed that different brain systems and related functions display markedly different degrees or ‘profiles’ of neuroplasticity. Guided by these findings, she is conducting a program of research on the effects of different types of training on brain development and cognition on typically developing children and parents living in poverty. These studies will contribute to a basic understanding of the nature and mechanisms of human brain plasticity, as well as contribute to the design and implementation of educational programs especially those that close the inequality between lower and higher socioeconomic status.

Neville has published in many books and journals including Nature, Nature Neuroscience, Journal of Neuroscience, Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, Cerebral Cortex, and Brain Research. She has received numerous honors including election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Fondation Ipsen Neuronal Plasticity Prize, Transforming Education through Neuroscience Award (IMBES), Hebb Lecturer, Dalhousie University, Honorary Degree, Georgetown University, William James Fellow Award (APS) and the National Academy of Science Award. She is a member of the Board of Governors of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, the Academic Panel of Birth to Three, and is active in many educational outreach programs.  Her DVD on brain development and neuroplasticity for non-brain scientists:  changingbrains.org.

 Helen was a friend, and a supporter of SAIL from the moment she first heard about it, organizing and funding our second camp in 2008. The psychology department held a retirement celebration for her this May with her students, family, and colleagues from around the world – although she refused to let anyone use the word retirement in her presence.

Portland Community College adopts sensible PERS reform

Ted Sickinger has the report here on PCC’s plan to borrow $200M to use to pay its PERS tab. The bonds will go on sale soon.

While this is portrayed as a bet that stock-market returns will exceed the interest rates on the bonds (and it is) as Sickinger explains it also will give PCC access to some money up front and mitigate the effect of the PERS board’s obsessive desire to get PERS to 100% funding ASAP, regardless of what it costs current taxpayers, workers, and students.

A more economically rational approach would be for PERS to convert to a partly-funded partly pay-as-you go pension scheme, and make it explicit that we expect that a more populous and richer future Oregon will have the resources to pay the retirement benefits of its workers.

This is the decision that most other states have made, generally on a de facto basis. Of course such an approach is opposed by those who are impatient to shrink the size of government right now by increasing the cost of having state employees, and those who earn their living trading stocks and bonds on Wall Street.

Unfortunately, it seems that PCC’s sensible workaround is unavailable to UO, because while PCC has its own PERS account, we are part of a larger state agency account. So UO’s current employees will continue to see downward pressure on their wages, and students will see higher tuition, as the cost of getting PERS to that magic 100% increases.

Rape, academic fraud, cover-up allegations rock Duck football program

The Washington Post has the scoop. Some excerpts:

A police investigation into complaints by more than 20 women that they were forced to commit a variety of sexual acts with University of Oregon football players over the past two years has led to open warfare, with the chief of police here accusing the university of impeding the probe. …

In what has become almost a case study of big-time college sports program run amok, the record at Oregon over the last year also includes bogus academic credits, an illegal travel fund and a credit card scheme in which thousands of dollars of long distance telephone calls were made illegally with a university credit card.

Eight of the women, contacted independently by representatives of The Washington Post, described the incidents in which they said they were forced to commit sexual acts with one or more football players and their reasons for failing to report the incidents promptly. “I was scared he would kill me. I know he would have hurt me,” said one of the women. Another said she received threatening telephone calls warning her against testifying before the grand jury investigating the complaints.

“I will never understand,” said [the Eugene Police Chief], “why a member of the University of Oregon athletic department, when he became aware of the alleged sex offenses, felt no moral or ethical obligation to inform any law enforcement agency nor to encourage the alleged victims to do so.

.. “Anything written on the allegations puts the entire team in a poor light at this time,” [the football coach] said last spring. “You’re not dealing with facts. It imperils the integrity of the whole football team.” University officials admit the controversy has helped undermine public confidence in the academic integrity of the institution, one of the more prestigious schools in the Pacific Northwest. In the wake of the disclosures, administrators say they are reappraising the role of athletics in an academic environment.

In response to the bogus credit disclosures, the university decided to conduct its own investigation of the athletic department, assigning law professor Peter Swan to examine department records.

… “I think some of our coaches were affected with misguided loyalties,” said Swan. “The values they have been immersed in for most of their participating and coaching lives are markedly different from the values that the people in the English department, the law school or the history department might have.

“They work harder than hell and they’re great guys. But they operate under extreme pressure and they come from an environment that is different from what other people in the university might have. When college sports crossed over the line from athletics to entertainment, then it began borrowing values from the world of professional sports.”

Lane County District Attorney Pat Horton … contends that the assaults are being downplayed by the university and the local press in order to protect the reputation of the city and the university. “I’m tired of hearing about the ‘poor athletes, poor coaches, poor fans,'” says Horton. “What about the poor victims. Nobody has any sympathy for them.

“I get supporters of the team telling me I should lay off. But if one of their daughters came home and said, ‘Daddy, four football players broke into my room and raped me. Daddy, I need a psychologist now. And Daddy, I’m dropping out of school.’ Daddy wouldn’t be telling me to lay off. He’d be down here pounding on my desk shouting for justice.”

In the wake of almost a year of controversy, Oregon, like other institutions, is reassessing the role of athletics and the premium placed on winning.

Sure we are. The Washington Post published this story in 1980.

UO administration removes CO2 Divest banner from Johnson Hall bush

10/10/2018: Reposted for the historical record.

When you’re running down our First Amendment, you’re walking on the fightin side of me:

4/6/2016 update: The day Merle Haggard died? Have our administrators no sense of patriotism? Or irony? More on the troubling response from the UO Foundation CIO here.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 2.12.08 PM

 

3/29/2016 update: Press Conference on the Johnson Hall steps, Facebook event page here.

Our students have been conducting a quiet CO2 Divestment sit-in the Johnson Hall lobby for months. The administration has banned their banner from the bush outside JH, and now the students are apparently going to reassert their free-speech rights.

Do they have the right to put up the banner? I’m no lawyer, but here’s some UO history. Back in 2010, former UO GC Randy Geller wanted to change UO policy to implement “Free Speech Zones”, outside of which First Amendment rights would be tightly controlled. This was in reaction to the Pacifica Forum incidents. Geller’s policy starts on page 13 here. It’s funnier than Animal Farm.

Free speech is indispensable, but:

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 3.13.24 PM

UO will restrict Free Speech, except inside the Free Speech Zones, and even then you’ll need insurance and maybe a reservation:

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 3.13.49 PM

No unapproved banners outside free speech zones – and don’t even think about posting the video on the internets:

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 3.14.22 PM

Oh yeah, no camping or chalk either. Chalk? What’s that about?

All of Geller’s silly language above was rejected by the UO Senate and it is not UO policy. 

The Facilities Use Policy that was adopted instead is at http://policies.uoregon.edu/policy/by/1/04-facilities/facilities-scheduling. It turned Geller’s policy on its ass, by limiting the areas UO can control to buildings and “scheduled outdoor spaces” i.e. the EMU amphitheater. The Senate rejected all of Geller’s anti-free speech, anti-banner, and anti-chalk language.

The Facilities Use policy is paired with the powerful Free Speech and Inquiry policy, at http://policies.uoregon.edu/policy/by/1/01-administration-and-governance/freedom-inquiry-and-free-speech:

Free speech is central to the academic mission and is the central tenet of a free and democratic society. The University encourages and supports open, vigorous, and challenging debate across the full spectrum of human issues as they present themselves to this community. Further, as a public institution, the University will sustain a higher and more open standard for freedom of inquiry and free speech than may be expected or preferred in private settings.

How much clearer could this be? It’s not like the CO2 Divestment students are doing anything reprehensible, like using chalk.

3/13/2016: UO bans students’ fossil fuel divestment banner from a bush? Continue reading

Faculty Club Week II

Dear Colleagues,

Come on out to the Faculty Club this week–we’re open Wednesday and Thursday from 5 to 8:00.

It’s always fun & easy to pair JSMA events with a visit to the Faculty Club.  Wednesday our colleague Ina Asim (History) is giving a 5:30 talk right upstairs in the JSMA galleries, on “Reflections of the Cosmic Web: Intricate Patterns in Daoist Art.”  Drop in for a cosmic drink before or afterwards.  And later on, at 7:00 Wednesday, the Schnitzer Cinema series will be showing “Saving Brinton,” an intriguing film about the discovery (in an Iowa farmhouse basement) of a trove of early motion pictures, including “rare footage of Teddy Roosevelt, the first moving images from Burma, and a lost relic from special effects inventor Georges Méliés.”

Thursday we officially welcome new faculty with a ceremonial induction into the membership of the Faculty Club.  No, just kidding, there will be no ritual (and everyone’s automatically a member), but we will toast our new colleagues and briefly introduce each one.  Come and meet the rising stars of the UO!

Yours, James Harper
Chair of the Faculty Club Board

+++++++++++++++++++++++

WHO: The UO Faculty Club is open to all UO faculty—tenure-track faculty, non-tenure-track faculty, library faculty, and OAs tenured in an academic department, as well as people retired from positions in these categories.  Eligible people may bring any guests they like.

WHAT: Cash Bar with beer, wine, liquor and non-alcoholic beverages; complimentary hors d’oeuvres.

WHERE: The Faculty Club meets in a designated room on the ground floor of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.  Enter at the museum’s main entrance and turn right; the club room is right off the lobby.

WHEN: Wednesdays & Thursdays 5:00-8:00 pm.  We will meet through the last week of classes in Fall Term (i.e. through November 29); activity will resume in the Winter and Spring terms.

FURTHER INFORMATION: Faculty Club Board Chair James Harper (Dept. of the History of Art and Architecture), harperj@uoregon.edu

Tracktown / Oregon21 replaces Vin Lananna with Niels De Vos as head of IAAF 2021 championship

What news from England?

De Vos has been chief executive since 2007 and at one stage was credited with modernising UKA and building the long-term partnership with sportswear giants Nike.

But with attendances down at major British athletics events, sponsorship revenue proving difficult to generate and the athletics World Cup in London this year considered something of a disaster – it was a project masterminded by De Vos that was held the same weekend as the Wimbledon finals and the FIFA World Cup final – the national governing body is widely thought to be underperforming commercially.

The latest UKA accounts are due next month, with De Vos’s salary in the region of £300,000 a year.

Ken Goe has more in the Oregonian here:

Former UK Athletics chief executive Niels de Vos has been appointed to head Oregon21, the Eugene-based organizing committee planning the 2021 World Outdoor Track & Field Championships at the rebuilt Hayward Field in Eugene….

Paul Weinhold, board chairman for Oregon 21, said in a prepared statement: “Niels has an impressive career serving as an executive of multiple sporting events at the international level … and has a demonstrated record of accountability that we expect for the management of this event.”

Wait a minute – UO Foundation CEO Paul Weinhold is now also chairman of Oregon 21? Seems like a potential conflict of interest and commitment. Perhaps their Chief Operating Officer/Chief Compliance Officer Erika Funk will look into it. Except that she left without explanation earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Oregon 21 has still not complied with the terms of their proposed contract with Travel Oregon for a $10M subsidy in state hotel tax money:

On WednesdaySep 5, 2018, at 8:53 AM, Linea Gagliano <linea@traveloregon.com> wrote:

Professor Harbaugh,

Attached is the Large Grant agreement we provided to Oregon21 on August 24.  We have not received a budget for the uses of these Grant funds other than as provided in the OR21 application materials, but you’ll note that Exhibit B requires Sources and Uses of Grant Funding information. Oregon21 will be required to provide the information for that Exhibit prior to full execution and distribution of any grant funds.

Thank you!

Linea Gagliano | Director, Global Communications

And:

On Thursday Sep 27, 2018, at 3:40 PM, Jeff Hampton <jeff@traveloregon.com> wrote:

Professor Harbaugh,

Oregon 21 has not returned a signed contract to us.

Jeff Hampton, Travel Oregon

The sticking point seems to be the requirement that Oregon 21 provides an actual budget explaining how they will spend the state’s money, and the Oregon Department of Justice’s insistence on this standard contract clause:

Full doc here. I wonder if Travel Oregon’s legal fees are part of the $10M, or on top of it.

FAR Tim Gleason warns faculty about violating the NCAA cartel rules

You’d think a grown man like Gleason would have better things to do with his time, but apparently not. Presumably this comes out of this alleged track and field violation. No word yet on how much UO paid its outside lawyers to handle this, but rumor has it that the academic side will foot the bill.

And how’s this for self-contradiction:

“Athletic eligibility may never be a factor in any academic decision.”

“In classes with substantial class participation, project or lab work, appropriate accommodations may not be possible. In those instances, the student-athlete should be informed that the course is not a good fit in a term with significant travel.”

——————————

To:     UO Faculty
From:   Intercollegiate Athletic Advisory Committee (IAAC)
RE:       NCAA Academic Misconduct and Academic Extra Benefits

Student-athletes at the University of Oregon (UO) and all other member universities in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) are required to follow a number of rules and regulations that may not apply to other students. While most NCAA rules do not involve faculty in any significant way, the current rules concerning “academic misconduct” and “academic extra benefits” create the real potential for faculty to unintentionally contribute to violations that could jeopardize a student-athlete’s athletic career and result in sanctions against the university and athletic department coaches and staff.

In this memo, the IAAC briefly details these regulations and provides guidance concerning compliance with them. Please note that this information is shared with a full commitment to academic freedom and to the academic integrity of the University of Oregon. If you have questions now or later, please contact Tim Gleason, the UO Faculty Athletics Representative.

Academic Extra Benefits
Under NCAA rules, an academic extra benefit is “[s]ubstantial assistance or the granting of an exception that is not generally available to an institution’s students, which results in the certification of a student-athlete’s eligibility to participate in intercollegiate athletics or receive financial aid.”  A recent rule change extended the application of this rule to all university faculty, staff, and student employees. It is now possible for a university employee with good intentions and no connection to the athletic department to provide a student-athlete with an impermissible academic extra benefit.

There are two “bright lines” to keep in mind concerning academic extra benefits:

  1. Student-athletes may not be given special treatment simply because they are student-athletes.If you are considering an accommodation for a student-athlete and you have not offered and would not offer the same or a similar accommodation to another student, you should not offer it to a student-athlete.
  2. Athletic eligibility may never be a factor in any academic decision. If a student-athlete says that he or she needs to earn a certain grade to be eligible to compete, please inform the student-athlete that you cannot consider athletic eligibility in any decision.

Areas of special concern:

Academic Misconduct

At the UO, “‘Academic Misconduct’ means the violation of university policies involving academic integrity.” Examples include: intentional tampering with grades, resubmitting assignments for more than one class without the permission of the professor; intentionally taking part in obtaining or distributing any part of a test that has not been administered; cheating; plagiarism; knowingly furnishing false information to a university official; and fabrication.

While academic misconduct at the UO primarily focuses on student behaviors, it is possible that an instructor of record who engaged in fraudulent behavior, such as intentionally awarding a false grade or giving credit to a student based on the work of others in order to protect athletic eligibility, would be in violation of university policy. Such behavior may also be viewed as academic misconduct under NCAA rules.

In addition, it is possible for an instructor of record to unintentionally violate the NCAA’s impermissible academic extra benefits rules. There is a real potential for an NCAA violation that could result in sanctions for the university if, for example, an instructor of record knowingly or unknowingly failed to follow university policies concerning grading or believed that a student had violated the academic integrity provisions of the student conduct code and failed to follow university policies for reporting violations.

Student-athlete travel and class attendance/participation
Team travel will result in student-athletes missing classes in terms when their sport is in season. Because they are traveling for university-sponsored activities, faculty are strongly encouraged to make pedagogically sound and justifiable accommodations that will enable the student-athletes to be successful in the classroom, just as we would encourage such accommodations for other students traveling on university-sponsored activities. However, this request has limits and conditions:

  • Student-athletes are given a letter to share with instructors at the beginning of every term that reports when they will be traveling. It is the student-athlete’s responsibility to share this letter with his or her instructors and to discuss travel conflicts in time to arrange for appropriate accommodations.
  • In classes with substantial class participation, project or lab work, appropriate accommodations may not be possible. In those instances, the student-athlete should be informed that the course is not a good fit in a term with significant travel. Under no circumstances should the instructor offer an accommodation that is pedagogically unsound or that would be unavailable to other students.

Late Assignments
Student-athletes have very demanding schedules as they juggle athletic and academic demands. They are, of course, not unique on today’s college campuses. Many students are juggling competing demands. Student-athletes should be held to the same standards as other students who have professional or family obligations or who are traveling on university business.

Grade Changes
Any grade change for a student-athlete must be based on consistent criteria applied to all students in a class and should follow the guidelines and procedures for such grade changes published by the registrar.

——————————

Dear UO Faculty and Staff,

I am sending along an important memorandum to you that was written by members of the University of Oregon’s Intercollegiate Athletic Advisory Committee about NCAA rules as they pertain to academic misconduct and academic extra benefits for student-athletes.

While most NCAA rules do not involve faculty, the IAAC wants to make sure our faculty understand how these two areas can impact decisions you might make regarding the treatment of student athletes. Please take the time to read this important memo. If you have any questions, please contact Tim Gleason, the university’s Faculty Athletics Representative.

Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,
Jayanth Banavar
Provost and Senior Vice President

Trump travel ban affects UO students

Brad Moore has the report in the Emerald here:

… The executive order forbids nationals from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen from entering the U.S.

According to Dennis Galvan, UO vice provost for International Affairs, there are approximately three to four dozen students at the UO from these countries.

The level of travel restrictions varies for each country on the list, ranging from banning all nationals — as is the case for North Korea and Syria — to only banning certain members of government, as is the case for Venezuela.

Although the ban is aimed at barring entry for people the Trump administration deems security threats, it often prevents travel to and from the U.S. for people who pose no threat, including some students, according to Galvan.

“The actual impact of the legally, narrowly constructed ban is one thing, and the chilling effect is another thing,” said Galvan. …

Heavily subsidized Duck Athletic program paid $3M for body-bag games

Henry Houston has the report in the Eugene Weekly:

UO spent more than any other Pac-12 college team this year for its nonconference schedule — sometimes scornfully called “body-bag” games because of the mismatch between teams. Bowling Green received $900,000, Portland State received $500,000 and San José State received $1.6 million, according to contracts obtained by Eugene Weekly. …

The high cost was an aberration of scheduling, says Eric Roedl, deputy athletic director at UO.

Originally, the UO was planning on playing Texas A&M instead of San José State, but a clause in that agreement allowed Texas A&M to back out if it left its football conference. In 2011, Texas A&M announced it would leave the Big 12 conference for Southeastern Conference. The university voided its contract with UO in 2016, Roedl says.

Other contracts obtained by EW have a penalty clause if the game is canceled. Texas A&M didn’t have one.

“It was a unique agreement,” Roedl adds. …

Whoops. Sounds like it’s going to be a while before the academic side can stop subsidizing them. I wonder if Roedl is going to hit up ASUO for another increase?

Faculty club is opening tonight, 5-8PM

WHO: The UO Faculty Club is open to all UO faculty—tenure-track faculty, non-tenure-track faculty, library faculty, and OAs tenured in an academic department, as well as people retired from positions in these categories.  Eligible people may bring any guests they like.

WHAT: Cash Bar with beer, wine, liquor and non-alcoholic beverages; complimentary hors d’oeuvres.

WHERE: The Faculty Club meets in a designated room on the ground floor of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.  Enter at the museum’s main entrance and turn right; the club room is right off the lobby.

WHEN: Wednesdays & Thursdays 5:00-8:00 pm.  We will meet through the last week of classes in Fall Term (i.e. through November 29); activity will resume in the Winter and Spring terms.

FURTHER INFORMATION: Faculty Club Board Chair James Harper (Dept. of the History of Art and Architecture), harperj@uoregon.edu

UO Senate Agenda for Oct 3

DRAFT

Location: EMU 145 & 146 (Crater Lake rooms)
3:00 – 5:00 P.M.

3:00 P.M.   Call to Order

  • Introductory Remarks; Senate President Bill Harbaugh
  • Remarks; Senate Vice President Elizabeth Skowron
  • Remarks; Provost Banavar
  • Remarks; Bob Guldberg (Knight Campus)

3:40 P.M.  Votes

3:45 P.M.   New Business

Discussion of upcoming policies, discussions and issues for fall quarter

4:45 P.M.    Open Discussion
4:50 P.M.   Reports

  • Status of committee reports and where to find them

4:55 P.M.   Notice(s) of Motion

4:56 P.M.   Other Business

  • Senate Retreat: October 31, 20185:00 P.M.   Adjourn

Good for Dana Altman! Federal prosecutors say Oregon, Creighton basketball programs may have paid recruits

Finally! I for one have been disturbed by the fact that he hasn’t come up in this investigation earlier. Surely a successful recruiter and coach like Dana Altman has figured out a way to pass at least a dribble of the millions UO pays him on to his volunteer “student-athletes”. Surely Oregon isn’t the only school where greedy coaches are able to keep all the NCAA cartel’s profits for themselves!

While the latest report is far from conclusive proof that Altman has been doing the right thing and sharing with his players, the latest news is good. Jeff Manning has the story in the Oregonian here:

Federal prosecutors in the basketball corruption trial that began Monday in New York reportedly told prospective jurors that 12 colleges could come up during the proceedings — the University of Oregon among them.

As first reported by Yahoo Sports, prosecutors wanted to disqualify any potential juror whose allegiance to a school might make them less than impartial. An Oregon-based Adidas executive and two others are accused of paying talented prep players to steer them to certain universities. …

But wait, there’s more. Oregonian reporter James Crepea:

The attorney for Adidas executive Jim Gatto claimed Oregon offered “an astronomical amount of money” in its recruitment of Brian Bowen before he signed with Louisville.

Gatto’s attorney, Casey Donnelly, made the remark, according to numerous reporters, during her opening statement in his trial, which began in the Southern District of New York on Tuesday. …

President Schill’s “Open Mike” addresses centralization goals

Dear University of Oregon community members,

When I arrived at the University of Oregon in 2015, I heard the same clear and overwhelming message from virtually every constituency I met with: the university needed strong, decisive, and consistent leadership from Johnson Hall. The faculty, staff, and alumni, along with our Board of Trustees, were not satisfied with the UO being known more for athletics and a recent incident involving sexual violence than our academics. These internal concerns were reinforced by an article published in the Chronicle of Higher Education my first year which pointedly bore the headline “An Academic Reputation at Risk.” The message was clear: we needed to focus on building excellence, which included both a greater emphasis on academic research and helping our students learn, graduate, and move on to successful and fulfilling careers—and we needed to do it right away.

After years of changes in our executive leadership and governance, our community was hungry for progress, but a simple question demonstrated the challenges that would need to be overcome in order to move the institution forward in a meaningful way. I had not even unpacked my boxes when I asked how many faculty members would we have in September. As it turns out, at the time no one kept that data in the central administration. To make matters worse, we didn’t have the ability, for a variety of reasons, to get the data in real time from individual academic units. My question and its answer, which encapsulated one of our greatest challenges, were just the first of many illustrations of the extraordinary decentralization of the University of Oregon circa 2015.

I asked more and more questions, and learned that five of our eight schools and colleges were spending more each year than they were taking in. I learned that, although some departments were experiencing significant drops in student demand, they continued hiring more teachers, all without oversight by Johnson Hall. Schools and departments spent millions of dollars on duplicative computer systems that did not speak to each other. Even more worrisome, those duplicative computer systems operated on an antiquated internet backbone that was in danger of collapse and which conveyed data at speeds so slow that it was faster for scientists to drive hard disks in their cars between Eugene and Portland than utilize our networks. For a rich university, this type of wasteful behavior might be a sustainable, albeit indefensible, use of resources. But not at the UO, where state funding regularly ranks among the lowest of its peer group.

We have taken a number of steps over the past three years to address some of those challenges and to make sure that we create a culture of transparency, efficiency, and accountability at the university. For example, we now have current information on faculty members, student credit hours, and faculty workloads down to the departmental level. This information is now available online. We also have developed a centralized and transparent process for determining tenure-related hiring. Rather than having academic departments fill slots each year based on who has retired or left the university, they make recommendations to their deans, who then make recommendations to the provost based on an assessment of overall needs in their schools and colleges. Following a collaborative discussion among all deans and a committee of senior faculty members informed by data on operational and mission metrics, the provost publishes a plan authorizing searches for all to see.

In terms of the budget, we have sought to ameliorate the havoc that changes in student demand and state retirement and health-care costs have had on our academic departments by changing our financial model. Rather than continue the old practice of tuition following student enrollments, with all costs for faculty and administration picked up by the schools and colleges, we created a new system in which we pay for all tenure-related faculty members centrally and make budgetary allocations to schools and colleges for the rest.

We have also taken steps to realign some administrative services. For example, rather than every administrative unit having its own independent communications staff, we have tried to improve collaboration and coordination and achieve economies of scale by moving to an integrated model. We have begun rationalizing IT services throughout the university to achieve better and more reliable service, greater data security, and hopefully some economies of scale. Most recently, we have realigned development staff to better meet the fundraising needs of the university. In the campaign extension, which I announced last week, 45 percent of the fundraising will be done centrally, largely out of the president’s office. At present, however, only 16 percent of the fundraisers report centrally. Obviously, some realignment of resources is necessary for us to be successful in raising money for university-wide priorities such as student advising, need-based scholarships, a new classroom building tentatively dedicated to environmental sustainability, and research initiatives.
When taken together, many of the changes we have made are quite significant, particularly in light of the historically decentralized nature of our university. While all of the practices we adopted exist among many of our peer universities, there is no denying that the results have been jarring for some members of our community. Indeed, some have talked about the “centralization” of authority in a way that suggests a zero-sum game—increased authority in Johnson Hall must necessarily come at the expense of our colleges, schools, and departments. I fundamentally do not see it that way.

I served as a dean for 11 years at two different universities prior to becoming president of the UO. For good or ill, I always try to view campus decision-making through my current lens as president as well as from the perspective of a dean or faculty member. To be candid, if I were wearing my dean hat, I would have mixed feelings about some of the changes we have made at the UO. I would greatly appreciate that the financial risk for tenure-related faculty members and their benefits has been lifted from my shoulders. I would also be relieved that the revenue of my college or school wasn’t solely determined by the course choices of undergraduate students. And, if my own and my faculty’s priorities aligned with central priorities, I would be delighted to participate in university-wide initiatives. On the other hand, I might not like the fact that the provost could second-guess my budgetary decisions. I would be frustrated that some services I consume would no longer be under my direct control. And, if my school or college’s programs did not align with central academic priorities, then I think I would feel left out or pressured to find ways to align. I also probably would not love being held accountable for a set of metrics that I approved, but perhaps never wanted.

A more robust role for the president and provost in academic matters might also implicate issues of shared governance. One of the great strengths of American higher education is that decision-making authority with respect to academic matters is shared among the faculty, deans, the president, and the provost. This is the way it should be. Curricular decisions, degree requirements, faculty qualifications, tenure decisions, and similar matters should require faculty approval. Similarly, research and creative work are not done by administrators; they are undertaken by academic faculty members and judged through peer review. Many folks outside academia are critical of shared governance and express frustration with the slow pace of change it often fosters. Nevertheless, I remain firm in my belief that this is the best system I know of to promote the creation of knowledge and its transmission to future generations, and I will work hard to make it more effective at the UO.

I am comfortable that the greater role Provost Jayanth Banavar and I are playing in our university is consistent with our joint commitment to shared governance and the appropriate role of faculty members as custodians of the institution’s academic mission. Each major initiative we have undertaken—whether it be the Knight Campus or the Data Science Initiative—as well as possible future initiatives in resilience and the humanities and social sciences have been conceptualized and are governed by our faculty. Before we created the new faculty hiring process and budget allocation process, our ideas were discussed and modified after many meetings involving faculty members, deans, and members of the University Senate. And now that those procedures are in place, every faculty slot the provost approves in the Institutional Hiring Plan has been proposed by the faculty and discussed by deans and faculty members.

Of course, there is no precise formula to determine the appropriate balance of decision-making authority in a university. It is fair to write that our old, extremely decentralized model was harmful to our mission and wasteful of resources. The point of shifting some of the administrative burden to Johnson Hall is to establish the capacity to steer our university toward the goals we mutually agree to pursue and to create more bandwidth for academic leaders to attend to core local unit activities. But we need to be careful that we do not go too far and lose sight of the fact that virtually all of the important work of scholarship and education takes place outside of Johnson Hall by our exceptional faculty members in our schools and colleges. Our deans and department chairs will always play the central role in setting local academic priorities, promoting world-class research, raising funds for these purposes, and serving the educational needs of our students.

As we begin the school year, I am excited about our future. As I meet with presidents and teachers around the nation, I hear them talking about our great faculty achievements, about our research initiatives, and about our students and the education they receive. I no longer hear about an “academic reputation at risk.” As Jayanth and I, along with our deans, lead the university, I commit that we will continue to seek out and listen to the views of all relevant constituencies, including the University Senate and the ASUO. While we might not do what every person or group wants, I also commit that we will be transparent and give reasons to support our actions.

Thank you.
Michael H. Schill, President and Professor of Law