A sad day for freedom of speech and expression at the University of Oregon

UO Law prof Ofer Raban, on the Oregonian Op-Ed page, identifying a series of problems with the investigation report commissioned by the UO general counsel’s office from Edwin A. Harnden & Shayda Z. Le of Barran Liebman, LLP, one of several firms specializing in representing employers in legal disputes that UO currently has on retainer. Here’s part of Raban’s Op-Ed:

Ofer Raban

Last week, the University of Oregon released and officially adopted a legal report regarding a law professor who donned a Halloween costume representing an African-American doctor. University leaders suspended the professor and commissioned the report from a Portland law firm, which worked under the “direction and guidance” of university lawyers.

The report recognized that the professor, who has a history of advocacy for minority rights, donned the costume at a party at her home in order to honor an African-American author and call attention to the scarcity of African-Americans in medical schools. The report also noted that she was genuinely shocked and surprised at the negative reactions to her costume, and promptly apologized.

But the report concluded that the costume constituted racial discrimination and harassment in violation of university rules. It goes on to claim that the professor’s expression is not shielded by university rules protecting free speech and academic freedom, nor by the Constitution’s freedom of speech.

This is a deeply flawed report, and the university has made a legal and moral mistake in adopting it.

Most astonishingly, the report fails to address the issue that makes this case so legally fraught: namely, that the costume was worn to advocate for racial equality. While the report concedes that important fact, its legal analysis fails to take it into account. For all we know, the analysis would have been the same if the professor had donned the costume at a Ku Klux Klan rally. Moreover, the report not only concludes that a costume intended to advocate for racial equality constitutes racial discrimination, but also makes no attempt to justify this counterintuitive conclusion. Whatever one thinks of that question, the failure to address it is preposterous.

As for the freedom of speech, the report recognizes that the professor’s expression regarded a matter of “public concern,” which the First Amendment guards with particular rigor. But it then concludes that the university’s interest in preventing disruption to its educational operations outweighs the professor’s rights of free speech and academic freedom.

In another bizarre omission, the report fails to mention or analyze the Oregon Constitution’s free speech provision, which Oregon courts ordinarily address even before the First Amendment since it provides greater free speech protections.

… Whatever the reason for administrators’ responses, let’s not forget what’s at stake in this sordid affair. According to the university, a professor is guilty of racial discrimination and harassment for donning a costume that sought to advocate for racial equality. And that act of political expression is not protected by the rights to free speech nor by academic freedom.

This is a sad day for the freedom of speech and expression at the University of Oregon.

Ofer Raban is a professor of law at the University of Oregon.

$5.7M more pork for stingy Ducks

The Duck coaches, that is. The NCAA’s student-athletes get unpaid internships with brain damage. Kenny Jacoby has the latest in the Emerald here. And those coaches aren’t using those millions to pay it forward when it comes to the annual University Employees Charitable Fund Drive. Just seven donations from Athletics, with two days left in the tax year. In contrast 27 librarians have donated, for a total of almost twice as much, despite their considerably lower income and marginal tax rate, hence higher after-tax cost of giving. Not that I’m an expert on the economics of charitable donations:

2012: ASUO Pres catches VP for Finance cheating students on overhead charges

12/29/2016 repost: Thought I’d celebrate the upcoming new year with some reposts from UO’s past:

4/17/2012 update: Steve Duin of the Oregonian wrote some good stuff supporting Lariviere’s New Partnership. But he’s not so happy with UO on this issue and has some great quotes.

4/17/2012: The short version: UO’s VP for Finance Frances Dyke raised student overhead to cover a subsidy for the jocks, got caught by student government president Ben Eckstein, and the new VP Jamie Moffitt had to repay the students.

This Becky Metrick story in the ODE explains part of the story:

“At the end of last year, we had a 5 percent assessment rate. There was a discussion that the rate was actually going to be 6, percent but there were people who weren’t in agreement with that,” Eckstein said. As a part of the change, he hoped to be assessed differently than the rest of the campus groups. “In the process of those negotiations, it came to my attention that we had been overcharged by 1 percent this year.”

so,

The difference between the original 6% rate and the updated 5% rate for this year that will now accrue back to the ASUO

6% X 13,217,538 = $793,052
5% X 13,217,538 = $660,877

Difference:  $793,052 – $660,877 = $132,175

Which UO’s new VPFA/CFO Jamie Moffitt had to repay back to the students. This all came to light during an effort started by the Senate IAC to understand how much the academic side was subsidizing UO sports. OUS rules require that “auxiliary enterprises” pay overhead to the institutions:

As Laura Hubbard, associate VP for Budget & Finance, noted at the time, those changes were necessary to meet Oregon University System “guiding principles” in allowing indirect costs that are “reasonable, properly allocable, auditable and applied consistently across campus.”

The assessment on the student government ASUO expenditures (Incidental Fees) has been increasing from 2% to 7%. Athletics pays 3%, nominally. Their effective rate is more like 2%, because many of their expenditures are exempt.



Steve Duin’s column in the Oregonian
in November covered the basics of how athletic’s low rate was the result of a secret deal between Frohnmayer and Kilkenny, signed two weeks before Frohnmayer retired. That contract is here and is full of unusual things, amounting to several million dollars in subsidies for athletics. The overhead rate is a clear violation of OUS rules. I wonder what Frohnmayer got in return for signing it? It was so secret even UO’s VP for Finance Frances Dyke never saw it – or so she claims.

Jamie Moffitt had been in charge of athletic department finances, presumably she knew. But now that she’s the new CFO she needs to redo the overhead rate setting process to try and follow the OUS rules that rates be “reasonable, properly allocable, auditable and applied consistently across campus.”  I love that word “auditable”.

So, I wonder if Moffitt will include the athletic department’s unusually high legal costs, set-asides for future MTBI liabilities, their portion of public records costs, legal costs, Johnson Hall time, the $200,000 or so for NCAA representative Jim O’Fallon’s salary and office costs, the $2 million jock box subsidy, and a fair proportion of the $1.6 million UO Police budget increases in her calculations?

Orthodoxy & threat of institutional punishment is what the UO is now about

UO President Michael Schill is a former UCLA law school dean. UO General Counsel Kevin Reed is a former UCLA general counsel. Eugene Volokh is a rather well known UCLA law professor, whom Reed has asked for advice on the proposed TPM free speech restrictions. Quoting from Volokh’s UCLA webpage:

Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, tort law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, and a First Amendment amicus brief clinic at UCLA School of Law, where he has also often taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy. Before coming to UCLA, he clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court and for Judge Alex Kozinski on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Volokh is the author of the textbooks The First Amendment and Related Statutes (5th ed. 2013), The Religion Clauses and Related Statutes (2005), and Academic Legal Writing (4th ed. 2010), as well as over 75 law review articles and over 80 op-eds, listed below. He is a member of The American Law Institute, a member of the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel, and the founder and coauthor of The Volokh Conspiracy, a Weblog that gets about 35-40,000 pageviews per weekday. He is among the five most cited then-under-45 faculty members listed in the Top 25 Law Faculties in Scholarly Impact, 2005-2009 study, and among the forty most cited faculty members on that list without regard to age. …

Here is the start of his column in the Washington Post today on the UO administration’s decision that UO law professor Nancy Shurtz’s stupid and offensive halloween costume “and its resulting impact on students in the law school and university outweighed free speech protections provided under the Constitution and our school’s academic freedom policies.”

1. Last week, the University of Oregon made clear to its faculty: If you say things about race, sexual orientation, sex, religion and so on that enough people find offensive, you could get suspended (and, following the logic of the analysis) even fired. This can happen even to tenured faculty members; even more clearly, it can happen to anyone else. It’s not limited to personal insults. It’s not limited to deliberate racism or bigotry.

This time it involved someone making herself up as a black man at a costume party (as it happens, doing so in order to try to send an antiracist message). But according to the university’s logic, a faculty member could be disciplined for displaying the Mohammed cartoons, if it caused enough of a furor. Or a faculty member could be disciplined for suggesting that homosexuality may be immoral or dangerous. Or for stating that biological males who view themselves as female should be viewed as men, not as women. Or for suggesting that there are, on average, biological differences in temperament or talents between men and women.

All such speech at the University of Oregon will risk your being suspended or perhaps even worse. Orthodoxy, enforced on threat of institutional punishment, is what the University of Oregon is now about. …

Read it all here.

Update: Two more Helfrich players were banned from campus, news of alleged assaults hidden from campus

12/24/2016: The efforts by Duck PR flacks Dave Williford & Craig Pintens to get the Daily Emerald sports reporters to stop covering these assaults have backfired. Kenny Jacoby has the latest violence in the Daily Emerald. It looks like the UO administration kept the alleged sexual assault(s) hidden from campus for about 2 months:

Oregon wide receiver Tristen Wallace is under criminal investigation by the University of Oregon Police Department and is being investigated by UO for a student conduct code violation, the Emerald has learned.

The Oregonian’s Andrew Greif later reported that Wallace — along with freshman linebacker Darrian Franklin — have been barred from campus in connection with a sexual assault allegation.

“However, in early October the university’s Office of the Dean of Students restricted both players from all UO property, which includes any athletic facilities, and UO police interviewed Wallace as part of its investigation, according to a source with knowledge of the meeting. Horace Raymond, an Oregon assistant athletic director for player development, was present during the interview, according to the source.

Neither Franklin nor Wallace could be reached for comment. Both remain listed on the team’s online roster.”

The Emerald on Wednesday requested through UO to learn the outcome of a disciplinary proceeding regarding a violent crime allegedly committed by Wallace. UO spokeswoman Emily Halnon confirmed that the UO’s student conduct code investigation of Wallace is ongoing and was not at liberty to provide additional information.

Wallace has been under criminal investigation by UOPD since at least Nov. 23, when UOPD spokesman Kelly McIver first confirmed to the Emerald that the case involving Wallace was open and active. McIver confirmed on Dec. 21 that the case remains open and active; he was unable to provide further details because UOPD’s investigation of Wallace is also ongoing.

I’ve lost track of how many Ducks are now under investigation for sexual assault, etc. Still on the UO payroll. Helfrich that is, the NCAA cartel makes sure the players get paid nothing, of course.

12/20/2016: Big-time Duck sports brings UO more of that publicity money just can’t buy, right in the middle of the college application season:

and  have the latest in the Emerald:

Former Oregon linebacker Torrodney Prevot has been suspended from the University of Oregon for two years, UO spokesman Tobin Klinger confirmed Tuesday afternoon.

According to Klinger, Prevot was found responsible for a “serious violation” of the student conduct code pertaining to domestic violence and gender-based harassment. As a result, Prevot will not be eligible to receive his degree until he serves the term of his suspension, Klinger said.

This information contradicts a tweet Prevot sent on Dec. 19 saying that he had earned his degree from UO and would now attempt to graduate transfer to another college to continue his football career.

Prevot, a senior, had been suspended indefinitely from the football team for a violation of the university and Department of Athletics codes of conduct on Aug. 26, prior to the start of the 2016 regular season. Then-head coach Mark Helfrich made the announcement the same day the Emerald reported that Prevot was under criminal investigation by Eugene Police and that the matter was referred to EPD’s Violent Crimes Unit. A former UO athlete had told the Emerald she filed a complaint to EPD alleging Prevot physically assaulted her twice earlier in the year.

When the Emerald first reported the story, Klinger was not able to provide details, citing the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. He said all allegations involving “dating violence” are handled through the Title IX Office. …

In totally unrelated news, parents are not sending us as many students as we need to pay the bills.

UO Law Prof not impressed by UO’s expensive lawyers

Diane Dietz has the latest in the RG:

STATEMENT FROM UO LAW PROFESSOR NANCY SHURTZ REGARDING IMPROPER RELEASE OF INFORMATION CONCERNING AN INTERNAL INVESTIGATION ABOUT A HALLOWEEN PARTY HOSTED IN HER HOME

On Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016, the University of Oregon improperly released a flawed investigative report into events surrounding a Halloween party that I hosted in my home. This release violated rights of employees to confidentiality guaranteed by law. In addition, the report contains numerous mistakes, errors and omissions that if corrected would have put matters in a different light. For example, it ignored the anonymous grading process, the presence of many non-students as guests, and the deceptive emails that created a firestorm in the law school.

I, and my legal advisers, were preparing a response to the draft report. Although the University was aware of our intention to submit our corrections by noon (local time) yesterday and to deal with its errors in-house, the Provost’s office or its advisers cynically decided to try to publicly shame me instead.

As the UO’s press release itself notes, the University is prohibited by law from disclosing personnel matters. But the press release and uncorrected Report act as a supremely public retaliation against me for seeking, even if clumsily, to raise issues of insufficient diversity in American professions. My attorney and I are evaluating our legal options.

###

(Note to reporters and editors: Pending the submittal of our comments to the UO, out of respect for all involved we will not comment any further on this ongoing process.)

UO releases report on law Prof’s “black makeup”/blackface costume

From Provost Coltrane’s letter:

… the violation and its resulting impact on students in the law school and university outweighed free speech protections provided under the Constitution and our school’s academic freedom policies.

The report on this stupid and offensive Halloween costume was finished 3 weeks ago, and is now available here. Written by hired lawyers Edwin A. Harnden & Shayda Z. Le from Barran Liebman, LLP, it concludes that Prof. Shurtz committed a violation of UO policy against racial harassment.

Obviously Harnden and Le are not in charge of deciding what is a violation of UO policy, but the administration is accepting their conclusion that this is racial harassment and that its effects on the racial climate in the law school and at UO were so egregious that she is not protected by the UO policies on academic freedom and free speech, or the Constitution’s First Amendment.

The report spends a great deal of time on the effects of the incident. Its report on the administration’s response is less thorough. It does not address the possibility that the responses of the law school administration might have been in part motivated by a desire to retaliate against Shurtz for her opposition to the reappointment of Dean Moffitt, or the possibility that the responses by the law school administration, some of its faculty, and the central administration may have escalated the situation and increased the level of racial harassment felt by students, or the harm to the law school and UO.

The letter:

Dear members of the University of Oregon campus community,

A decision by Professor Nancy Shurtz to wear a Halloween costume that included black makeup on her face and hands at a party she hosted for UO law students, former students, and faculty members forced our campus to face some very difficult truths about racism, ignorance, and the state of inclusivity on our campus. Her costume mimicked the historic stereotype of blackface, and caused offense to many who witnessed it.

Today, I write with news of the disposition of the investigation led by the UO Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity as a result of complaints made to the law school following the event at her home on October 31. The investigation into whether Professor Shurtz violated any law or university policy was conducted by the Barran Liebman LLP law firm in Portland under the direction and guidance of the AAEO office and UO general counsel Kevin Reed.

Although the findings of such investigations are not usually released, in this case the public nature of the act, the resulting public outcry, its impact on campus climate, and the fact that Professor Shurtz already released a letter that identifies herself and her intentions, the university has determined that it best serves the public interest to release a redacted version of the report. A copy has been posted online.

Though the report recognizes that Professor Shurtz did not demonstrate ill intent in her choice of costume, it concludes that her actions had a negative impact on the university’s learning environment and constituted harassment under the UO’s antidiscrimination policies. Furthermore, the report finds that pursuant to applicable legal precedent, the violation and its resulting impact on students in the law school and university outweighed free speech protections provided under the Constitution and our school’s academic freedom policies.

In all cases where the university is advised that an employee violated university policy, the matter is reviewed under the appropriate disciplinary process. I have read the report, and accept its conclusion. Any resulting disciplinary action remains confidential under university policy.

My hope is that both the law school community and the broader campus community can shift focus from Professor Shurtz to the much-needed process of healing and growth. We all need to work together to make this university one that is inclusive and welcoming to all. It is only through that process that we will ensure that similar incidents do not take place in the future.

Respectfully,

Scott Coltrane

Provost and Senior Vice President

UO faculty pay slips relative to other AAU public universities

Full professors down from 89% to 87%, Associates down from 96% to 95%, Assistants down from 95% to 94%. The union raises are due in January, but of course pay will also increase at other universities.

2014-15:

2015-16:

Obviously these numbers do not include the cost of benefits, which is unusually large at UO, in part because we are in the PEBB health insurance pool with all state employees and pay to subsidize their health care, and in part because of the legacy cost of PERS Tier 1/2. The latter cost will increase this biennium and next as the PERS board continues its insane attempt to bankrupt the state by demanding money now to fully fund the PERS system. UO will pay $10’s of millions extra each year, not just to pay the benefits of our retired workers, but to build up the PERS endowment so that those benefits can ultimately be fully paid from investment earnings.

Duck baseball coach George Horton’s porkalicious contract expires in June

Duck AD Rob Mullens has shown quite the talent for signing expensive long term contracts just before Duck coaches start to lose. But Horton peaked years ago. His players won some sort of NCAA championship in 2012, so Mullens gave him the sweetheart contract below. All downhill since. This year the Ducks aren’t even ranked in the pre-season top 40, while OSU is #5.

So it will be interesting to see how much Mullens will spend to save Pat Kilkenny’s baseball program, which is losing millions for UO. Horton’s 2012-17 contract expires in June. More on the secret deal that built Kilkenny’s PK Park here.

etc. Contract here.

 

Moneyball for professors

InsideHigherEd has a review:

Michael Lewis’s 2003 book, Moneyball — later made into a movie starring Brad Pitt — tells the story of how predictive analytics transformed the Oakland Athletics baseball team and, eventually, baseball itself. Data-based modeling has since transcended sport. It’s used in hiring investment bankers, for example. But is academe really ready for its own “moneyball moment” in terms of personnel decisions?

A group of management professors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology think so, and they’ve published a new study on a data-driven model they say is more predictive of faculty research success than traditional peer-based tenure reviews. In fact, several of the authors argue in a related essay in MIT Sloan Management Review that it’s “ironic” that “one of the places where predictive analytics hasn’t yet made substantial inroads is in the place of its birth: the halls of academia. Tenure decisions for the scholars of computer science, economics and statistics — the very pioneers of quantitative metrics and predictive analytics — are often insulated from these tools.”

… Bringing predictive analytics to any new industry means “identifying metrics that often have not received a lot of focus” and “how those metrics correlate with a measurable definition of success,” they note. In the case of academics, they say, important metrics are not just related to the impact of scholars’ past research but also details about their research partnerships and how their research complements the existing literature.

Their study, published in Operations Research, suggests that operations research scholars recommended for tenure by the new model had better future research records, on average, than those granted tenure by the tenure committees at top institutions. Defining future success as the volume and impact of a scholar’s future research, the researchers used models based on a concept called “network centrality,” measuring how connected a scholar is within networks related to success: citations, co-authorship and a combination of both. …

No news on investigation of Prof Shurtz for black Doctor costume

12/19/2016 update:

Still no update from the UO administration on Professor Shurtz’s suspension or their investigation of her. Meanwhile FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has this:

Student Cleared of Baseless Charges from Anti-Lynching Art Display

ROCK HILL, S.C., Dec. 19, 2016—A Winthrop University student was found not responsible for violating two university speech codes after her involvement with a campus anti-lynching art installation. This outcome comes six days after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) wrote to the university president to ask that the charges be dropped.

“The art display was intended to create a conversation on campus about racism and lynching and it did exactly that,” said FIRE Program Officer Sarah McLaughlin. “We are hopeful that the result of this ordeal is more speech, not less, and that those who wish to continue the conversation can do so without their free speech rights being threatened.”

11/7/2016 update: Law School Dean explains blackface legal issues, criticizes Schill as unfair

Also see the open letter to President Schill letter from “Professor R”, in the Emerald here:

…. It is a sad testament to the current state of our “free” speech that even writing this letter seems too risky to pen under my own name. Those that would seek to invalidate my stance based on my race and background commit the same offense they decry — invalidation of whole persons based on race – this logical fallacy was once called ad hominem.

Sincerely,
Prof. R
College of Arts and Sciences
University of Oregon

Update: 

That would be the Dean of the University of Illinois law school, Vikram Amar. In a nutshell, he explains that students have more First Amendment protections than faculty do. On balance he says Professor Schurtz may well still be protected by it, and quite possibly by other law. Read it all, I’ve only posted the ending:

On Academic Freedom, Administrative Fairness, And Blackface

… My second observation is that the First Amendment is not the only potentially relevant legal constraint. Due process (are faculty clearly told what they cannot say so they are not sandbagged?), contract law (tenure is often a contract concept), and state constitutional protections may give public faculty members more latitude than does the First Amendment. And these extra protections may be perfectly appropriate if we do take seriously historical notions of academic freedom.

My last observation is an important one, and that is that critics of Professor Shurtz have themselves erred. President Schill’s quick characterization of Professor Shurtz’s use of blackface as being “in jest” is at odds with her own explanation, and we need remember that there has been no process yet to determine any actual facts. Shurtz’s 23 faculty colleagues assert that her “intentions [don’t] matter.” But whether we are interpreting the First Amendment or deciding whether someone should be required to give up her very livelihood, intent ought clearly to matter a great deal. After all, the reason (correctly identified by those calling for her resignation) that Shurtz’s actions warrant serious scrutiny is that they may undermine her (and the university’s) trust and credibility with students, alumni and the community. But wouldn’t students, alumni and the outside world want to know why she did what she did in deciding how much less they like and trust her and the law school? If she did it to mock African-Americans (or merely “in jest” because she is flippant about race), aren’t they likely to be much more angry and disaffected than if she did it to support the cause of racial equality (like the author in Black Like Me who feigned blackness to document racism), even if her attempt was clumsy, ill-advised and ultimately counterproductive? Again, no process has yet found the full facts (I have no familiarity with Professor Shurtz and am not vouching for her sincerity). But the idea that intent is irrelevant when heavy consequences like resignation are being considered runs counter to most areas of law and moral intuition. And lawyers – especially law professors who are teaching students how to frame arguments — ought to take care to appreciate that.

Update: Administration to start calling faculty to the office. Pres Schill emails campus.

Here at UO our famously incompetent AAEO Director is expected to start her investigation “soon”. Normally she waits until she’s missed a few deadlines and ignored a bunch of emails, then hires a high-priced consultant to cover for her. (See below for the news that UO has already hired an outside law firm for this.)

No word yet on what university policy the professor is alleged to have broken. Certainly not this one, which President Schill reiterated in his “Open Mike” email the Friday before halloween:

Let me ground this conversation in the unequivocal statement that the UO embraces free expression as one of its core principles. It is outlined in the policy on Freedom of Inquiry and Free Speech passed by the University Senate in 2010 and signed by President Richard Lariviere. The policy states the following:

“Free inquiry and free speech are the cornerstones of an academic institution to the creation and transfer of knowledge. Expression of diverse points of view is of the highest importance, not solely for those who present and defend some view but for those who would hear, disagree, and pass judgment on those views. The belief that an opinion is pernicious, false, and in any other way despicable, detestable, offensive, or ‘just wrong’ cannot be grounds for its suppression.”

My own views on free expression are entirely consistent with this strong statement of principle. As the inscription at the EMU Free Speech Plaza states, “Every new opinion, at its starting, is precisely in a minority of one.”

I’m still searching for the policy prohibiting offensive stupidity.

Should you be called into the AAEO office, you should be aware that Penny Daugherty’s job is to defend the UO administration, not you. Additionally, her staff are unfamiliar with the basics of university policies. If they tell you they just want to have a confidential off-the-record conversation with no repercussions, you’ll have to explain their obligations under UO’s mandatory reporting policy – they don’t understand it, or pretend that they don’t. My advice is get a lawyer and record everything. When Doug Park called me in over my “unlawful” decision to get a digital copy of UO’s Presidential archives I brought two, plus David Cecil from UAUO. Very helpful, especially since Park tried to ambush me by bringing Bill Gary from HLGR.

President Schill’s email today (11/7/2016):

Dear members of the University of Oregon community,

Last week was an incredibly difficult time for our university. The decision of law professor Nancy Shurtz to wear blackface at her Halloween party wounded our community, divided us, and exposed fissures that long existed under the surface. It is now my job as the leader of our school to not only help us heal but, more important, to move us to a demonstrably better place. The challenge for all of us is to recognize that the problem is deep and cannot be fixed with a Band-Aid. Instead, real healing, progress, and transformation will take time, persistence, and generosity of spirit.

It is not my role to attempt to discern the motives of Professor Shurtz when she chose her costume last week. Regardless of her intentions, what she did, by her own admission, was wrong. Indeed, one of the things that troubles me most about this incident is that a member of our law faculty in 2016 would not understand that the use of blackface is deeply offensive and an act of racism. As one of our students eloquently wrote to me:

“White America’s conceptions of Black entertainers were shaped by the mocking caricatures that played up the stereotypes of Black people being racially and socially inferior. No matter the intention, blackface is racially insensitive. At this point, there is no reason for anybody to be ignorant of the history of blackface. No one should have to explain why blackface is offensive or derogatory. This is well-documented history.”

University presidents are not supposed to get angry. But right now I feel both mad and more than a little sad. Over the past year, we have worked with our African American students and faculty members to make the UO a place where educational opportunity and excellence are accessible to all. We have taken the name of a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan off one of our buildings; we modestly increased the proportion of African American students in our freshman class; we created new pipeline and outreach programs; we launched a new African American studies cluster-hiring initiative; we created a new African American residential community; and we are planning new scholarship programs and testing the feasibility of a new African American cultural center. We also finalized our IDEAL framework, a plan to put in place a culture, processes, and system to promote diversity and inclusion throughout the entire university. I am excited about our progress, and I am not willing to let last week’s events slow our momentum and growth.

To the contrary, last week’s events suggest that we need to redouble our efforts to combat racism and ignorance on campus. We need to expand our work beyond students and reach our faculty, staff, and administrators. We must help our community comprehend how racist behavior can be baked into our society so deeply that some of us don’t even recognize it. And we must take actions to transform ourselves and make this school a better place.

My first instinct when faced with a problem is to dive in and fix it. But I have to admit, like my counterparts at most American universities, I know of no silver bullet. I do know that I, along with our entire academic leadership, will need to consult with our students and faculty members of color to understand their experiences and hear their ideas. Provost Coltrane and I will ask each dean and vice president to immediately begin conversations within their schools and departments with our faculty members, students, and staff members of color. The IDEAL plan calls on each school to develop plans on an annual basis. I will ask that each school and administrative unit accelerate the process and report back to me in 90 days with a set of steps they plan to take to promote diversity, combat racism in their units, and promote inclusion. I will work with the provost and our Division of Equity and Inclusion to ensure that these steps are taken and their impacts are measured.

With respect to the immediate issue of Professor Shurtz, as I announced last Monday, I have referred the matter to our Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity. That unit, which will be assisted by an outside law firm, will make a determination as to whether Professor Shurtz or anyone else violated any law or university policy. During the pendency of that process, the dean of the School of Law has placed Professor Shurtz on administrative leave to permit the law school’s educational mission to move forward.

We will provide Professor Shurtz with all of the procedural rights she is entitled to under the law and university policy. We cannot and should not prejudge that process and speculate about the outcome. And even as we condemn the use of blackface, we must consider that these actions may be protected by the First Amendment and our university’s tradition of academic freedom. While many of us feel that what Professor Shurtz has done is wrong, I also would ask that you leave space in your hearts, words, and actions for forgiveness and compassion. Although we all must be held accountable for our actions, I would also hope that we would ultimately be judged for what we do on our best days as well as our worst.

Finally, I am aware that some members of our community have received communications that are hateful, racist, and make them feel unsafe. I have read some of them and they sicken me. I have consulted with UO police chief Matt Carmichael, and we have not been able to find any credible evidence that they emanate from members of our university community. Nevertheless, I have asked the chief to deploy additional personnel both to the investigatory process and to ensuring that every member of our community is physically safe.

As we deal with this horrible episode, I ask everyone to take a deep breath and think about how their actions affect other members of the community. This is a time for us to come together to fight ignorance and racism, to promote inclusion. It is not a time to hurt each other, settle scores, or compromise our cherished values of free expression. This is a time for us to come together to make progress and not a time for us to be divided. We must support each other and treat each other with respect. We must give people the room to express their opinions and feelings, even if we disagree with them. We must not shy away from hard conversations or ugly truths, but we will not tolerate hate speech or threats—period. As president, I pledge that UO leaders will do everything we can to provide a safe and supportive campus environment for that to happen.

So let’s agree today that we, as a community, are going to use this challenging time as an opportunity to unite behind shared values and a common goal of fighting bigotry and ending prejudice on our campus and in our nation. Let’s agree that one person’s actions do not define the University of Oregon or the progress we are making toward becoming a more welcoming, diverse, and inclusive institution. By uniting as a community, we can move past this moment and become stronger and more resilient.

Thank you.

Michael H. Schill

President and Professor of Law

11/6/2017: University escapes lawsuit damages over halloween blackface suspension:

That would be Auburn University. Frat boys, not a law professor, and it was 2002. My uninformed guess is that if Law School Dean Michael Moffitt doesn’t lift Professor Shurtz’s suspension soon and offer a heartfelt apology UO will pay out at least the $800K the Bowl of Dicks cost us – plus billable hours, of course.

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What to buy with all the money you’re saving on electricity?

12/18/2016: Day 5: We’re now among the lucky 90% of Eugene residents with electricity. It’s nice. Thank you IBEW. And the suspicious red oak is roped to two others that lean away from the kitchen. Thank you Cummings Tree Service.

12/17/2016: Going into day 4, I’m thinking a bit of Islay cut with ice covered branches ripped from the red oak that’s about to fall and crush the house:

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The perfect bookend to a great dinner of quail, polenta, and pie, thanks to some warm friends.

Trump promises are a threat to UO’s finances

Diane Dietz in the RG:

The University of Oregon is awaiting the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump in the new year with a disconcerting level of uncertainty about his plans for federal funding of research.

The UO relies on about $100 million a year in federal grants out of $700 million in total annual revenues.

The money from federal agencies, including the U.S. departments of Education and Health and Human Services and the National Science Foundation, mostly goes toward paying UO research staff members’ salaries.

Ed School funding is  particularly at risk. Maybe the Law School will bail them out?

There are also worries about one of the United States most profitable export industries – undergraduate degrees:

Universities across the United States fret about what Trump policies could mean to their efforts to recruit students from around the globe — particularly from China. Trump has repeatedly upset the Chinese government by calling for a 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods and for speaking on the phone with the president of Taiwan, an apparent swipe at longstanding U.S. policy that does not recognize the island nation.

The biggest share of the UO’s 4,139 international students come from China. They’re important to the university’s financial health because they pay three times the tuition of Oregon residents — and so help to subsidize the education of local students.

The UO would have a lot to lose if China’s Ministry of Education blocked the United States as a study-abroad destination or if students decided that the United States was unfriendly and decided, for example, to study in Canada or Europe.