Search firm UO used for Law & Music deans & VPR and is using for Grad School is banned by North Carolina, refunded entire $110K fee

InsideHigherEd has the news from North Carolina here:

The University of North Carolina System Board of Governors named Cecil Staton the next chancellor of East Carolina University in April 2017. Nine months later, the executive search firm hired to recruit Staton refunded $110,000 in professional fees from the search.

University system leaders blocked the search firm, Witt/Kieffer, from any of their future business. At issue was “inaccurate salary information for Staton’s previous posts in Georgia,” according to a report in Business North Carolina citing three people familiar with the situation.

The incident offers insight into the incentives and pressures swirling within the often-expensive world of recruiting executive-level leaders in higher education. Firms are frequently paid based on the starting earnings of the candidates they find, and they can be asked to become involved in negotiations between candidate and college. As a result, search firms can quickly find themselves navigating ethically murky waters between the universities that pay their bills, the candidates they recruit and their own self-interest. …

UO has Witt/Kieffer on contract through 2019, and is currently using them for the Grad School Dean searche, and used them in the recent hiring of Law School Dean Marcilyn Burke, SOMD Dean Sabrina Madison-Cannon, and VPR David Conover.

Presumably UO GC Kevin Reed is doing his due diligence on this.

Should a donor dictate who is President?

Insidehighered has an interesting story on UNLV here:

… Big gifts are sometimes based on the relationships between donors and university leaders. But in this case, the link was formal. UNLV agreed to Jessup remaining president until 2022 (as well as the medical dean staying in office) as conditions of the gift. And the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Jessup signed that agreement nine days after he received the unfavorable review from his boss. A lawyer retained by the chancellor to examine the agreement, in a memo obtained and published by the Review-Journal, said that it raised serious ethical issues.

The memo said the agreement could be seen as “a pre-emptive strike” in response to Jessup’s unfavorable review, and that signing the agreement gave him a “significant financial benefit.” Whatever the legal issues, the lawyer said, “the optics are appalling.” …

Which reminds me – who has seen the Knight Campus gift agreement?

Former UO VPR Kimberly Espy finalist for provost at Ball State, Kansas State, Kentucky

In an ideal world the AAUP or Google Scholar would post metrics on administrators, to warn faculty what’s coming. As a second best, here’s some info on Kimberly Espy. The RIGE report is here.

Full shameful disclosure: Back in 2014 some desperate colleagues convinced me that UO would never fire her, and that my posts about the RIGE report and the negative comments about her were preventing us from passing the trash. So I took them down while she completed her job search. She finally landed a job as VPR at Arizona, to the joy of UO’s PI’s.

Now she wants or needs to move on again, and she’s a finalist for provost jobs at KSU, UK, and BSU:

Live from Provost Banavar’s Metrics Town Hall:


Sorry, I can’t type fast enough to get everything. Some highlights from the town hall:

Banavar, Berkman, and Pratt are on stage. Shelton (EW interview with some unfortunate quotes here) has been relegated to the admin table towards towards the back. Obviously the administration is backing away as fast as they can from past proposals and the adults are now in charge.

Banavar announces he’s pushing back the deadline for departments to provide their metrics plans and data to JH from April 6 to June 6.

He also announces that he’s signed an MOU with the faculty union that will ensure that, whatever the administration decides on, there will be faculty input and negotiation.

The link to Berkman’s Metrics “blog” is here. No comments allowed – or at least there are none posted.

The faculty and heads are asking many very skeptical questions about how these metrics will guide resource allocations and influence faculty research goals.

Berkman closes by saying that Harbaugh’s criticisms of the metrics proposal, based on the work of Nobel Laureate Bengt Holmstrom, are off base because those relate to “strong financial incentives” and these metrics will only provide weak incentives.

It’s hard to respond to that when we don’t know what the departments metrics plans will actually be, but inevitably they will become guidelines for junior faculty to follow if they want tenure, and everyone to follow if they want merit raises, new colleagues, and to be seen as good department and university citizens, get responses to outside offers, etc. Those are pretty strong incentives, financial or not, and they will result in gaming and discouraging work that is not measured, just as Hengtrom’s research shows.

My takeaway is that this has been a botched 2 year effort by the administration, and it has taken a huge amount of faculty effort – away from our other jobs – to push back and try and turn it into something reasonable. We’ll see what happens.

Banavar, Pratt, and Berkman did not discuss the “faculty tracking software” that UO will be purchasing next year. This software will allow them to track faculty activities, and will generate reports comparing those activities across faculty, across departments, over time, etc.

There appears to be no truth to the rumors that this software will interface with the mandatory new faculty ankle bracelets to provide JH with real-time GPS location tracking, or that this is all part of the Tracktown 2021 championship plan.

Update: Rumor has it that the UO administration’s obsession with research metrics and Academic Analytics started with the hiring of Kimberly Espy as VPR.

After alienating everyone on campus except former Interim Provost Jim Bean, Espy was finally forced out thanks to the UO Senate’s threatened vote of no confidence and a blunt report written by CAS Assoc Dean Bruce Blonigen. History here.

Gottfredson appointed Brad Shelton as her interim replacement, and new VPR David Conover is still picking up the pieces.

Part of Espy’s legacy was UO’s ~$100K contract with Academic Analytics, which finally expires this December, for a total of $600K down the hole. While Shelton enthusiastically defends this sunk cost in the Eugene Weekly, no one else in the UO administration will admit to ever using Academic Analytics data as an input for any decision.

Despite this craziness, it’s still an open question as to whether or not Shelton, Conover, and Banavar will renew the contract, which Academic Analytics and their salesman and former UO Interim President Bob Berdahl are now pitching at $160K a year.

3/12/2018: UO physicist, Psychology Dept kick off Provost’s Friday Metrics Town Hall early, propose sensible alternatives to Brad Shelton’s silly metrics plan

A week or two back CAS started a “metrics blog” to collect suggestions on how departments could respond to the call from VPxyz Brad Shelton for simple metrics that the administration could use to rank departments and detect changes over time to help decide who will get new faculty lines. Or maybe the call was for information that they could show to Chuck Lillis and the trustees about how productive/unproductive UO’s faculty are. Or maybe it was a call for departments to provide information that Development could pitch to potential donors. All I know for sure is that departments are supposed to respond by April 6th with their perfect algorithm.

Ragu Parthasathaway from Physics has taken up the challenge, on his Eighteenth Elephant Blog:

… These are extreme examples, but they illustrate real differences between fields even within Physics. Biophysical studies typically involve one or at most a few labs, each with a few people contributing to the project. I’d guess that the average number of co-authors on my papers is about 5. High-energy physics experiments involve vast collaborations, typically with several hundred co-authors.

Is it “better” to have a single author paper with 205 citations, or a 2900-author paper with 11000 citations? One could argue that the former is better, since the citations per author (or even per institution) is higher. Or one could argue that the latter is better, since the high citation count implies an overall greater impact. Really, though, the question is silly and unanswerable.

Asking silly questions isn’t just a waste of time, though; it alters the incentives to pursue research in particular directions. …

In other words, this particular silly question is worse than a waste of time. Ulrich Mayr, chair of UO’s Psychology department (UO’s top research department, according the the National Research Council’s metrics, FWIW) has met with his faculty, and they have a better idea:

As obvious from posts on this blog, there is skepticism that we can design a system of quantitative metrics that achieves the goal of comparing departments within campus or across institutions, or that presents a valid basis for communicating about departments’ strengths and weaknesses.  The department-specific grading rubrics may seem like a step in the right direction, as they allow building idiosyncratic context into the metrics.  However, this eliminates any basis for comparisons and still preserves all the negative aspects of scoring systems, such as susceptibility to gaming and danger of trickle-down to evaluation on the individual level.  I think many of us agree that we would like our faculty to think about producing serious scholarly work, not how to achieve points on a complex score scheme.

Within Psychology, we would therefore like to try an alternative procedure, namely an annual, State of the Department report that will be made available at the end of every academic year.

Authored by the department head (and with help from the executive committee and committee chairs), the report will present a concise summary of past-year activity with regard to all relevant quality dimensions (e.g., research, undergraduate and graduate education, diversity, outreach, contribution to university service, etc.).  Importantly, the account would marry no-thrills, basic quantitative metrics with contextualizing narrative.  For example, the section on research may present the number of peer-reviewed publications or acquired grants during the preceding year, it may compare these number to previous years, or—as far as available–to numbers in peer institutions.  It can also highlight particularly outstanding contributions as well as areas that need further development.

Currently, we are thinking of a 3-part structure: (I) A very short executive summary (1 page). (II) A somewhat longer, but still concise narrative, potentially including tables or figures for metrics, (III) An appendix that lists all department products (e.g., individual articles, books, grants, etc.), similar to a departmental “CV” the covers the previous year.


––When absolutely necessary, the administration can make use of the simple quantitative metrics.

––However, the accompanying narrative provides evaluative context without requiring complex, department-specific scoring systems.  This preserves an element of expert judgment (after all, the cornerstone of evaluation in academia) and it reduces the risk of decision errors from taking numbers at face value.

––One stated goal behind the metrics exercise is to provide a basis for communicating about a department’s standing with external stakeholders (e.g., board members, potential donors).  Yet, to many of us it is not obvious how this would be helped through department–specific grading systems.  Instead, we believe that the numbers-plus-narrative account provides an obvious starting point for communicating about a department’s strengths and weaknesses.

––Arguably, for departments to engage in such an annual self-evaluation process is a good idea no matter what.  We intend to do this irrespectively of the outcome of the metrics discussion and I have heard rumors that some departments on campus are doing this already.  The administration could piggy-back on to such efforts and provide a standard reporting format to facilitate comparisons across departments.


––More work for heads (I am done in 2019).

So sensible it must be dead in the water. But if you haven’t given up hope in UO yet, show up at Provost Banavar’s Town Hall this Friday at 11:

Metrics and the evaluation of excellence will be at the center of a town hall-style discussion with Jayanth Banavar, provost and senior vice president, from 11 a.m. to noon in Room 156, Straub Hall on Friday, March 16.

The session was announced in a recent memo from the provost, who calls the event a “two-way discussion on the purpose, value, and use of metrics as well as other topics, including the new academic allocation system, the Institutional Hiring Plan, and whatever else is on your mind.”

“I know that there are a lot of questions about what this means, and I have heard concerns that the metrics will be used inappropriately for things such as ‘ranking’ faculty members or departments,” Banavar wrote. “I have also heard rumors that we will be using metrics to establish some sort of threshold at which faculty members could be ‘cut’ if they do not meet that threshold. I want to help allay some concerns and answer some questions. As a former dean and faculty member myself, I understand how questions and even some anxiety can arise when metrics are introduced into a conversation.”

Facutly members who are unable to attend are encouraged to share thoughts, concerns or ideas with the Office of the Provost at

“As we continue our work on the development of these metrics, we welcome your advice and input,” the memo reads. “The goal is to have a mechanism for the transparent allocation of resources to maximally enhance the excellence of our university.”

I do wonder who writes this nonsense.

Faculty Club to host President Schill, tonight at 5PM

Dear Colleagues,

The Faculty Club will be meeting this week, during the usual hours (Wednesdays and Thursdays 5:00-8:00 pm).  We’ll close during Exam Week and Spring Break, and then open again in Week One of the Spring Term.

The Senate-sponsored “Talk to Your Dean Night” series continues this week with a double-header and a presidential appearance.  Yes, that’s right.  Wednesday we’ll have Dean Juan-Carlos Molleda of the School of Journalism as well as Dean Christoph Lindner from the College of Design.  Both deans will be available to chat informally about whatever’s on your mind.  Rumors that the two will settle, in an arm-wrestling match, the age-old question of which school is more “awesome,” are likely false.   Lindner will, however, be offering the Six-o-Clock Toast.

Thursday Michael Schill will be on hand, taking the “Talk to Your Dean Night” series to a presidential level.  With his decidedly non-Caesarian tendencies, our president has little reason to “beware the Ides of March.”  We will, however, be marking the anniversary of Caesar’s death with a Six-o-Clock Toast from Mary Jaeger, Professor of Classics and avowed partisan of the Julio-Claudian dynasty.

Hope to see you either night, or both nights.

Yours, James Harper
Chair of the Faculty Club Board

College as a country club

University of Michigan and National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
University of Michigan,
University of Michigan and NBER
This paper investigates whether demand-side market pressure explains colleges’ decisions to provide consumption amenities to their students. Using a discrete choice model of college demand, we find that most students appear to value consumption amenities, such as operating spending on student activities, sports, and dormitories, while the taste for academic quality is confined to high-achieving students. Heterogeneity in student preferences creates variation in demand pressure across institutions, which we estimate can account for 11% of the total variation in the ratio of amenity to academic spending across 4-year colleges in the United States.

Union responds to Provost’s letter to Architecture faculty

I don’t know who wrote the Provost’s letter below, but it doesn’t strike me as Banavar’s style. In any case the faculty union has now sent the architecture faculty a thoughtful response:

Dear Department of Architecture and Interior Architecture Faculty,

On Friday, Provost Banavar sent the faculty of the Department of Architecture a letter concerning the recent unrest in the unit. In that letter he emphasizes that the University is a workplace that does not permit bullying or retaliation. We agree with that position. The Provost’s letter, however, goes well beyond reminding faculty of their duties not to intimidate or bully and cites the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) as the basis for his reasoning. Consequently, we felt compelled to respond to the letter and clarify the meaning of the CBA.

First, we share the Provost’s concern that faculty in the Department of Architecture fear retaliation and work in a hostile atmosphere where they experience bullying. Our CBA contains strong language protecting faculty from working in an environment that is hostile, abusive, or intimidating. Heather Quarles, the chair of our Grievance Committee, has worked with many faculty across the university to address hostile workplaces. Any faculty member who would like to discuss a hostile workplace should feel free to reach out to Heather at

If department or committee meetings are taking place in the Department of Architecture that exclude faculty members for discriminatory reasons, this must be addressed immediately. It is never acceptable to exclude faculty from departmental activities on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, religion, national origin, ancestry, marital status, domestic partnership status, familial status, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or membership or non-membership in or activity on behalf of or in opposition to the union. Discriminatory actions are forbidden in state law, university policy, and the CBA.

Unfortunately, the Provost goes well beyond discussing discriminatory practices in his letter, telling faculty that “conversations” about the future of the department that do not include all faculty must end. The CBA, despite the Provost’s citations, does not prevent faculty from meeting to discuss the future of the department – whether or not all faculty are invited to participate in those discussions. 

Under the CBA and state law, faculty have the right to organize to discuss their wages and working conditions, including departmental and college governance, free of interference from the employer. The Provost has no right, under either the CBA or state law, to forbid faculty to have conversations about the future of the department. In fact, it is a fundamental right of the faculty to gather together with their like-minded colleagues to discuss how they might resist, protest, undo, and improve the actions of the administration.

Additionally, the Provost has no right, through the CBA or otherwise, to forbid faculty to meet with external advisory groups. As he said, such arrangements may in some cases be counterproductive and harmful, but there can be no blanket prohibition on the right of faculty to work with external advisory groups. The American Associate of University Professors (AAUP) has worked with many faculty at many colleges and universities to organize protests against violations of academic freedom rights. In many of these cases, the administration believed the actions of their faculty in working with the AAUP might be detrimental to the institution, but they had no right to end these conversations or force the faculty to include college administrators in those discussions.

Finally, we are saddened that the Provost did not use the occasion of writing to the Architecture faculty to acknowledge that there are many difficult issues that the department is trying to grapple with. Many faculty clearly feel that the shared governance principles and practices in the department and college do not work. If the frustrations of these faculty have created an atmosphere of hostility and intimidation, this must be rectified, but they cannot be resolved through vague and potentially intimidating demands from the Provost. We believe the solutions to these problems must include more conversations, not fewer.

Any faculty member who wants to discuss the rights of faculty under the CBA, the future of the Department of Architecture, and/or a hostile workplace is free to contact the leaders or staff of United Academics. You can reach us by responding to this email, calling the union office, or contacting any of the officers of the union. 541-636-4714 or


The Executive Council of United Academics of the University of Oregon

3/12/2018: Provost: Architecture faculty cannot secede from College of Design

Riverfront astroturf is not for PE classes or club sports. Is it part of the UO Foundation’s secret Tracktown 2021 plans?

UO wants the Eugene planning commission to give it the right to put 4 astro-turf playing fields with lights just south of the Willamette river. They claim this is for intramural Rugby and PE and Rec classes.

I don’t buy it. I don’t have the Rugby participation data, but it’s not New Zealand. For Fall 2017 UO had a total of 7 sections of PE classes that need playing fields such as flag football, ultimate, and soccer with a total of 166 students. (In comparison there were 27 sections of Yoga type classes). These are 1 credit sections that meet for 2 hours a week. That’s a grand total of 14 hours a week on the playing fields.

These classes are not exactly surging in popularity among UO students. In Fall 2012 there were 9 sections. And while PE and Rec already have 2 lit astroturf fields by the Rec Center, they have no sections scheduled at night.

So what is this really about? I’m guessing it’s part of the UO Foundation’s top secret planning for the 2021 Track & Field Championships.

Where has Oregon spent the $ it saved by cutting higher ed?

On all kinds of scams. Hillary Borrud and Gordon Friedman (former Emerald reporter) have the latest one in the Oregonian:

When state and federal officials approved $8 million in taxpayer financing for a Southern Oregon sawmill project, they did so on the premise the investment would bring back jobs. But officials greenlighted the project despite warning signs the plan to retool the mothballed mill was likely doomed to fail.

Sure enough, even with the expensive taxpayer-provided upgrades, the reopened Rough & Ready mill operated for less than 20 months before shutting down for good. Its equipment has been auctioned off, the land sold and the promised jobs only briefly delivered.

The failed project was overseen by Portland environmental nonprofit Ecotrust.

… Ecotrust officials are accustomed to rubbing shoulders with influential people in Oregon. The city of Portland rented space in its headquarters building. In 2014, Kitzhaber urged that the group be awarded the tax credits — and even tossed in a $1 million largely forgivable loan from a pot of taxpayer money under his control.

The former governor, who is working to regain career credibility after an influence peddling scandal led him to resign, is now getting help from Ecotrust. It has inked a four-month contract with him to work on an opaque economic development and natural resource management project called Salmon Nation. Ecotrust would say only that the group is paying him “his standard hourly consulting fee.”

… To qualify for the maximum amount of state tax credits, Ecotrust needed to show that upgrading the Rough & Ready sawmill so it could reopen would cost at least $8 million. Ecotrust’s application to Business Oregon showed half that cost would be to acquire land and construct a building — even though the same three-page application showed the mill was already situated on a 300-acre site with an existing 35,000-square-foot sawmill.

Acquiring land and buildings from Rough & Ready’s owners only to give them to an entity 99 percent owned by those same people is not an upgrade eligible for a state taxpayer subsidy, Nia Ray, director of Oregon’s Department of Revenue, informed Ecotrust. Tax credits should never have been awarded for that purpose, she said.

Yet Business Oregon signed off on the subsidies. Buehler, the spokesman, said Ecotrust’s application didn’t provide enough detail for officials to spot that problem.


The UO Senate is not a sham operation like other Senates

In the Chronicle. From surveys and interviews of faculty on job satisfaction and other things, conducted by the “Collaborative for Academic Careers in Higher Education at Harvard University.”

Some professors don’t put much stock in faculty governance. The ability to effect change on a campus appeared to positively influence job satisfaction, the study found. But professors at research institutions didn’t seem to think faculty governance was as effective as did their peers at other types of institutions, unless they were in a position of leadership, such as a department chair or a dean.

“University senate and that sort of thing are just sort of sham operations,” one professor said. “They don’t do anything productive as far as changing real policies or importance.”

Of course they can’t be talking about the UO Senate, because our administration decided for us, without Senate input, that the UO faculty would not participate in the Collaboratives survey.