President Schill’s message to campus on Pittsburgh

Dear University of Oregon community,

Saturday’s horrific massacre of 11 innocent men and women in Pittsburgh, as they worshipped together, no doubt shocks each and every one of us. It should. The 11 souls whose lives were extinguished were targeted solely because of the god they worship. These killings follow on the heels of the murders of two African American shoppers at a grocery store in Kentucky last Wednesday and the attempted delivery of pipe bombs to a number of people who were selected apparently because of their political beliefs.

The events of last week did not come out of thin air. To say that our nation and our politics are polarized trivializes the problem. Civility and reasoned discourse seem to have given way to hate and the politics of distrust and division. Each day, we are assaulted by racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, misogyny, nativism, and homophobia, sometimes from the very people who have been elected to lead us.

In our bubble in Eugene and on the campus at the University of Oregon, we are not immune to hate.  Last year the number of bias-related crimes and incidents reported to the city nearly doubled over the prior year. On campus, we have seen fliers produced by white supremacist groups spewing the rhetoric of hate. And, sometimes in class, we have experienced difficult moments where empathy has given way to antipathy.

I want to express my solidarity with all of the groups on our campus who have been the victims of hate and all who share in my outrage at the horrible events of the last week and the current state of affairs in our country. But, there are two other important messages I would like to convey. First, we are part of an academic community, one dedicated to rationality over emotion. It is here, at the University of Oregon, where each and every one of us has the opportunity to explore our differences, gain understanding of each other’s perspectives, and, with that understanding, hopefully banish demonization and replace hate with empathy and respect. Please expand your usual group of friends and engage in those conversations in the classroom, over dinner, and in the residence halls. And seek out your advisors and professors, and other resources on campus if you need someone to speak with, or to find avenues to become more involved.

Secondly, please take seriously your opportunity to vote. As November 6 approaches, vote for candidates who model the behavior we want in our leaders. Regardless of party, vote for leaders who eschew hatred and bigotry. Vote for candidates who provide solutions to our problems and not just those who articulate our frustrations. And whatever the results of the election, get involved and engaged—embrace our shared democratic values. And as you engage and seek to fix some of the problems my generation has caused, model the type of civility and empathy that is so absent today.

Take care of yourselves and treat each other with respect. Thank you.

Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law

Chief Resiliency Officer Andre Le Duc has too much money

Today I and all other CAS employees got an email from some consultant in NZ asking me to respond to a “CAS Resiliency Survey.” I ignored this, until getting a follow-up email from CAS, at which point I clicked on the link. This was a mistake.

This survey, commissioned by UO Associate VP and Chief Resiliency Officer Andre Le Duc, is a bureaucratic classic. I confess that I’ve only answered about 100 of the questions so far. Even with random clicks it’s a serious time commitment. There are a lot of boxes, none particularly relevant to CAS or UO. Le Duc won’t spend his time writing thoughtful questions, but he will ask you to spend yours answering pointless ones.

So I thought I’d take a break and post my response to the only written question:

University Health Center to pass out free shots of Laphroaig

Just kidding, it’s free flu shots. Do yourself and the rest of us a favor and get one. Drop-in, bring your UO ID and insurance card:

The University Health Center is pleased to announce four flu shot clinics for UO students, faculty, and staff:

  • Thursday, October 25, 2018, 7:00–10:00 a.m., Rec Center Bonus Room (lower level facing the turf fields)
  • Thursday, November 1, 2018, 7:00–10:00 a.m., Rec Center Bonus Room (lower level facing the turf fields)
  • Thursday, November 8, 2018, 7:00–10:00 a.m., Ford Alumni Center’s Giustina Ballroom
  • Thursday, November 29, 2018, 7:00–10:00 a.m., EMU Crater Lake Room North

Big-time Duck sports brings more shame to UO, talk Tuesday at 7PM

10/22/2018 updates:

OPR’s Think Out Loud has an interview with Hunt here.

I suggest getting to Josh Hunt’s Tsunami talk early, before the lawyers steal all the good seats.  You can get the Kindle version of The University of Nike Tuesday as well. Some more links:

The NY Times:

Persuade someone to read “University of Nike” in 50 words or less:

More than ever, it’s really important for Americans to closely examine the costs of abandoning public institutions and hand them over to corporate interests to save a few dollars on our tax bills. This is a case study of what happens when we do that. Spoiler alert: It ends badly.

The Oregonian:

When the University of Oregon joined an upstart labor-rights group in 2000, the decision so upset Nike chairman Phil Knight that he publicly rescinded his personal $30 million pledge to expand the school’s football stadium.

Now, 18 years later, new allegations suggest that Knight made an even more aggressive play behind the scenes: threatening to withhold philanthropic support that could help keep alive the youngest daughter of the University of Oregon’s then-president, Dave Frohnmayer.

Inside Higher Ed:

… A university spokeswoman on Friday shared the university’s written response to the article:

“The University of Oregon is the birthplace of Nike, and we are extremely grateful to both Nike as a company and to Phil and Penny Knight individually for their generous support of this university over many decades, as well as their support of other academic institutions and vital causes in Oregon and beyond. The Knights care deeply about education, health care, sports and so much more, and they are unquestionably the most generous philanthropists in our state’s ­­history. Their support for both academic and athletic programs at University of Oregon comes without strings attached and has transformed this campus in profoundly positive ways. The state of Oregon, our citizenry and this institution are all better for it.

“Given our focus on the university’s future, we will not engage in debate over Mr. Hunt’s book, which largely speculates about and rehashes historical events that have been covered elsewhere.”

My opinion is that whether or not “The state of Oregon, our citizenry and this institution are all better for it.” is an open question, which Mr. Hunt’s book asks, and which the university shouldn’t shrink from addressing.

Duck VP and PR flack Kyle Henley’s statement that “Their support for both academic and athletic programs at University of Oregon comes without strings attached” is bullshit, as Henley knows.

And finally, in the Oregonian, Lynn Frohnmayer disputes Hunt’s report that Phil Knight threatened to withhold donations to the Fanconi Anemia foundation.

10/18/2018: University of Nike author to give talk at Tsunami books, Tu 7-9PM

Joshua Hunt has apparently spent more time combing through the UO archives than I have, and he’s conducted some very revealing interviews with the key players.

His Tsunami talk announcement is here. The Eugene Weekly’s Bob Keefer has an interview with Hunt here:

“There is a chapter that describes some potentially illegal practices — certainly bad faith practices, dishonest practices — by the public records department at the University of Oregon,” Hunt says of his book.

He’s talking about the university’s handling of the rape accusations against the basketball players. Lawyers for The New York Times argued in legal papers that the UO had, as he writes in the book, “demonstrated a willingness to ‘use privacy as both a sword and a shield’ in order to prevent public scrutiny of its handling of sexual assault on campus.”

And thanks to a reader for this link to an extended abstract in the Pacific Standard, here. The intro:

In the mid-1990s, University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer needed money to save his school. Alum and Nike chief executive Phil Knight was happy to help—as long as the university could be managed in a way that would maximize the company’s brand and profits. But when Frohnmayer made a key misstep, Knight exacted a brutal punishment. …

Use of student evals for promotion and tenure banned in Canadian labor case

A extensive report here:

In a precedent-setting case, an Ontario arbitrator has directed Ryerson University to ensure that student evaluations of teaching, or SETs, “are not used to measure teaching effectiveness for promotion or tenure.” The SET issue has been discussed in Ryerson collective bargaining sessions since 2003, and a formal grievance was filed in 2009.

The long-running case has been followed, and the ruling applauded, by academics throughout Canada and internationally, who for years have complained that universities rely too heavily on student surveys as a means of evaluating professors’ teaching effectiveness.

“We were delighted,” said Sophie Quigley, professor of computer science at Ryerson, and the grievance officer who filed the case back in 2009. “These are statistically correct arguments we’ve been making over the years, and it’s wonderful that reason has prevailed.”

While acknowledging that SETs are relevant in “capturing student experience” of a course and its instructor, arbitrator William Kaplan stated in his ruling that expert evidence presented by the faculty association “establishes, with little ambiguity, that a key tool in assessing teaching effectiveness is flawed.”

It’s a position faculty have argued for years, particularly as SETs migrated online and the numbers of students participating plummeted, while at the same time university administrations relied more heavily on what on the surface seemed to them a legitimate data-driven tool.

Mr. Kaplan’s conclusion that SETs are in fact deeply problematic will “unleash debate at universities across the country,” said David Robinson, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers. “The ruling really confirms the concerns members have raised.” While student evaluations have a place, Mr. Robinson argued, “they are not a clear metric. It’s disconcerting for faculty to find themselves judged on the basis of data that is totally unreliable.”

As Dr. Quigley pointed out, studies about SETs didn’t exist 15 years ago, and it was perhaps easier for universities to see the surveys as an effective means of assessment. “Psychologically, there is an air of authority in using all this data, making it seem official and sound,” she noted.

Now, however, there is much research to back up the argument against SETs as a reliable measure of teaching effectiveness, particularly when the data is used to plot averages on charts and compare faculty results. The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) commissioned two reports on the issue, one by Richard Freishtat, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of California, Berkeley, and another by statistician Philip B. Stark, also at Berkeley.

The findings in those two reports were accepted by Mr. Kaplan, who cited flaws in methodology and ethical concerns around confidentiality and informed consent. He also cited serious human-rights issues, with studies showing that biases around gender, ethnicity, accent, age, even “attractiveness,” may factor into students’ ratings of professors, making SETs deeply discriminatory against numerous “vulnerable” faculty. …

Carl Malamud defeats State of Georgia, can post their annotated laws online

Report here:

The 11th Circuit appeals court has just overturned a lower court ruling and said that Georgia’s laws, including annotations, are not covered by copyright, and it is not infringing to post them online. This is big, and a huge win for online information activist Carl Malamud whose was the unfortunate defendant in a fight to make sure people actually understood the laws that ruled them.

Malamud has fought for years to put laws, IRS 990’s, and other basic government information such as the EDGAR and PACER databases online for free access. In 2009, after I disobeyed an order from Oregon Attorney General John Kroger and posted a bootleg pdf of the Oregon Public Records and Meetings on my UO website, Malamud drove up from California, bought a copy from the DOJ, ground the spine off with a belt sander, ran the pages through a sheet-fed scanner, and posted it too, taking the heat for me. Then he gave a talk at the UO Libraries, hosted by the late JQ Johnson, explaining why. After the state and national press took up the story Kroger caved, and the manual is now on the DOJ’s website. Story and video here. Thank you again Carl, and congratulations!

Just overheard outside Lillis …

an undergrad campus tour leader, talking to a group of 30 prospective students and their parents about the research and teaching excellence of the Lundquist College of Business faculty.

Just kidding, actually he was telling them about how the giant yellow O was put up for ESPN gameday, and how the outside represents “our glorious Autzen stadium” and the inside represents “historic Hayward Field, currently undergoing restoration”.

Journalism prof & students challenge university’s overpaid PR flacks

That would be at the University of Maryland. The Washington Post reports:

While most of the facts contained in Maryland Today’s posts may be accurate, some articles omit negative facts necessary to understand what actually happened. …

In “University Commits to Follow McNair Report Recommendations,” the author discusses the report’s findings and the conditions leading to [UMD football player] Jordan McNair’s death, but the only quotes are from university officials. Students, athletes, and McNair’s family are completely left out. “President Loh and I are wholeheartedly committed to the safety and well-being of our students,” Athletic director Damon Evans said. “We will do everything in our power to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again.”

Similar quotes from other university officials are scattered throughout, painting the university in a positive light. In Diamondback articles, by contrast, McNair’s father is quoted, saying “[Coach Durkin] shouldn’t be able to work with anyone else’s kid,” and Student Government Association President Jonathan Allen says, “If, somehow, coach Durkin is reinstated, I think that would be indicative of … instances where athletics department have valued their bottom line more than they valued their student-athletes. If [players] say that they don’t feel comfortable under a coach that had a death [on] his watch, then that should be the only thing that matters.”

The Society of Professional Journalists, an organization representing journalists, encourages news organizations to adhere to its code of ethics, which are not legally binding. Its four principles are: seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and to be accountable and transparent.

“It fails all four tenets of the SPJ standards,” Sandy Banisky, senior ethics lecturer at the University of Maryland said of Maryland Today. “It certainly fails journalism ethics.”

On the matter of independence, OSC’s Seligman, who wrote an Aug. 27 piece on the investigation into the football program’s alleged “toxic” culture, is paid nearly $250,000 per year, according to a salary guide posted in The Diamondback.

Office of Strategic Communications staffers are paid much higher for their public relations publication than the independent student-run news publication, the Diamondback. The paper reports on campus news and the surrounding area. (Chart by Morgan Caplan)

As for “balance in reporting,” most of Maryland Today’s articles do not provide competing viewpoints or facts from a variety of sources. The majority of sources quoted are officials paid by the university. Often stories use just one quote from one official. …

Duck’s Vin Lananna sings to feds, Tracktown gets $10M for IAAF 2021

Lananna, who’s on the UO payroll for several hundred large, asked the Governor for $40M in state subsidies. He’s now got $10M. If you think that’s the end of it you haven’t read Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, or Ken Goe’s update in the Oregonian here.

The Oregon DOJ held up Tracktown’s $10M grant from Travel Oregon for a full year by requiring that they provide a budget and a disclaimer that there were no legal issues, despite the FBI investigation. UO and Tracktown told the press that the Feds hadn’t contacted them. Lananna didn’t tell GC Kevin Reed?

The budget and reporting requirements are now hilariously out of date, and Lananna and Reilly’s admission is scrawled out in pen:

What could go wrong? Rumor has it that UO has now appointed an administrator to deal with it all. I wonder who is paying their salary.

The full grant of $10M in state funds is here:

10/8/2018 – Tracktown / Oregon21 replaces Vin Lananna with Niels De Vos as head of IAAF 2021 championship

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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:

 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.

GC Kevin Reed’s public records office finally admits they have DeVos deal docs

But what did Reed promise UO would do? It’s now almost 4 weeks six weeks since I asked for this agreement. Eventually they’ll run out of ways to hide it:


Dear Mr. Harbaugh:

The University of Oregon, Office of Public Records has received your public records request for “The document I am looking for is called a “Facilitated Resolution Agreement” and it was signed by General Counsel Kevin Reed on or about August 21.” on 09/21/2018, attached.

The University is the custodian of at least some of the records you have requested. …

You don’t say.

9/21/2018 update: GC Kevin Reed cuts deal with Betsy DeVos & wants $378.49 to show the terms

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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.