Lariviere talks:

3/10/2010: And as an antidote to the post below, our new President talks to the Washington Post. Not a word about athletics – I am starting to like this guy.

Coffee with U. of Oregon President Lariviere

I had coffee recently with Richard Lariviere, president of the University of Oregon.

One of 60 members of the elite Association of American Universities, UO has one of the nation’s premiere education schools, a cartoon character as its mascot and the glorious — or perhaps dubious — distinction of having loaned its campus to the makers of Animal House.

“My office is Dean Wormer’s office,” Lariviere said.

For the president’s 60th birthday in January, his wife smuggled a life-size fiberglass horse into the office,

“This is actually a really optimistic and hopeful moment for the University of Oregon,” Lariviere said. The university is “hiring aggressively” — How many state universities are doing that? — and working with state government toward a new, more predictable funding model than annual appropriations from the state.

State funding has dipped from $80 million to $67 million in the downturn, and now represents 8 to 9 percent of total university funding, he said.

“We just learned two days ago, three days ago, the amount of funding we will receive for this academic year,” he said, in a meeting last week.

How to make it more predictable? The proposal, if I understood it correctly, is to convert state funding from annual outlays to a bond fund, which “would be managed as if it were an endowment,” with consistent revenue going to the school each year. Attempting this “would probably result in trying to change the constitution of the state of Oregon,” he said.

UO has weathered the recession well because its state funding was small to begin with, Lariviere said. The university’s situation is similar to that of the University of Virginia, whose state support has dwindled from 26 percent to 7 percent of the school’s budget over the past 20 years.

In its state of relative health, the university is “aggressively pursuing” the thousands of students who will not get in to the University of California system this year because of grevious cuts in the neighboring state.

Like Virginia, Oregon has increased tuition to replace lost student funds. Tuition is up 14 percent this year, to $7,428 for residents; students absorbed a $150 midyear increase last year.

“No one is happy about it,” Lariviere said. “We simply sat down with students and showed them why it was necessary.”

Through its Pathway Oregon program, in its second year, the university helps students from low-income families by picking up the difference between a federal Pell Grant and total tuition and fees.

UO relies heavily on nonresident tuition. Nonresidents pay $16,107, and they make up 43 percent of the student population, significantly higher than the nonresident ratio in any Maryland or Virginia school. Local politics dictate that U-Va. and the University of Maryland reserve at least two-thirds of their seats for locals, who don’t like to compete with out-of-state students for admission.

Unlike U-Va. and U-Md., UO is able to admit all qualified applicants, who must bring a 3.0 grade-point average and a competitive SAT score. But in another two years, Lariviere fears the school will run out of space and start turning students away. Then, one supposes, local attitudes about out-of-state and foreign students may shift.

UO accepts ever-larger numbers of students from India and China, as well as California, Washington and Colorado.

“Our prices are still, in terms of international value, a huge value,” he said.

Lariviere, a linguist by training with a doctorate in Sanskrit, came to UO last July. He had been provost at the University of Kansas and, before that, an administrator at the University of Texas in Austin.

I asked him whether he expects to see a decline in the great public flagship schools of California, whose deep budget cuts sparked a statewide student and faculty protest last week.

Yes, he said, but it will be “a longer-term phenomenon.” Berkeley, for example, houses “a dozen or so departments that are as good as you will find anywhere in the world.” Senior faculty aren’t likely to leave those departments because of the economy, Lariviere said. But younger faculty — the future leaders — may take their careers elsewhere.

“If you talk to any young faculty at Berkeley, all you will hear is endless complaints about the quality of life itself,” he said.

The university has hired about 50 new faculty this year, from California, the University of Michigan and other prestigious institutions.

“The department chairs and deans have big grins on their faces,” he said.

 That’s true.

Frohnmayer on accomodating athletics at any price

3/10/2010: UO Journalism student Bob Rodgers has posted an interview with our President Emeritus Dave Frohnmayer here, about the BCS cartel. He makes some pretty interesting points about the importance of the current system to fundraising. Frohnmayer’s term was marked by the extraordinarily high percentage of that fundraising that went to athletics, and his willingness to accept money from those donors for his own salary, laundered through the UO Foundation. Then there’s this great quote at the end:

The issue that Frohnmayer believes politicians and fans ignore, which trumps even the business side of collegiate athletics, is the strain on the academic calendar.  “They disrespect and ignore our academic calendars.”  According to Frohnmayer, having a playoff start in the first few weeks of December interferes with academics on all levels.  Even if you send a handful of student athletes, many playoff advocates do not take into account the band, cheer squads, along with the student and faculty interest in attending the game.  The amount of fervor and distraction entering dead week and finals is, “an academic disaster.”

This from the man who moved UO’s graduation to the week before final exams, to accommodate a track meet. One of Richard Lariviere’s first acts as President was to move it back. The ODE reported:

Critics enfiladed the University for the original date change, saying it was an inconvenience to students that would cut into the hours available to take exams. Biology professor Nathan Tublitz went as far as to write a commentary in the Register-Guard saying the move evinced what he called then-University President Dave Frohnmayer’s commitment to athletics at the expense of academics.

“This decision to prioritize athletics over academics, inconveniencing thousands of students and their parents, might have been excusable were it not the latest in a long line of similar decisions,” Tublitz wrote, going on to question Frohnmayer’s salary and, by implication, his integrity in accepting $265,000 in payment from an unnamed donor through the UO Foundation.

Frohnmayer responded with an angry commentary of his own, accusing Tublitz of factual inaccuracies. “This is not just any track meet,” he wrote, “but the NCAA National Championships – an event that will pump millions of dollars into the local economy and is part and parcel of the rich track and field heritage of the UO.”

I know it takes a certain amount of disregard for the truth to be a successful politician …

Where’s our money.

From UO newsclips:

Pac-10 schools face funding losses: States cut funding for Pac-10 schools as budget losses impact financial aid and tuition hikes. — The Daily Evergreen

(WSU does not stand alone in the face of higher education budget cuts.  Throughout the Pac-10, the challenges of a tight economy are weighing on education. … UO James C. Bean, provost and senior vice president for the University of Oregon, said UO is in a different situation than other Pac-10 schools. State funding for Oregon universities plummeted in 1991, he said, so UO underwent reorganization years ago. Although the university is facing a 16 percent cut in state support, only 8.5 percent of university funding comes from the state in the first place. Also, student enrollment has increased over the past couple years from about 20,300 to 22,000, most of them out-of-state students, he said.)

Let’s see, that’s $21 million in new revenue, (minus the state loss) most of which seems to have gone to fund UO’s ever increasing administrative budget. Still think that’s 38% of our peer average, Provost Bean?

And let me add a plug for UO Newsclips. They are the most honest PR people I’ve ever heard of. Every day they send out an email with every news story that mentions UO.  They make a point of including the negative. Even letters to the Editor from obviously crazy people on rants – you we know who you we are. The OUS PR person, Di Saunders, has a similar service but she just sends out the goody-goody stuff.

From their website: To subscribe to UO E-Clips: Send an email to “uonews@uoregon.edu” FROM YOUR “@uoregon.edu” ADDRESS with “Subscribe E-clips” on the subject line.

Tell them UO Matters sent you.

Nike saves China from the idiocy of rural life

3/7/2010: Great story by Richard Read in the Oregonian about what all those exploited Nike sweatshop workers are doing: Saving their paychecks, sending the money home to build houses and finance new businesses.

It turns out that factory workers — not the activists labeled “preachy” by one expert, and not the Nike executives so wounded by criticism — get the last laugh. Villagers who “went out,” as Chinese say, for what critics described as dead-end manufacturing jobs are sending money back and returning with savings, building houses and starting businesses. …

The pay is minuscule by Western measures. But Mon Xijian, a 31-year-old who has worked at Ever Rich since 1996, has saved enough with his wife, who also works there, to buy a six-unit apartment building back home….

“They’re sleeping 12 in a dorm, and it looks like a pretty crappy life,” Chang said. “But you don’t hear workers say, ‘Oh, I have no hope, I’m a slave.’ They say, ‘I want to save some money. My dream is to be Bill Gates or to own a restaurant.'” 

Just like people did in the US and have all over the rest of the world ever since the industrial revolution started. If Frohnmayer had taken an economics class or two he could have explained this to those WRC kids, instead of caving in to some shouting and signs and pissing of Phil Knight to the point where he stopped what had been a very generous series of donations to UO academics.

dui

3/7/2010: Coach Kelly is not saying what discipline there will be for the player who attacked the 19 year old girl. Meanwhile, another DUI. Actually just a minor in possession since he was trying to drive the wrong SUV, his keys didn’t work and the owner didn’t press charges.

Given this string of troubles, it’s hardly surprising that Bellotti has fired a coach. But not Kelly, it’s Ernie Kent:

Any discussions of Kent’s coaching accomplishments and value to the program have to include his players’ graduation rate. The Ducks have the Pac-10’s highest NCAA Academic Progress Rate (975), almost 50 points higher than the average Division I team.

usual

3/5/2010: From Jack Moran in the RG
A Lane County Circuit Court judge this morning ordered University of Oregon placekicker Rob Beard to serve one year probation for his role in a Jan. 24 street brawl near the UO campus. Beard, who was originally charged with three misdemeanors including fourth-degree assault for pushing a 19-year-old woman to the ground during the fight, pleaded guilty this morning to a misdemeanor charge of physical harassment.

Unless I missed it, the RG still hasn’t published anything on the athletic department’s financial issues. The Oregonian has another story here. I imagine in the end Knight is going to bail them out, but he must like to see them squirm first.

The usual

3/4/2010: From KVAL. I’m having a hard time keeping the various assaults straight.

EUGENE, Ore. — A former University of Oregon football player arrested on misdemeanor assault charges in what police described as retaliation for an attack on another Oregon player pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was sentenced to community service.

Matt Simms faced misdemeanor assault charges in connection with an incident police described as retaliation for an attack of UO kicker Rob Beard. Police said the man Simms was accused of assaulting was not involved in the attack on Beard.

On Tuesday, Simms pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of harrassment and was ordered to perform 40 hours of community service.

Days after his arrest, Simms was released from the football team for violating unspecified team rules.

Beard was later charged with assaulting a 19-year-old woman during the same street fight that left Beard unconscious and in need of surgery. Those charges are still pending.

let’s lower the bar

3/4/2010: Betsy Hammond of the Oregonian reports:

Oregon is moving its 10th-grade tests in reading, writing, math and science to the 11th grade, saying many students need another year of high school to learn the skills covered on the tests. ….

When Oregon sophomores take the tests, a lot of them fail, particularly in math. Last year, 46 percent of 10th-graders flunked that test, 45 percent failed the writing test and 42 percent failed in science….

“It does seem unusual to move a 10th-grade proficiency set of tests to the 11th grade,” he (Jack Jennings, of some DC thinktank) said. “If you thought 10th-graders could do something, and then you shift the measurement of that skill to 11th grade, it at least raises the question of whether they have lowered the standard.”

Actually, it answers the question. And we are supposed to get these kids through college? Without lowering our standards?

Union?

3/2/2010: We haven’t heard much about the union lately. There are now 4 union organizers on campus, and given that the card check period lasts 3 months, if they are going to try for an election this academic year I would think they would want to start soon.

This editorial from the University of New Hampshire student paper is pretty angry about a threatened faculty strike:

The emerging story in today’s issue revolves around dormant talks between the university administration and the UNH chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). The AAUP even ran an advertisement in today’s paper announcing that the university’s summer term could be in jeopardy if an agreement is not reached.

“The UNH faculty union will boycott the 2010 summer session if a contract settlement with the UNH administration is not reached prior to the final scheduling of courses,” the advertisement writes. “A similar boycott was undertaken in 1997, resulting in a significant reduction in the number of summer courses taught. In addition, some courses that were offered were staffed by under qualified instructors. For that reason, we strongly recommend that students investigate summer course offerings at other institutions well in advance.”

The advertisement reads like an ultimatum. It shows no respect for students. It casually tells them to find another institution if they still want to take summer courses. It tries to say this boycott is OK because it happened once before in 1997.

The only conclusion we can draw from this advertisement is that the AAUP has lost its way. It has veered out of control and forgotten its place. University professors are hired to teach students. That’s it. To fight over mere percentage points with the university about how much of a raise they deserve is childish and, quite frankly, offensive to students who want to use their summer vacation to further their education.    

I’m not sure I like that bit at the end – if UNH is like UO, the problem is that the senior administrators have absolutely no problem taking as much money as they can for themselves. We get more students they hire more administrators – not more faculty. We get paid 85% of PhD granting averages, they get 100%. If they want more they just raise tuition, freeze faculty salaries, and furlough the staff.  For example, the UO President’s budget has gone from $2.0 million in 2008 to $3.3 million this year. The growth in the Provost’s budget is even larger. Then there’s the $600,000 or so for the new “President Emeritus” salary and office.  Many more examples are out there. So is the faculty supposed to roll over?

More student housing

3/2/2010: From Diane Dietz in the RG:

A Portland developer building a $12 million apartment near the Matthew Knight Arena means to make the east campus — as opposed to the west campus strip — the nexus of university life. Cody’s project — with 172 student bedrooms — is immediately behind the Franklin Avenue Market of Choice. When the building opens in September, the only thing between the student residents and the new Matthew Knight Arena will be the Villard Street Pub.

The target market for Courtside will be students with modern urban lifestyles with a twist of environmental chic — and who can afford $667 to $685 for a room in a three- or four-bedroom apartment.

Sounds like a good project, but it does shift more life away from downtown, and 172 rooms and only 35 parking spaces is going to be a problem.

Weekend update:

3/1/2010: The football team apparently made it through the weekend arrest free. The cheerleading squad, on the other hand, reports a DUI. Can’t blame this one on the coach, UO still hasn”t replaced the previous cheerleading coaches Laraine Raish and Corine Lewis, who were suddenly and mysteriously fired last summer.

Over the weekend KVAL reported that the NCAA has given LaMichael James permission to live with the UO sports nutritionist while he looks for other housing:

KVAL News received the statement below from the NCAA in response to recent challenges faced by the University of Oregon athletics department related to NCAA regulations and star running back LaMichael James. The UO had sought a waiver on a possible violation of rules in the wake of charges brought against James. James was released from jail on house arrest and living with an athletic department employee, in violation of NCAA rules.

The statement in its entirety read:

“Due to some of the challenges the institution faces in this situation, a temporary waiver has been provided to the school to assist staff in working through the situation and avoid potential NCAA extra benefits rules violations. The waiver is in effect as long as the institution can show it is working to find the student-athlete permissible housing and demonstrate active involvement with the court.”

Should more americans go to college?

3/1/2010: Most of what I’ve seen on this (e.g. the Frohnmayer report) simply assumes they should, reporting clearly misleading numbers like the fact that college graduates earn more. (The average effect, not the marginal.  Because they go to college, or because they are smart enough to go to college? Doesn’t it matter what they major in?) Here’s a debate on the subject, sponsored by UVA’s Miller Center. One factoid:

Today, just under 40% of Americans 25 to 34 years of age hold a two- or four-year degree. While this number has remained stable for decades, other developed countries have seen a steady increase in their number of college graduates in recent years. America is somewhere in the middle of this group, on par with countries like Australia and Spain. Meanwhile, countries such as South Korea (53%), Japan (54%), and Canada (55%) have pulled considerably ahead of the pack.

Baggage

2/28/2010: Mark Baker of the RG has a few stories today on the UO football team’s troubles. Best quote is from Eugene sports psychologist Steven Ungerleider, the author of the wonderfully titled “Faust’s Gold“, a book on the East German athletic industry. A guy who clearly knows a thing or two about how far obsession with athletics can go.

“They’re spoiled brats,” he said. “They can do anything and there are no consequences.” 

I’m guessing he’s not going to be lecturing in the Jaqua Center anytime soon. Of course, as Ed St. Clair Sr. notes in his RG letter, the team’s rate of legal problems is well below that of, say, the US Congress – who seem to have a similar disciplinary process.