Transparency Day

7/9/2009: The Commentator and the Emerald are writing about Pres Lariviere’s blog (which is actually run by UO staffer Tim Beltran). It’s a little too slick for our taste Tim – but maybe we’re just jealous of that fine Borsalino. Still wouldn’t hurt to post some documents – feel free to borrow any of our pdf’s – here’s a good one. Before long people are going to want to see content – and we’re not talking video. Hey – we linked to you, netiquette now requires you to link back to UO Matters.

Oregon Attorney General John Kroger may – eventually – make good on his campaign promises to improve enforcement of public records law. UO has been notoriously bad at providing public access. One of the reasons we started this blog was to make the records Melinda Grier tried to hide public.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – Attorney General John Kroger says he’ll review Oregon’s open government laws to see whether they’re being applied correctly and whether he should recommend changes to the Legislature. Kroger says Oregonians tell him they value transparency in government, but he hears from journalists that it’s gotten more difficult to get public records. Oregon open government laws date to 1973. Critics say they’ve been weakened by exceptions the Legislature has approved, narrow interpretations from state lawyers, agency foot-dragging, and high fees charged to prepare data for release. Kroger met Tuesday with journalists in Portland. He says the review will be lengthy and include a look at laws in other states.
Associated Press – July 7, 2009 4:15 PM ET

Also see this Editorial. Meanwhile, the UO Senate is ahead of the curve, having passed Nathan Tublitz’s transparency motion, calling on UO to start providing open access to accounting documents.

Frohnmayer’s golden parachute

7/8/2009: Frohnmayer’s Retirement Contract. He keeps his $245,000 base salary plus whatever the Foundation gives him to top it off, (unknown as of yet, but he know gets around $50K as Knight chair) plus a secretary and a GTF, plus a full salary 1/2 year sabbatical, plus a 90% salary 2 month “study leave”, plus offices in the HC and the law school, plus expenses including travel.

In return he agrees to teach one 20 person class per year – and that with GTF support?

UO will never be able to do enough for this man – and you can count on him to make sure of that.

A Modest Proposal

7/7/2009: From this Greg Bolt story in the RG today – apparently Frohnmayer is still being paid as if he were President, with the assignment of “brainstorming about how to increase the numbers of Oregonians who get college degrees.”

Frohnmayer will be paid a pro-rated portion of the state share of his salary as university president, or about $28,000 for the six-week appointment. The state paid Frohnmayer $245,700 in salary in his final year plus a retirement payment in addition to supplements from the UO Foundation that boosted his total pay to about $650,000, not including the value of a state-supplied home and a vehicle allowance.

How about giving the money back Dave – that’s enough to pay in state tuition for one student, for 4 years! Or at least you could agree to take one of those voluntary furloughs you’ve been pushing faculty to sign up for.

Bend Profits?

7/6/2009: Provost Bean keeps changing his story on whether or not UO is losing money on Bend – most people say about $1million a year, he claims it’s in the black – so one of the UO Matters team filed a public records request for the data he used as background for his various statements. UO’s PR guy Doug Park has now replied, offering to sell the documents to us for $45.63. Should we pay, or petition the Attorney General for a fee-waiver on the grounds that it’s illegal to make false statements when asking for charitable donations – as was done during the furlough meeting? Suggestions welcome!

RG editorial interview with Lariviere

7/5/2009: The RG has an editorial about Lariviere here. (With the apparently obligatory sloppy kiss to Frohnmayer.) There’s some vague talk about faculty salaries – but nothing specific on how he plans to deal with it, beyond some statements about how the sciences and professional schools have done better than the humanities in terms of funding – I assume he doesn’t mean better in terms of salaries. There are no specifics about what he is willing to sacrifice to get the money to increase salaries – not that this would be expected in a piece like this. We hope he begins with a serious re-examination of Bend, Portland, OIED, and the 5 new Sustainability big ideas. Interestingly the last UO President who tried to deal seriously with the salary problem at UO was Paul Olum, president from 1980 – 1989. The OUS Board fired him. The RG editorial on that is here – it’s interesting reading. The board has known about the salary problem for a long time – and they’ve spent UO’s money on many, many other things instead. Even if Lariviere himself is serious, he may have a tough time convincing the board this should be their #1 priority!

Troubling news

6/26/2009: Incoming President Lariviere’s has announced a “reorganization” of the President’s office. It’s his office, and we have been trying to avoid second guessing, but what the hell:

Lariviere is promoting VProvost Charles Martinez to VPresident – despite Martinez’s long and flagrant history of violating UO’s rules about conflict of commitment. Equally troubling, this will mark Martinez’s 3rd administrative appointment for UO’s top Diversity job, and not once have we had an open, competitive, affirmative action compliant search. It’s one thing when we hire some good old boy as coach or AD without following the Affirmative Action rules – but our VP for Diversity? This doesn’t raise any red flags with Richard Lariviere? Wow.

There’s more about this reorganization here. The deadline for comments is Monday:

Current UO employees who wish to share any thoughts or comments regarding the reorganization within the Office of the President are invited to submit comments to [Incoming] President Lariviere. Comments should be directed to Barbara West at brew@uoregon.edu and must be received by 5:00 p.m. on June 30, 2009.

Benefits

6/25/2009:

I haven’t had time to digest these issues, but the AAU / AFT union people have been raising questions about the switch to a self-insurance health plan. Details here. The Gist:

Starting in January 2010 PEBB will “self insure” our health insurance with Providence as the plan administrator. Providence is a regional company headquartered in Washington state and owned by the Sisters of Providence, a Catholic order. Providence sets up provider network and handles all claims. PEBB designs the plan, pays the claims and assumes all the risks that Blue Cross assumed in the past. PEBB says there will no change in our insurance but there are many indications that this will not be the case.

This is likely to be a huge change in total compensation for UO faculty. When you think of how seriously people take changes in pay of a few %, it’s amazing – or perhaps entirely unsurprising – there hasn’t been more open discussion of this and more info coming from Provost Bean.

Pay us $111.46 to find out how we spend your money

6/20/2009: Last week we asked UO Counsel Doug Park for documentation on how many millions UO administrators had spend remodeling their offices in Johnson Hall, and if it was true that Frances Dyke had diverted some of the money from a fund Linda Brady had set up for faculty offices.

A week later (and before the AG cracked down Melinda Grier would draw this step out for 3 months, minimum) we got the reply below. Information on this sort of thing is a matter of public interest and we shouldn’t have to pay $111.46 (strange – Doug usually picks a prime number) to see it – and when Tublitz’s transparency website is active, we won’t have to. Meanwhile, maybe we’ll petition this to the AG’s office.

Dear Professor X:

The University of Oregon has received your public records request for a copy of documents or accounting reports related to remodeling and renovating Johnson Hall for the last two years or what is budgeted through June 2010. You also request documents providing information about funds budgeted for faculty office remodeling – we assume for the same time period (the last two years). The University is now providing an estimate.

The University estimates the actual cost of providing the documents responsive to your request to be $111.46. Upon receipt of a check made payable to the University of Oregon in the amount of $111.46, the University will proceed to locate, copy, and provide the records you have requested that are not exempt from disclosure. Your check may be sent to the attention of the General Counsel’s office at 1226 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1226. Your request for a fee waiver is respectfully denied.

Please note that if the cost of preparing the documents for you is less than the estimate, we will refund the difference. If the cost of preparing the report for you exceeds the estimate, however, you may be charged for the difference. Following is an outline of how costs are determined.

…boilerplate …

Thank you for contacting the University with your request.

Sincerely,

The University of Oregon
Office of the General Counsel

Administrative reorganization?

6/18/2009:

From the HR website:

Richard Lariviere, Incoming President, wishes to announce a reorganization within the President’s Office. The reorganization is necessary to ensure a smooth transition in leadership that is as seamless as possible and will allow the business of the university to move forward quickly and effectively during a critical time. The reorganization involves a number of changes.

Jim Bean, Interim Sr. Vice President and Provost, has agreed to continue in that role on a long-term basis.

University Advancement ultimately will be reorganized into two units, each with a Vice President reporting to the president — the Office of University Relations and the Office of University Development. Interim Vice President for Advancement Michael Redding has been asked, and has agreed to serve as Vice President for University Relations. In addition to its primary role of strategically positioning the UO with it various constituents and securing public resources to further its aims, the Office of University Relations will have responsibility for senior and executive assistant staff providing support for the president. A search for a Vice President for University Development will commence as soon as practical, with Sr. Vice President/Provost Bean serving as chair. Until that position has been filled, University Development will report to Vice President Redding.

As a result of his role in managing the university’s legislative priorities and providing policy and communication support for university leaders, Director of Intergovernmental Relations Tim Black has an extensive knowledge of university policies and procedures, the university’s role within the state, and the ability to work effectively with a wide range of internal and external constituents. Those attributes are essential to ensuring that the president is positioned to further the objectives of the institution. Tim Black has been asked, and has agreed to serve in an expanded role as Assistant Vice President.

Executive Assistant President Dave Hubin will continue to support the Office of the President in much the same manner as he currently does, meeting with individuals who contact the president’s office for assistance, serving as accreditation liaison officer and NCAA certification coordinator, serving as the president’s liaison to the nine federally recognized tribes of Oregon and on faculty governance, and many other important tasks. His title will change to Senior Assistant to the President.

In light of the retirement of Carol Rydbom, Becky Couch-Goodling, who has provided administrative support in the President’s Office since 1997 has been asked, and has agreed to serve in an expanded role as Executive Assistant to the President.

Finally, in light of the campus-wide reach and critical importance of campus diversity initiatives, Charles Martinez, Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity, will report directly to the president as Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity, rather than to the Sr. Vice President/Provost.

The above changes will ensure a core team of knowledgeable and dedicated staff to support the incoming president and contribute to a smooth transition that will allow important work to continue without disruption. The changes are anticipated to be effective on or about July 1, 2009.

Current UO employees who wish to share any thoughts or comments regarding the reorganization within the Office of the President are invited to submit comments to [Incoming] President Lariviere. Comments should be directed to Barbara West at brew@uoregon.edu and must be received by 5:00 p.m. on June 30, 2009.

Public Records

6/16/2009: No responses yet to our public records requests for data on the Bend program losses, the $3 million on Johnson Hall remodeling, and we are still waiting for copies of Frohnmayer’s retirement contract and Lariviere’s contract – presumably meaning that they are still haggling out the details with OUS. We really hope that Lariviere is insisting on getting it in writing that the OUS board will not allow Frohnmayer to meddle in his decisions.

RG Editorial on salaries

6/15/2009: The RG has an editorial today on low faculty salaries at UO – repeating the now infamous $7,300 less than Missouri number, and making enough other comparisons to head off the counter-arguments and excuses we’ve been hearing from President Frohnmayer and UO’s administrators on this. The RG then argues – or maybe this is my explication – that the current high unemployment rate shows that the state should diversify its economic base, that higher education is a proven way to do that, and that low faculty salaries are not going to make it easy to build UO back into the strong research university the state needs.

As always the question is how to come up with the money to do this. It will take about $10 million per year to get salaries up near peer levels. UO has this money already – thanks to higher tuition and enrollment. This site tries to document how the current administration has been spending that money on their own salaries (120% of peers), perks ($3 million on remodeling!) and a raft of pet projects that distract from our core academic mission. If incoming President Lariviere is serious about rebuilding UO, he is going to have to start by making some tough decisions about the millions of dollars that UO has been spending on increased administrative salaries and expenses, subsidizing Bend, new programs in Portland, diversity, sustainability and so on. Tough choices. The sooner he starts, the sooner the rebuilding will start.

I hope that editorials like this will make Lariviere’s decisions on these issues easier. They will be opposed by many special interests, including President Frohnmayer. Unfortunately Frohnmayer has chosen to forego the traditional year long off campus sabbatical for retiring presidents. The reason for this tradition is to ensure that the old president will not meddle in the decisions of the new one. It is a bad sign that Frohnmayer did not do this voluntarily, and a worse one that Lariviere did not have enough influence with the OUS board to insist on it.

UOMatters tries doing something constructive

6/14/2009: Taken from the official web biography of which chronically insecure leader: Dave Frohnmayer, Kim Il-Jong, or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? “No president has served so long nor, many would say, been so admired—even loved.”

Frohnmayer is leaving soon, and we hope a few of his cronies too. While we think it’s important and amusing to “keep the big boys honest” by making sure there is a permanent googleable record of what they say and do, it’s not enough. Exposing wasteful spending is one place we have a comparative advantage over … well, no one else even bothers – certainly not the UO administrators, who benefit from boondoggles like Bend.

Roughly speaking, it takes $1 million to raise the average faculty salary $700. We’ll start with some digging into the Bend program, which we think is losing about $1 million. Please add suggestions for other boondoggles in the comments – we’ll need to find a few more!