Affirmative Action delays

11/6/2009: We will have more about this next week, but UO is currently going into the main faculty hiring season with an Affirmative Action plan that is more than 10 months out of date, and which is based on data from October 2007. Federal law requires annual updates.

It will be interesting to hear AA Director Penny Daugherty explain what the possible legal consequences are, when she starts her usual round of meetings with faculty hiring committees.

Students ask UO for transparency

11/5/2009: From CJ Ciaramella in the Emerald:

What was supposed to be a one-time surcharge tacked onto last spring term’s tuition has now become a permanent increase to University tuition, and it’s costing students more than they bargained for. The surcharge, $150 for residents and $350 for non-residents, was approved by the State Board of Higher Education as a one-time emergency measure in March, but this fall the University requested the surcharge be made a permanent part of the tuition base, which the Board approved. “We were granted permission to keep the increase and add additionally onto it,” University Vice President of Finance and Administration Frances Dyke said. …

Student leaders, who were sold on the surcharge as a one-time occurrence, as well as a buy-down of the student incidental fee to offset the charge, are unhappy with the news. “This information was communicated in a way that didn’t seem to meet the goals of transparency that the administration says it holds,” ASUO President Emma Kallaway said. “Bottom line: We’re frustrated and seeking more information to better serve students.”

Good luck with that transparency thing.

Football is Affirmative Action for men:

11/4/2009: I don’t know what to think of this, from Harris Meyer in the Oregonian:

Football is about to make a comeback at the 1,500-student liberal arts campus. (Pacific University). Despite opposition from many faculty members and students, Pacific is recruiting players to field a team next fall. Administrators and others see football as boosting enrollment and tuition dollars. And, like other colleges and universities around the country, Pacific hopes football will lure more male students to its campus, where women outnumber men nearly 2-to-1. “It’s necessary to change the gender balance to be more representative of society,” says John Hayes, dean of Pacific’s college of arts and sciences. “At more than 60 percent female, there is a different classroom dynamic, and I don’t think the discourse is as rich.”…

Nationally, 57 percent of college students in 2007 were women, compared with 51 percent in 1980, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The gender gap is starker at private liberal arts colleges, which often lack career-preparation degrees such as engineering and business offered by public universities that draw male students.

WTF? Ignorant anti-government Texans vote to support research universities?

11/4/2009: From the Chronicle:

Voters in Texas on Tuesday approved a ballot measure designed to strengthen the state’s research universities, with about 56 percent voting in favor of the proposal. … The Texas measure, known as Proposition 4, will establish a National Research University Fund to provide financial incentives for universities in the state to attain “top tier” status.

Apparently the bill specified explicit benchmarks the universities needed to achieve to get the funds. Would Lariviere be willing to go for a similar deal? Cut spending on administrative excess and those vanity projects that help VP’s pad their vitae for the next move ? Would the UO faculty support him if he did agree to explicit targets on research excellence: citations, PhD’s who get academic jobs, grant funding?

College President’s pay

11/2/2009: Stories in the Chronicle and the WSJ about high salaries for retired private university presidents. I think the Chronicle will release new data on publics soon. This story would suggest Frohnmayer’s golden parachute deal is unusually fat, however – only 20% of private schools pay ex-president’s more than $200,000. As a poor public – without a medical school, which is where the big money shows up – we pay Frohnmayer $245,000, plus expenses. (We hear a new rumor that Frohnmayer is now out soliciting UO donors to give to his proposed “Frohnmayer Leadership Center”. Wonderful.)

Big and Expensive Green Ideas

11/1/2009: Harry Esteve has an article in the Oregonian today about how Governor Kulongoski bullied state analysts into low-balling their cost estimates for his green tax break schemes. It’s complete with careful documentation – obtained by public records requests – of spreadsheets with hand written “corrections”, emails about the need to lower the estimates to make the bill politically feasible, analysts quitting in disgust, other analysts getting promotde, etc. This story is a great example of why government doesn’t work without newspapers to blow the whistle and I hope Esteve gets a Pulitzer for it:

The official estimates turned out to be absurdly low. In 2007-09, the business tax credit cost the state $68 million, of which about $40 million can be attributed to the bigger subsidies. The latest estimate for 2009-11 puts the tab for subsidies at $167 million in lost revenue, which is projected to grow to $243 million for 2011-13 — about what Oregon spends now from its general fund on the entire state police budget.

The UO connection? (Aside from the fact these tax credits will be 3x what the state gives UO.) Provost Bean has been pushing his “Big Ideas” program, which is focused on environmental issues, because of the same pressure from Governor Kulongoski’s office which led to the scandal above. Just as these tax credits take away money that could have used for higher ed, UO’s Big Idea focus takes effort, money, and attention from other programs.

Part of the original motivation for the green ideas was that they would attract new money from the governor. That looks considerably less likely given this scandal, and we should reevaluate what Provost Bean’s Big Ideas will cost the rest of UO’s academic efforts.

OHSU problems:

10/31/2009: Verbatim from Jack Bog’s Blog:

Red flag goes up at OHSU

The new chief financial officer at OHSU has quit after just two weeks on the job. Apparently it has something to do with family issues, but given all the turnover in management on Pill Hill lately, the situation bears scrutiny. As Muddy Waters used to say, “that’s the stuff you gotta watch.” The most recent interim CFO can’t come back under PERS rules; he’s been gone for a couple of months already.

The announcement came on a Friday, no doubt timed so that it could be lost in the weekend, and of course the O‘s editors were sure to oblige on that score. We’ll come back to it on Monday.

How will these problems at OHSU affect Lariviere’s efforts to get the same independence from the legislature that OHSU has?

Tenure and Promotion

10/29/2009: Curious about who got tenure or was promoted to full professor at UO last year? So are the members of the UO’s Faculty Personnel Committee. According to their official report,
That’s right, Provost Bean refuses to say who has been given tenure and promoted. He won’t even tell the faculty who advise him on the cases. I have never heard of this happening at a university before. Never. The report from the 2007-8 FPC (when Brady was Provost) says:

The FPC chair inspected all decision letters sent by the provost. This is a critical step that should always be practiced soon after they are sent.

The UO administration’s contempt for the faculty is just stunning. Lariviere needs to pay some attention to these issues.

ICC rate cut – revenge of the nerds part 7

10/27/2009: We’re slowly piecing together the story about why UO’s ICC rate was cut from 50 to 48 to 42%. Rich Linton had apparently seen this coming, and had taken 0.5% cuts (the default) for several years, rather than face a full review. But he could not postpone past 2008, and the ensuing federal review – based on 2006 numbers – produced the dramatic fall, costing UO faculty research $2 million per year starting this year.

In short, the cut was foreseen and could have been avoided by increasing expenditures on coverable research related items (space, startups, etc.) by $2 million per year, to establish a higher base. This is apparently a common strategy at other universities. But our administration decided not to do this. Instead they spent the money on Moseley’s retirement plan in UO-Bend, renovating their offices in Johnson Hall, etc.

If our math is correct, the return to spending the money on research would have been over 100% – per year. I’m no economist, but what the fuck? Frohnmayer sure had interesting preferences. And Rich – maybe you should have told the faculty about this a few years back? Next time an anonymous comment on UO Matters is all it will take.

Union

10/25/2009: Greg Bolt has a good article on the faculty union in the Sunday RG:

(Marie) Vitulli (Math) said concern about pay and benefits is one reason for considering a union. UO faculty are generally ranked at or near the bottom in pay among institutions in the groups the state uses as comparators. … But of as much concern to some people on campus is the voice faculty have in major decisions affecting the university. Vitulli said many people feel that the university’s top executives don’t give much weight to faculty views. … Asked to comment on the union effort, the UO Provost Jim Bean said the university “supports the rights of faculty and staff” as they decide whether to unionize and will make relevant information available.

Jim, what do you mean by “will make relevant information available?” As in offer to sell the faculty the documents that explain how administrative spending policies just lost the faculty $2 million a year in federal research money? You just made the best case for the Union I’ve heard yet.

President Larivere has an Op-Ed in the RG today as well. Lariviere has been President for 4 months now. It’s typical for a person taking a job like this to bargain for the right to make some changes in their administrative team. So far there’s no hint of that happening – quite the opposite. Either he didn’t negotiate this as part of his deal or he likes Frohnmayer’s top administrators and the way they run UO and treat the faculty just fine.

So, nice words, but we got those from Frohnmayer all the time – prestigious AAU membership, extraordinary faculty, opportunity for students – yada yada. Reads like Frohnmayer’s speechwriter wrote it. (Yup, same guy.) This is just cheap talk. Lariviere needs to make some changes very soon or we really will have a union.

The Oregon Commentator – and libertarians are not usually pro-union – just weighed in with this:

The UO’s faculty is normally ranked at the bottom of Oregon College’s faculty pay scales, averaging about 80% of the average pay at other state schools in Oregon. Portland State University, Southern Oregon University, Western Oregon University and Eastern Oregon all have faculty unions. It’s ironic that President Lariviere’s guest commentary mentioned that Oregon was the “flagship university” in Oregon yet none of the faculty seemed to be getting paid on par with other Oregon state universities (actually one faculty member gets paid well, Frohnmeyer, who will be paid $250,000 to lead a freshmen seminar).

That’s spelled Frohnmayer, Drew. And he only gets $245,000. Be careful, he can be pretty prickly about these sorts of bogus attacks.

PERS

10/24/2009: Ted Sickinger at the Oregonian does a lot of good reporting on PERS. I’m no economist, but a lot of strange things seem to be going on with their investment strategy – they have a politically appointed board which can and does overrule the staff about investment decisions. And when that board’s investment consultant starts making careful analytic justifications for investments like “I think (the CEO) has ice water running in his veins” you don’t need to understand Black-Scholes to think maybe they are just doubling down on a loss, with other people’s money. And of course there has been the slew of longtime legislators that Kulongoski has appointed to short term admin jobs to jack up their retirement payouts, and the similar shenanigans at UO with John Moseley, Lorraine Davis, et al. Those payouts have to some from somewhere. In this article Sickinger writes that state agencies may need to increase their contributions by 50% in the next few years to keep the fund solvent. This will add about 10% to UO labor costs. There goes Lariviere’s proposal to raise faculty salary’s to somewhere above 81% of Missouri – though we’re guessing Provost Bean will somehow find the money to give the senior administrators another round of hidden raises.

Frohnmayer gets Architecture Prize

10/24/2009: The Architecture Foundation of Oregon has given President Emeritus Frohnmayer an award for “contributions to Oregon’s built environment”. Seems very appropriate – Dave spent a huge amount of energy improving campus buildings – almost as much as he spent on making sure he and his cronies would get fat PERS busting retirement … no wait … must control fingers … this is about bricks and concrete. Frohnmayer had a point: a great university is about more than faculty, students, teaching and research – appearances count too. Interestingly the award citation doesn’t mention Dave’s biggest projects – the $235 million Matt Court, or the $30 million “Athletes Only” class cube on Franklin. I sort of like the cube, but most of the architects on campus go ballistic about it as a gateway to UO, since it ignores UO’s Ellis Lawrence heritage.

This campus has some beautiful, subtle buildings, and Lawrence did most of them. And if you don’t who I’m talking about, follow the link and get the book on him at the bookstore. The Art Museum, Knight library, Mac Court, Chiles with all it’s details. Is there something arabic going on here? Walking through campus will be much more interesting after you read about Lawrence and his ideas and influence – you’ll see something new every day, and when you realize the seminar speaker you are spending the next three hours hosting has nothing interesting to say and apparently is not the anonymous reviewer of that revise and resubmit you have been sweating over, just take them on a walk and thank UO Matters.