President Schill takes responsibility for UO’s fragile finances

Just kidding, he’s blaming the unions. From Daily Emerald reporter Jack Forrest, here:

The somber mood was retained throughout much of the address with discussions of budget deficits and low financial reserves. At one point, Schill said some blame lies with UO’s trend to unionize.

“One of the things that produced our fragility is that we, unlike virtually all of our peer schools, tend to heavily unionize, in the faculty as well as in the staff,” Schill said. “It just means we lack some of the flexibility, some of the tools, some of the levers that other universities have. Maybe it’s worth it to have that, that’s a decision that the faculty made, but it does create that situation.”

The video is here. Rumor has it that the faculty union’s treasurer will be sending Schill an invoice for “scapegoat services”.

Presidents Trump & Schill disagree over who is most transparent

It’s a tough call, really:

President Trump, 11/11/2019:

President Schill, 10/10/2019:

I can say, without a doubt, that the UO is the most transparent of them all. It’s not even close. The amount of data and information that we make available is truly extraordinary. …  I am planning to launch a transparency website this term, an online clearinghouse where we consolidate many of the publicly available reports and data about the university into one online location. … I look forward to sharing it with you in the coming weeks …

10/10/2019: Pres Schill thinks UO is transparent & your comments are disgusting

Also, while he continues to let his GC Kevin Reed use fees and delays to hide public records, he’s spending tuition money on an overscripted buddy movie of himself and Provost Phillips,

and on a “transparency website” that will post the information he wants you to see in easily digestible form. Please forgive my cynicism:

Dear University of Oregon colleagues,

A few weeks ago, UO’s new Provost Patrick Phillips and I took a walk around campus and talked about some of the things we are both looking forward to at the start of a new academic year. I would like to try something new—a hybrid edition of Open Mike featuring both video and text. I hope you will indulge me and take a few minutes to watch our discussion.

As we walked across campus, one topic we kept coming back to was our shared goal of helping to build a campus culture at UO that is grounded in both academic freedom and respectful dialogue. Some believe those two ideals are in conflict, but I do not see it that way. For example, Patrick and I do not always agree—and that is a good thing—because we make better decisions for the institution when we are challenging each other’s assumptions, playing devil’s advocate, and pushing the other to consider flaws in logic or to confront personal biases. The thing I most appreciate, though, is that we have the highest level of respect for each other and know that the conversation, even if heated, is rooted in wanting the best for the UO’s future, respecting our mission, and valuing students, faculty, and staff.

Our conversation got me thinking about the principles that should ultimately bind an academic institution and community of scholars. I firmly believe the UO is a community united by a desire to serve our current students and future generations. We strive for truth and understanding, and it is only through cooperation and teamwork that we can succeed, whether in the laboratory or the classroom. It is this spirit of cooperation and the sense of a higher calling to work toward the betterment of society through our mission of research, education, and service that makes us different, that generates the special spirit that is needed for us to succeed at the highest level. Our actions should model the behavior we hope will rub off on our students.

Quite honestly, I am not sure that we at the UO have always lived up to that ideal. Our campus culture can sometimes show cracks from the voices of cynicism and discord. But I recognize that I cannot expect those who seek a culture that values both academic freedom and respect to raise their voices if I do not set the right example from Johnson Hall. For that reason, I am establishing some principles that I will personally adhere to and that I will insist all members of my administration follow in a sincere effort to maintain and improve our campus culture. I invite colleagues across campus to do the same. Here are the principles I commit myself and the other administrators to:

Honesty. I, and the people who report to me, will never knowingly lie or mislead members of our community. Trust is an essential element of any well-functioning community and honesty is the foundation of trust. Unfortunately, the university I joined in 2015 was suffering from a severe lack of trust for reasons we all understand. I have tried my best to engender trust over the past four years, but I have not been as successful as I would have hoped. I continue to looks for ways to redouble my efforts here. But trust is a two-way street. We must all call out the bad behavior of some members of our community whose main purpose is to spread falsehoods for the purpose of sowing doubt and cynicism or achieving strategic advantage. A healthy dose of skepticism is good, but character assassination and the spreading of lies and innuendo is not.

Transparency. Trust can only be built through transparency. I sometimes wonder why some folks always think the administration is hiding things. I have been a faculty member at two universities and a faculty member/administrator at three others. I can say, without a doubt, that the UO is the most transparent of them all. It’s not even close. The amount of data and information that we make available is truly extraordinary. I sometimes think that the sheer volume of information on our institutional research and budget websites might hinder members of our community from finding what they are looking for. To deal with this issue, I am planning to launch a transparency website this term, an online clearinghouse where we consolidate many of the publicly available reports and data about the university into one online location. In addition, I hope to provide facts to answer some commonly held questions and clear up some persistent myths about the university. I look forward to sharing it with you in the coming weeks and, once it is live, I invite input from all of you on how we can improve it and make the tool more useful. Stay tuned.

Respect. As I stated above, one of the defining features of a successful academic community is respect. Respect for each other’s views and for our colleagues as people. Respect does not mean that we need to agree with each other; quite to the contrary. Vigorous disagreement about ideas is the hallmark of a healthy academic community. But ad hominin attacks, aspersions about motives, insults directed at colleagues, and harassment of co-workers are all signs of a dysfunctional community. We can do better here. I am disgusted by what I sometimes read online and in the comments section of local newspapers and blogs. We are better than this. If we are not, we need to be. We are faced with enough bad behavior online and in Washington, D.C.; we do not need to bring it into our university. I pledge I will do my best to treat everyone here with respect, whether in my office, in the classroom, or just walking across campus. I hope that respect will be mutual.

Grace. One of the defining elements of a well-functioning community is empathy, kindness, and, for want of a better word, grace. Over the past four years I have met thousands of our staff members, graduate students, faculty members, and administrators. I have talked to you and believe that the vast majority of our faculty and staff care deeply about our students and their futures. That is why you are here. You forgive them their mistakes and understand that life is about learning from our experiences—both good and bad. I wish that we could show each other that same grace. I have made and will make some mistakes as your president. So will other administrators. And so will you. But let’s not turn every mistake into a moment of attack. Let’s treat each other with some of the same grace we show our students. I promise I will try to do that as I fulfill my obligations as your president.

So, as we begin a new academic year, one that could have its share of tension and disagreement, I will employ these principles of honesty, transparency, respect, and grace. I will also try, to the best I am able, to throw in a bit of wisdom and humor from time to time.

Welcome back. I very much look forward to working closely with each of you this year.
Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law

Pres Schill on DACA

Dear University of Oregon colleagues,
Next week the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This is important to the University of Oregon because for students on our campus, and at other universities across the country, DACA helps provide a path to higher education and a better life.
In this Open Mike I will focus on DACA and not the broader set of issues concerning undocumented immigrants. Nevertheless, it doesn’t escape me that much of the current controversy swirling around DACA would not exist if Congress and the president could agree upon comprehensive immigration reform, something that appears out of reach for the time being.
Access to opportunity and fidelity to our nation’s ideals are ultimately what are both at stake next week, when the Trump administration squares off against the state of California and other plaintiffs seeking to reverse decisions of several appellate courts that blocked the government’s attempts to repeal the DACA program. The UO has signed on to amicus briefs supporting the continuation of DACA, which is important to the UO, higher education and, I believe, our nation.
Simply put, it would be wrong and negatively impact our country to uproot a person’s life based on whether they, as a child, entered our nation either legally or illegally under federal law. Today, thousands of DACA recipients are now working as professionals and are contributing billions of dollars to our economy. Rather than seeking to deport them, in my view, we should provide these Dreamers with a clear path to citizenship and ensure that they have access to the resources that will help them continue to achieve the American Dream, including access to public higher education. Our nation’s ideals and values demand that we should provide the same opportunity to today’s Dreamers that was afforded to countless generations of immigrants before them, including all four of my grandparents.
DACA was implemented by the Obama administration in 2012 to allow qualifying undocumented individuals who satisfied a set of criteria to receive renewable two-year periods of deferred action from deportation and to apply for temporary work permits. Prior to DACA, these young people lived under constant fear of being deported back to countries with which they may have had little connection or memory. Many had no hope of going to college, since they would have been ineligible for state aid, unable to obtain loans, and barred from seeking lawful employment.
DACA provides a lifeline of hope. Although accurate data is hard to come by, an estimated 120,000 DACA recipients have attended or are currently enrolled in American universities, including some at the UO. Thanks to legislation adopted by Oregon and several other states, many of those DACA students have been able to take advantage of in-state tuition at public universities. Some financed their education with private loans and many worked and continue to work part time or full time to afford tuition, room, and board. Many DACA students have thrived on our campus, taken leadership roles in campus groups, and graduated with honors. The program’s continuity has led many who otherwise would not have received degrees to complete their educations. These are people who put that education to work by enriching the civic, social, and economic fabric of their communities.
The Supreme Court will rule by June 2020 on the legal merits of the government’s position that it has the discretion to end the program. As I already noted, the UO has signed on to amicus briefs through a number of organizations of which we are a member, including the Association of American Universities, the American Council of Education, and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.
The justice of letting DACA recipients remain in the U.S. seems pretty clear to me. But I am aware that not everyone shares my intuitions about what is right or wrong. Nor should they. So, let’s examine the question from a more consequential perspective. Would we (the United States of America) be better off deporting DACA recipients or letting them remain here? The United States is experiencing an aging population. Increasingly, immigration will be important in providing us with the workforce we need to fuel the economy. We have already invested tremendous resources in educating these young men and women in our K-12 school systems. In addition, many have already gone on to higher education, a number of whom have received advanced degrees. Would requiring DACA recipients to leave the United States truly serve our nation’s best interest? I think not.
I’ve already noted that my grandparents—both maternal and paternal—came to America to escape anti-Semitic persecution and to pursue economic opportunity. I admit I am biased, but I believe immigrants immeasurably strengthen our nation. They choose to become part of our polity, often at great cost and risk to their safety and security. Immigrants provide our nation with the talent that fuels its global competitiveness. It is no accident that many of our greatest inventors and theorists have come to us from other nations. Indeed, today, the graduate students who study in our laboratories and work with our faculty to make scientific discoveries often come from abroad. And, the economically impoverished who cross our borders often contribute in manifold ways to our economy by doing needed work and by anchoring our communities.
DACA students are part of a long line of people who have migrated to, strengthened, and enriched our nation. There can be no doubt that the United States needs comprehensive immigration reform that regulates the flow of people into the nation and that makes it easier to secure our borders. That will require bipartisan, thoughtful debate. But to uproot these young people, deny them educational opportunity, and deport them violates principles of fairness and economic self-interest. It betrays the essence of our national identity and ideals.
At the UO, we will continue to support our DACA and Dreamer students by lending our name to the Supreme Court litigation, by not cooperating with efforts by federal authorities to deport students, by supporting our Dreamers Working Group and their efforts to build allies for these students, and by providing advice, services, and, where possible, financial assistance to help them achieve their dreams. It is the right thing to do. I am hopeful that the courts will continue to let this important program serve as a lifeline of hope to a group of Dreamers who know no other home than the United States and deserve access to the same opportunities as their peers.
Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law

When and where will President Schill give his State of the University address?

Traditionally this has been in the fall in front of the UO Senate, followed by some gentle Q&A. I’m assuming that this year’s speech – which I’ll guess will mention “student success” and “innovation” at least 20 times, and include no more than 5 of the devalued “excellence” buzz-word, has been delayed until the GTFF bargaining is settled. Post a comment if you know more.

In 2017, Pres Schill tried to deliver this speech to a crowd of UO boosters at the EMU. That did not go well, though he did get an NYT op-ed out of it – after their assistant editor pushed him to revise and resubmit with more fascism stuff. In 2018 he took it off campus, paying the Eugene City Club $5K for a safe space (and delaying it until Jan 2019).

 

Update 3: Pres Schill gets $188K raise, donates $100K for need-based scholarships

I can’t imagine why Around the O hasn’t communicated anything about this board meeting. So I’ll update this post as the meetings progress. See below the break for the details.

Update 1: New financial overview info below.

Update 2: Board engages in its traditional 60 minute bashing of the state for underfunding us. This seems unlikely to be productive. See below for some live blogging:

The Trustees love the idea that UO can’t count on the state for funding. President Schill argues that it almost seems they want to hurt us. My question is why is UO so bad at gaming this system? Why do we keep antagonizing the Beaver alumni in the legislature with things like blowing our money on a Duck Baseball program? Why do we make things like state money for the IAAF championships a top lobbying priority?

Maybe their goal is to make sure that UO has to rely on private philanthropy?

Update 3, Friday AM: President Schill announces he will donate his expected $100K annual bonus to the UO, for scholarships for first-generation students, in honor of his mother who helped him get through college as a first-generation student. Good man. Good son!

Board of Trustees Meeting Agendas | September 5-7, 2018
All meetings Room 136, Naito Building, UO Portland. Livecast links will be posted here.

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Pres Schill on 17-18 events

Emailed to campus 6/13/2018:
Dear University of Oregon community members,
As we close out the 2017-18 academic year, I offer my warm congratulations to all of our graduates. I also want to thank everyone—faculty, advisors, graduate instructors and researchers, and staff—who helped our graduates reach the finish line. I look forward to standing in Matthew Knight Arena and watching those caps fly, as the class of 2018 prepares to take flight.
Together, we accomplished quite a bit this year. We took big leaps forward in advancing our academic enterprise: we broke ground on the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact and hired a permanent executive director to lead this extraordinary effort to further the mission of science in the service of society; we invested in promising new academic programsfrom data scienceand science media to embedding education researchers in high schoolsand we continued to hire and invest in world-class scholars in fields such as obesity prevention, Black studies, anthropology, and volcanology to name a few.
It is fitting that the year was bookended at the start by the groundbreaking for Tykeson Hall and at the end by the announcement that we will hire two dozen new advisors to work in that same building when it opens in 2019 as part of our new expansion and integration of academic and career counseling. I am incredibly excited to join with the College of Arts and Sciences, Undergraduate Studies, and Student Life in an initiative that will support student success from the moment they step foot on campus to the time students leave and beyond. There is nothing more important.
As someone who will probably go down in history as the least athletic University of Oregon president, I joined with many of you in cheering on the achievements of our scholar-athletes, both on the field and off. In particular, I was thrilled and inspired by our Pac-12 champion softball and women’s basketball teams who demonstrated the very best in intercollegiate athletics time and time again. I also enjoyed watching our students excel in activities as varied as producing art, making music, and acting.
For our university to soar we need to become more diverse and inclusive. Toward that end, over the course of the past year every school, college, and administrative unit created Diversity Action Plans in their corner of campus. We opened a new Native American academic residential community, announced that we would build a Black Cultural Center, and redoubled efforts to recruit and support underrepresented students, all of which was on display during last week’s Showcase Oregon.
Like most universities across the United States, we experienced tension between the rights and values of free expression and the need to create a safe and inclusive environment on an increasingly diverse campus. With few exceptions, these tensions were resolved in a way that should make us proud. We also held robust discussions from a variety of perspectives and disciplines during our Freedom of Expression Event series that explored our differences and commonalities.
As I wrap up my third year as president, I have been reflecting on what I’ve learned about our students and this paragraph is specifically addressed to them. You are impressive, brilliant, passionate, and entrepreneurial. While the vast majority of you love being part of our UO community, some of you feel marginalized and unsafe on our campus. Some of you do not feel heard or supported, or fear speaking up for what you need or believe. I am reminded that we, as an institution, and I, personally, need to listen more, engage with you in a more supportive way, and strive to better understand all perspectives and needs. This will be a priority for me and everyone on our campus going forward.
I want all of you—every student and every member of our campus community—to benefit from the amazing wave of success our university is riding. We have some of the greatest minds solving big problems—from protecting our earth and making our bodies work better to creating new products and advocating for justice. We are making a difference, making the world more beautiful and interesting, and preparing a generation of leaders. We are, in short, part of something really special here at the University of Oregon. I am proud to be your president.
Thank you for a wonderful academic year. Enjoy the summer.
Sincerely,
Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law

President Schill on impact of tax reform bills

Dear colleagues and friends,

For those of us in higher education, the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is about completing research projects, taking and grading exams, and planning for the winter term. This year, however, we should all be concerned with something going on thousands of miles away in Washington, DC—namely, tax reform efforts being considered by Congress. Simply put, many of the legislative proposals could substantially impede the ability of universities such as the University of Oregon to deliver an excellent, affordable education to our students.

Graduate students have the most to lose under this legislation. About 1,500 graduate students at the UO currently receive full or partial tuition remissions plus stipends. This financial support is vital in enabling them to afford years of graduate education without amassing huge debts. In return for this assistance and as part of their training, graduate students help support faculty research and teach undergraduate courses in the humanities, social sciences, STEM fields, and beyond. Tuition waivers or remissions to graduate students are not now taxable; this would change under the tax bill passed by the House of Representatives. Undergraduates would not be spared from unfavorable treatment. The bill also undermines the practice of lifelong learning by doing away with the lifelong learning credit that provides access to a diverse group of students, particularly nontraditional students. The House bill also proposes ending provisions that permit the deductibility of interest on student debt and the exclusion of the value of tuition waivers provided to university employees and/or their family members enrolled at Oregon universities.

The targeting of undergraduate and graduate students in the push for tax reform is the most damaging element of the legislation from the perspective of universities, but there is more. Under the bills being considered by both the House and the Senate, the standard deduction would be increased substantially and the estate tax would be eliminated. On the one hand, increasing the standard deduction—the amount that taxpayers get to deduct from their taxable income before applying their tax rate—sounds like good news. Proponents argue it will simplify and potentially lower taxes for millions and millions of Americans. Detractors dispute those benefits.

The problem is that universities increasingly rely upon charitable gifts from alumni and friends to support their operations. This is especially important at universities such as the UO, where state support accounts for roughly 8 percent of our total university budget. In the United States, the tax system provides an incentive for charitable giving by allowing donors to deduct from their taxable income the value of their gifts. But only people who itemize their deductions qualify for the charitable giving incentive. So, as more and more people choose the standard deduction in lieu of itemization, the incentive for charitable giving will go down, potentially costing universities across the nation billions of dollars a year. In a similar manner, the existence of an estate tax provides an incentive for people to give away money to charities like universities. Eliminating the estate tax would remove or reduce this incentive.

An additional provision in the tax law targeting private universities is a 1.4 percent excise tax on endowments of more than $250,000 per student. This provision will not affect the UO because of its status as a public institution. Nevertheless, the precedent of taxing university endowments is one that should give us all pause. It could easily be extended in the future to public universities and to schools with smaller endowments.

Why is Congress doing this? One explanation is that, in an effort to reduce the maximum corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent while not ballooning the budget deficit, lawmakers are simply digging into all of the crevices of our nation’s metaphorical fiscal sofa looking for as much money as possible. After all, these bills also eliminate the deduction of state and local taxes and reduce the home mortgage interest deduction, two of the most popular tax breaks in the Internal Revenue Code. But, as recent articles in the media suggest, some see elements in the tax reform act as an assault on higher education.

I will leave it for our political scientists to speculate why some members of Congress apparently have chosen to target higher education. Here is what I am doing—and what I suggest that you, as students and members of the faculty and staff, can do. First, the University of Oregon is an active participant in the American Association of Universities and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, and both organizations are actively lobbying Congress to restore the exclusions for graduation tuition waivers and employee tuition benefits as well as the deductibility of student loan interest. They are also arguing that the charitable giving deduction be universal—meaning that it be available to everyone in addition to the standard deduction. We support these efforts.

In addition, members of our governmental affairs staff and I have been meeting with our congressional delegation to let them know the impact of the current proposals on the UO and to urge them to vote against or modify them. If that is something that interests you, more information is available at the American Council on Education website, including a portal to take action with Congress. While the House has already voted on its version of tax reform, the debate continues with the Senate taking a different approach.

Regardless of whether we succeed or fail in stopping elements in the tax reform legislation that negatively affect universities, it is clear that all of us—administrators, staff, students, faculty, alumni, and supporters—need to make the case that higher education in the United States should be cherished and nurtured, not targeted for cuts. Members of Congress and our state legislatures need to rededicate themselves to the idea that affordable higher education is more than a political slogan—it is a priority that needs to be supported with tax dollars. As the son of two parents who did not go to college, I experienced the transformational effect of higher education, and we need to make sure that that door is open to everyone who can benefit from passing through it. Expanding the Federal Pell Grant program, defending the security of DACA students, and expanding rather than reducing tuition support is a necessary component of that effort.

We also need to make the case for graduate education. Our graduate students will complete their education at the UO and go off to careers in academia, the professions, and industry. The research they do here and the work they will do in the future will advance knowledge, fuel the economy, and enlighten generations to come. Our nation eats its own seed corn by reducing our support for them by taxing their tuition waivers.

Sincerely,
Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law

Full text of Pres Mike Schill’s 2017 State of the University speech

Posted for those who, like me, would have liked to have been able to hear it delivered in person. Pre-recorded video here. The comments are open. The elevator version:

Someone made $50M, Mike Schill got them to give it to UO, and now he’s going to spend it to make the university better.

It would have been a long speech. Here are some highlights:

This fall, we welcomed the most diverse class of incoming students in our history. These amazing students from every county in Oregon, every state in the nation, and more than 100 countries cannot be defined in simple terms. Many of them are the first in their families to attend college, as was I.

We are taking steps toward helping our students be successful and graduate on-time through investments in advising and progress tracking, by working with the University Senate to revise curriculum and programming, and by enhancing student engagement opportunities through undergraduate research, academic residential communities, and freshman interest groups. With all the correct measures in place, we are keeping at risk students on track as well as supporting all students with the academic studies. We recognize that we are here to help the students and our resources can be used at their disposal.

In other instances and at other universities, students seek to disinvite or shout down speakers they don’t agree with. Faculty who ask probing questions are sometimes vilified as sexist or racist creating a chilling effect on-campus speech and robust discussion. As part of our commitment to excellence and to producing research and students who will make an impact I want to strongly reiterate the University of Oregon’s core values of protecting freedom of speech, academic freedom, and the virtues of robust discussion and debate. If someone says something we don’t like, we should not try to shut them down. That is not what we do in an open democracy. Instead—to paraphrase one of our most monumental Supreme Court justices, Louis D. Brandeis—the antidote to speech we don’t like is MORE SPEECH.

Today I am delighted and humbled to announce that this summer the University of Oregon received a $50 million gift to further excellence at the university over the next five years. … Today, I would like to announce the first five allocations from the Presidential Fund for Excellence.

First, … Like all good academic ideas, the Initiative in Data Sciences bubbled up from the faculty. I have repeatedly heard that we need to develop greater capacity to support our teaching and research in fields as disparate as literature, economics, geography, biology, business, computer science, and design. With the growth of big data comes the need for sophisticated applications and techniques to understand underlying trends and scientific, literary, economic, and social phenomena. And our students need to learn how to apply these methods. Data Science will help connect our disciplines and increase our capacity for discovery. If you would like to learn more about Data Science you may be interested in checking out this data science bootcamp for more information.

Second, I will further invest in faculty, because an excellent university is only as good as its faculty. … , I am earmarking funds from the Presidential Fund for Excellence to match gifts to create nine new faculty chairs.

For my third allocation, I will dedicate money from the Presidents Fund for Excellence to support student success programming at the Black Cultural Center. I am extremely excited about this project and can’t wait to break ground sometime in the summer of 2018.

My fourth investment … to support the School of Journalism and Communication’s plan to create a new Media Center for Science and Technology.

For my fifth allocation, I am awarding the College of Education funds to seed a new and exciting initiative that holds the promise of improving the quality of schools in our state and increasing the number of college-ready students they graduate. This program—the Oregon Research Schools Network—will place faculty members in up to 10 high schools across the state. Each faculty member will train high school teachers in the newest innovations of pedagogical practice and also teach students. The cost for each placement in this five-year pilot program will be shared jointly with local school districts. We hope that the initial set of placements will occur in schools with high proportions of first-generation and underrepresented students. We will explore the feasibility of dual credit offerings. We also hope our presence in these schools will increase the pool of high school graduates qualified to come and study here in Eugene. We will also examine providing additional institutional support to some of our most successful pipeline programs at the university including the Summer Academy to Inspire Learning and the Oregon Young Scholars program as part of this initiative.

2017 State of the University Address:

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President Schill on UO, excellence

From his “Open Mike” emails:

Dear Colleagues,

As I look at my calendar, I am excited about the start of the new academic year and eager to welcome our students back to campus. While every fall brings a fresh opportunity for us to build upon our high aspirations for the university, this year is especially thrilling. We have a year of strong momentum at our backs—fueled by the arrival of new academic leadership and brisk faculty hiring; the launch of the Oregon Commitment for student success and on-time graduation; strong research collaborations reported almost daily in Around the O; the creation of new diversity and inclusion initiatives; the opening of the renovated EMU; the achievements of our athletes on campus and in Rio; and our passage of the halfway mark in our $2 billion campaign. The enthusiasm on campus is palpable.

In my “sophomore year” as president, I will not slow the pace of progress. In fact, we must accelerate our work to ensure that the new initiatives we have begun are successful and fully realized. As many of you may remember, in my investiture speech last June I talked about how important it was for our university to constantly strive for excellence in everything we do—particularly in our work to create new knowledge and to pass this knowledge on to our students.

But what do I mean by excellence? Some members of our community hear the word “excellence” and yawn—treating the word as a noun with no content. However, I strongly believe that while it may be difficult to define in a few sentences, excellence does indeed mean something and must guide us as we move our university forward. I was once told by a very wise mentor to be careful of people who believe that there is only one type of excellence and that they know what that is. Excellence in an educational institution can take many forms and be found in virtually all of our disciplines.

Indeed, at the UO I see excellence around me every day. With respect to research, I see faculty members in the humanities and social sciences filling my bookshelves with extraordinary books that examine the history of religion and gender, the determinants of social movements and language, or the economics of trade and the politics in the United States. From our professional schools, I read books that probe environmental legal issues, analyze global markets, illuminate media trends, display wonderful art and design, and I listen to CDs of beautiful music—all created by members of the UO faculty. I read (or try to read) articles authored by our faculty on genetics and molecular biology, green chemistry and high energy physics, algebraic geometry, and exercise physiology. I host dinners with faculty members who have earned early career research grants, been inducted into the national academies, and earned recognition and honors for their books and publications. Their accomplishments take my breath away.

I also get to celebrate excellence in teaching. I sometimes have the opportunity to sit in on a lecture where I can hear firsthand a faculty member’s mastery of a subject. I have also had the privilege of surprising faculty members in their classrooms with distinguished teaching awards to the applause of students. And perhaps most significantly, I have talked one-on-one with so many students about faculty members who have changed their lives by opening them up to new worlds and insights.

Does the fact that there are different types of excellence mean that all scholarship is equally important or that excellence can only be found in the eye of the beholder? Of course not. Our profession guards excellence with peer review. While we at the University of Oregon certainly get to weigh in on what is excellent, we also look externally to our disciplines and our peers to ensure that we have sufficiently high aspirations that are undistorted by personalities, politics, or self-interest. The surest way to mediocrity is to tell ourselves that the metrics widely adopted in peer review don’t apply to us. While objective indicators such as those provided by the AAU, Academic Analytics, or the National Research Council may not always put us in a flattering light, the appropriate response isn’t to ignore or disparage them. Instead, where the indicators are appropriate we should redouble our efforts to get better. And where the indicators are inapt, we should strive to understand where they fall short and supplement them with other indicia.

As for me, as many of you have come to understand, I hold traditional academic values. Academic excellence is built on research faculty members who are ambitious and productive scholars like so many I have met over the past year. Excellence is reflected by peers who read what we write and find it valuable. Excellence is reflected in productivity, in the striving to create knowledge, and in the desire to transmit knowledge to the next generation. Excellence is reflected by success in getting peer-awarded research grants, recognition, exhibits, and lectures. As we build our faculty, it is this excellence that I will seek to encourage and promote.

One way that we will build academic excellence is to retain our outstanding scholars and recruit more extraordinary professors, researchers, and graduate students to the university. In the sciences we need to provide the facilities that will make possible discovery and invention. In the nonscientific fields, we need to find ways to expand seed support for research, summer support, and, where possible, teaching relief. We need to make sure that merit-based compensation truly rewards merit. And we must break down any barriers that exist to doing what we have always done best—interdisciplinary research.

In short, we need to incentivize excellence throughout our university. Last year we made a number of decisions that reflect this commitment. The Graduate School allocated new graduate fellowships to departments that had strong records in on-time degrees, placement, and student satisfaction. New faculty hiring was focused in departments with high productivity and clusters with strong academic leadership. In the coming year, the new financial model will reward departments that both attract students and reflect excellence in research productivity.

Our state deserves a world-class flagship university devoted to the principles of academic excellence. I will do everything in my power to make that happen. I invite all of you to join me in that endeavor. If you have further ideas about what we can do to support this mission, please send an e-mail to pres@uoregon.edu. I look forward to the coming academic year and wish you a wonderful start to the fall term.

Sincerely,
Mike

Faculty delight as “inane and insulting” 160over90 branders chased off campus

7/20/2016 update: “What If” President Schill carried through on his promise to redirect 160over90’s branding bucks to new faculty hires? He has, as “Around the O” reports here.

1/20/2015: Faculty delight as “inane and insulting” 160over90 branders chased off campus

Kellie Woodhouse of InsideHigherEd has a report with many interesting quotes, here:

The University of Oregon’s decision to cut back its multimillion-dollar branding campaign has many faculty at the institution cheering. …

The change of course appears to have built good will among faculty members, many of whom complained the “If” campaign is too generic. A video for the campaign, for example, shows vague scenes and programs from Oregon’s campus, and doesn’t highlight with any detail the specific academic programs at the university.

“The original campaign was inane and insulting, and we were really disappointed that the Board of Trustees and our former president decided to spend that much money on advertising instead of addressing the university’s real problems,” said Bill Harbaugh, an economics professor and president-elect of the Oregon’s University Senate.

The quotes from President Schill’s new VP for Communications Kyle Henley are circumspect about the quality of 160over90’s work and the financial gains from ending the contract, as should be expected given the Chair of UO’s Board of Trustees past support for the branding:

Chuck Lillis, president of the UO Board of Trustees, built a $60-billion-plus empire on his background in marketing. Lillis earned a doctorate in marketing at the UO in 1972. …

Lillis, the inaugural chairman of the UO board — and $14 million donor to the UO business college — is squarely behind the 160over90 campaign.

“We can’t spend $3 million more intelligently than this,” he said recently.

That’s OK, Kenley deserves plenty of respect for doing the deed.

1/17/2016: UO Pres Mike Schill uses 160over90 ad firm to establish his “academic brand”

By firing their useless asses and putting the money to hiring new faculty for UO.

Schill is getting a lot of positive press for this. Diane Dietz’s report in the RG on Thursday now has 3.6K Facebook likes, including plenty of faculty nationwide:

The University of Oregon has pulled out of its high-profile three-year, $3.4 million contract with Philadelphia branding and advertising firm 160over90, and is redirecting money toward university academic and research goals, the UO said Wednesday.

… UO administrators negotiated a Jan. 1 end to the contract, which cost the UO about $40,000 in penalties but saved $400,000 to $500,000 in further spending, [VP for Communications Kyle Henley] said in an e-mail. The UO has paid 160over90 about $3 million in all. [And had planned to spend $20M over 5 years.]

InsideHigherEd and the Chronicle of Higher Ed are both doing stories on this. Perhaps the Chronicle story will be a bit more positive than Jack Stripling’s September report on UO. (Still gated, extracts here.)

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And the Register Guard’s Editorial Board notes that Schill has picked up “Oregon values” pretty quickly, for a New Yorker:

Any rancher could have told the University of Oregon that a brand isn’t worth much without a steer to put it on. UO President Michael Schill has reached that understanding, and now intends to spend less on hype and more on the university’s product: academics and research. Bully for him. …

So now that the branders are gone, let’s get to work on ending Harrang, Long, Gary and Rudnick’s contract with UO for legal work. The City of Eugene did that years ago, and has apparently saved millions:

UO’s HLGR contract is here. We pay them by the hour, which creates an obvious moral hazard. So who did former Interim General Counsel Doug Park put in charge of it? Harrang’s noted big-tobacco attorney Sharon Rudnick:

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Mike Schill’s first year in Oregon

It’s been a pretty good one. Andrew Theen’s story in the Oregonian captures some of it, starting with the Roundup:

Two months into his tenure as University of Oregon president, Michael Schill was far from home in just about every way possible, in a pair of borrowed boots and head swimming underneath a broad cowboy hat in the Umatilla County sun.

The 57-year-old bookish Jew from Upstate New York wasn’t a natural fit at the Pendleton Roundup, despite his oversized belt buckle engraved with the school’s signature “O.” There were no rodeos near Princeton, Yale, Penn, UCLA, NYU or the University of Chicago, Schill’s previous academic stops.

Theen reminds us of where we were just a year ago:

Mike Schill arrived at the state’s most prominent public university in 2015 as the sixth different leader in seven years. Much was at stake. The school faced possible expulsion from the prominent Association of American Universities, a new appointed Board of Trustees was trying to find its way, a high profile sexual assault case had the university in the news for months, and the school lacked confidence in much that took place in Eugene outside of Autzen Stadium.

And explains why the faculty are optimistic:

One year into a five-year arrangement, he axed a marketing deal that would’ve cost $15 million over the next four years. He shifted money around to bring in more graduate students. He said that 78 non-tenured track humanities professors would not have their contracts renewed, and pledged to hire up to 100 more tenured track faculty during the next five years. He told administrators to cut their budgets by 2 percent, and to plunge $3 million in savings back into academics.

“We’re pouring all of the money that we save back into the academic mission of the school, and people resonate with that and they like that,” Schill said.

The rest of the story is well worth reading, particularly the sidebar:

Michael Schill and Ben Cannon

… “He cares deeply and genuinely not only about the future of the university,” Cannon said of Schill, “but the future of its students and the state.”

Cannon said he checks in every month or so with each president, but Schill’s interest in nitty-gritty policy is different. He said Schill has quickly learned the importance of public funding in Oregon, and asks pointed questions about what the state could do.

“Not every president has an equal level of interest in and engagement in policy issues,” Cannon said. “In Mike’s case, I think he’s really interested, he cares. He gets it.”

The UO has the highest six-year graduation rate of any Oregon public university, at roughly 72 percent. But Schill has repeatedly said that’s not good enough. He believes too much public and student attention is spent on annual tuition increases rather than this issue.

“The amount of blood that is shed over a $400 tuition increase compared to the crickets around tens of thousands of dollars being wasted by these kids not graduating on time is astonishing to me,” he said.

But what we really want to see is Mike Schill in a hat. And, after the usual delays and exorbitant fees UO’s public records office has finally provided the video of Schill – in full cowboy regalia – in Pendleton at his first meeting with Oregon’s politicians. Looks like he’s off to a great start. I’ve posted the video here.

Video of President Schill swinging the UO Mace at blasphemous humanities deniers

Good speech. Diane Dietz has more here. The UO Channel interface is clunky so I’ve put the video on youtube, here:

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The text of Schill’s “Six Myths” speech is here:

… The widening gulf between the wealth of private and public universities mimics the increasing economic polarization of our society outside the walls of the academy. The pressures created by the Great Recession, state disinvestment in higher education, and general cynicism born out of divisive politics have given rise to a set of myths that threaten to undermine the goals and aspirations held by a vast majority of us in this room.

These myths about higher education, six that I will address today, aren’t just false—they can be downright dangerous because of their power to influence public opinion.

These myths prevent our students from opening the doors to a lifetime of opportunity.

These myths distract policymakers and divert resources.

These myths curb creative exploration and choke discovery.

These myths discourage our faculty and frustrate our alumni.

If we buy into these myths, we shortchange our students, our state, and our nation, and, if left unchecked, one day we will wake up and these myths will have become reality.

This is not acceptable.

We must challenge these misconceptions—head on—for the sake of our institution and for the future of higher education. The University of Oregon cannot be truly great unless it unshackles itself from these burdens.

The first myth I want to debunk is the notion that a college education is not a good investment. …

I think it’s fair to say that the faculty are pretty damn happy with Professor/President Schill:

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Prof. Paul Peppis (right) cuts to the chase:

“Obviously, Mike Schill is no Greek muscle man,” Peppis said. “He prefers working at a desk and eating malted milk balls to performing feats of physical strength. And he certainly hasn’t slain the Nemean lion, captured the Cretan bull or corralled the cattle of Geryon – although Hercules’ fifth labor, cleaning the Augean stables, does have curious resonance with some of Mike’s efforts over the past 12 months.” In myth, the Augean stables held 3,000 oxen and had not been cleaned for decades.

To be precise, Schill has cleaned out two of the bullshit filled Johnson Hall stables. He’s replaced GC Doug Park with Kevin Reed (but Park is still in the GC’s office). There’s a newly created VP for Communications job, filled by new hire Kyle Henley, and replacing Tim Clevenger. And we will soon have a new VP for Research to replace Kimberly Espy – but the Senate chased her off before Schill got here, just as we did with Jim Bean. So it’s bottom of the first, Senate 2 and Schill 2. Still, it’s been a long time since a UO President could tie with the UO Senate for activism on behalf of UO.

Unfortunately most of Johnson Hall is still being run by Mike Gottfredson’s Executive Leadership Team: Scott Coltrane, Jamie Moffitt, Brad Shelton, Robin Holmes, Mike Andreasen, Roger Thompson, Rob Mullens, and Yvette Alex-Assensoh. Some of Gottfredson’s team is very competent. Schill will presumably buy out the rest soon and find replacements.

Schill should get credit on the academic leadership side: He made the decisions to replace Law School dean Michael Moffitt and Business School dean Kees de Kluyver, he hired new AAA and Journalism deans, and he kept Andrew Marcus on as CAS dean.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m also linking to Mike Gottfredson’s investiture speech. Here’s the part where he brags about his first academic publication:

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Seminal work, I’m sure. Interim Provost Jim Bean went through some heroic efforts to get faculty turnout for Gott:

5/23/2013: An anonymous source in the Provost’s office sends this memo about Gottfredson’s investiture ceremony:

Memo: Investiture Contingency Planning
Date: 5/23/2013
From: Provost Jim Bean
To: President Mike Gottfredson

Mike, I’m starting to worry about faculty turnout for your Knight Arena Investiture Ceremony next Thursday. I’ve warned the department heads that we’ll be taking attendance, but they don’t seem to care anymore, even when I dropped a hint that those 2% merit raises you put on the table might be at risk. It’s a big hall, and we need enough appropriately garbed faculty types in the audience to keep this from turning into another embarrassment for you.

President Lariviere had a huge faculty turnout for his investiture, in no small part because he’d just fired a widely despised General Counsel, and an Athletic Director who was burning through the academic side’s money like, well, like it was the academic side’s money. Something to think about. But if you’re not quite there yet I hope you’ll be happy with the ELT’s plan B:

VPAA Doug Blandy will grant all Duck student-athletes PhD’s and adjunct faculty status. They just need to pass a simple online exam he wrote. The Jock Box advisors say they can help out as usual, since it’s not even proctored. Mullens has cleared this with FAR Jim O’Fallon, who says that adjunct status won’t affect their NCAA eligibility so long as we don’t pay them. As if!  (Say, this gives me a great idea for if the faculty go on strike.)

I got a deal on academic regalia from “Parties R Us”. The media will want a few full-professor greybeard types to focus on. I’ve lined up Frog, the guy who sells joke books on 13th – you’ve seen him, looks just like a biology professor. And then there’s the guy who bikes around campus yelling “Go Ducks, but LTD can kiss my sweaty nut-sack.” Turns out you were wrong about him being CAS Dean Scott Coltrane, but no one will know the difference. Best to keep him away from the mic though.

Dave Hubin tells me you’ve signed off on the heartfelt extemporaneous comments that Ann Wiens and the Gallatin Public Affairs consultants wrote. It took me a while to find a professor willing to deliver these. Tublitz is in Italy, and while Harbaugh was plenty interested after I brought up the stipend, he tends to mumble when he’s sober. In the end Frank Stahl agreed to do it. I think you’ve met him, very distinguished and his voice carries well.

Oh, one last thing – I’m afraid I won’t be able to make the ceremony. The Caddis fly hatch is peaking, and I’ve got a fishing date with John Moseley over at the lodge in Bend.

Good luck though, really.

Your pal Jim.

Chronicle follows up with Mike Schill on “Academic Reputation at Risk”

5/1/2016: Text and video here: http://chronicle.com/article/Video-A-Call-to-Replace/236224. This is a brief follow up to Stripling’s “An Academic Reputation at Risk” report on UO, from September. That story is still gated if you are off campus, but here are some extracts below.

The re-interview touches on realignment and fundraising, and there’s a surprising amount on Schill’s decision to dump our 160over90 branders. Apparently UO’s academic side, and Schill, are still getting good publicity from our new “No branding crap”  brand. Thank you Diane Dietz!

Which prompted me to look at UO’s home page for the first time in months. Some of the 160over90 damage has been reversed – I didn’t see any mention of  What the If? or whatever it was – but it’s still hard to navigate. Which explains why the UO Matters “Crap-Free UO homepage” (TM) is still so popular.

9/14/2015: Chronicle’s Jack Stripling profiles UO and President Schill

Long article, well worth reading it all. Posted today, here: (Gated if you are off campus).

An Academic Reputation at Risk: The U. of Oregon’s big brand masks its fragile standing

An Academic Reputation at Risk 5

The duck is always up in everybody’s face. He shoves. He body-slams. He demands to be noticed.

The University of Oregon’s mascot, a Donald Duck knockoff in yellow and green, is a pure distillation of the university’s iconic brand. This is a place, the duck assures us, of unapologetically splashy sports and irrepressible good times. The image sells remarkably well to undergraduates, whose numbers have increased by 25 percent in the past decade alone.

… On a recent summer afternoon here, an admissions official asked a group of prospective students and their parents what they had already heard about the university.

Toward the back row, a young man said, “Big football team.” “Nike,” another chimed in, citing the university’s longstanding affiliation with the company’s co-founder, Phil Knight. “Track,” another said.

That’s to be expected, given how we recruit these students – UO’s administrators use football bowl games as undergraduate admissions events, so they can get the university to pay for their own junkets, family included.

Of course, there are other ways to attract students. Here’s the report from UC-Boulder admissions, where they emphasized academic rigor, instead of big-time sports (they’re currently #78 in the football rankings). Seems to be working:

A total of 3,083 Colorado residents enrolled as new freshmen in the fall class, as well as 2,786 from out of state and a record 386 freshman international students, a 41 percent increase from last year. …

“Our efforts in recent years to improve the academic rigor at CU-Boulder are paying off with the most academically qualified class we’ve ever seen,” said CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano. “Our Esteemed Scholar program, and our other scholarship and academic programs, continue to attract Colorado’s best and brightest to CU-Boulder, along with outstanding students from around the nation and the world.”

This year’s freshman class includes a total of 898 Colorado freshmen who were awarded Esteemed Scholarships, based on high school grades and SAT/ACT scores, up from 789 last year.  For out-of-state students, 425 were awarded the Chancellor’s Achievement Scholarships, 77 more than in 2013, and 102 were awarded Presidential Scholarships, up 18 from last year.

Stripling’s story continues with some information on the tensions that UO’s emphasis on big-time athletics at the expense of academics have created between the faculty and the administration, and President Schill’s plans to deal with them.

In Mr. Schill’s view, the university needs to break down barriers between professors and administrators. On the symbolic front, he has invited faculty members into his home, and asked them to stock his office library with their books. He has portrayed himself as a faculty member first, insisting that the title of “professor” appear alongside “president” on his business cards.

More substantively, Mr. Schill has signed off on a new contract with the faculty union, and he has agreed to settle a contentious lawsuit with the Oregon student who accused three basketball players of raping her.

“We need to end the circular firing squad,” Mr. Schill says, “and I think we’ve started that.”

If Oregon can avoid turning on itself, Mr. Schill says, the university can reverse the trends that have held it back.

Every promise Mr. Schill has made hinges on the success of a $2-billion capital campaign. The money will be used in part to hire 80 to 100 new tenured or tenure-track professors over the next four to five years.

… “I don’t want to sound too egotistic or narcissistic, but what was missing here was leadership,” says Mr. Schill, who is 56. “The last piece of the puzzle wasn’t here yet, which was a president who was going to stay and build a great university. I’d like to think I’m the person. History will look back and say whether I was.”

10/15/2015: Jefferson Public Radio interviews Jack Stripling Continue reading

President Schill on Johnson Hall’s “gang that can’t shoot straight”

Diane Dietz’s report on Schill’s campus conversation is here.

Some extracts, carefully selected to support my spin:

“The fact is, we have not carefully watched our central budget over the years. We should have done that. Resources shrank and we weren’t watching. We have been digging a hole for many years, and if we don’t act now, the hole will get bigger and the decisions we have to make will be more painful.”

VPBP Brad Shelton and VPFA Jamie Moffitt have been in charge of UO’s central budget for years, along with Scott Coltrane off and on. They still are – but for how much longer?

“What university in one year is really turning over all its senior leadership? We’re going to be doing that. We’re going to get great deans into their positions and a vice president for research. We’ve already changed a lot of my office. Instead of the gang that can’t shoot straight, we’re going to be the gang that really can transform a university.”

These aren’t the only optimistic quotes in Dietz’s story. Read it all. Here’s one on athletics:

“Instead of demonizing athletics and saying, ‘you know, athletics are getting all of the resources,’ and being envious of athletics, we actually want to model ourselves on athletics in that a wonderful investment of resources and careful, strong execution can lead to excellence.

One UO M commenter has some followup questions on that:

What does he mean by we should model ourselves after pursing the efficiency of the athletics department model?

Does he mean that we need to get tentpole programs that attract nation attention and donations, and that we will use revenues from those programs (football) to subsidize everything else?

Or does he mean that we need to find slave labor, that churns in and out of the university and is quickly forgotten, that will work in essence for free while we pay high salaries to a few people who supervise the work of the slave labor?

Actually, the preferred nomenclature for the NCAA’s labor model is “unpaid student internships, but with brain damage” although there is no denying the racial element in a scheme that is run for the amusement of rich white boosters, nets millions for the overwhelmingly white coaches and athletic directors, gives the mostly white and privileged “student-athletes” in the safe non-revenue sports full-ride scholarships and free travel and coaching, while the mostly black football players take the hits. The general rule of big-time college sports is that “no black man shall make money off college football”

UO’s Official Organ has their spin on the meeting here. It’s by Greg Bolt, so it’s much more accurate than the usual Tobin Klinger PR flack piece.

Liveblog of Pres Schill’s 4/12/2016 campus  conversation on realignment. 

President Schill’s conversation will followed by a Senate organized Town Hall on realignment, currently scheduled for 3:30PM Wednesday April 27 in the new ginormous Straub Hall classroom.

(The livestreaming link is now down, I’ll post the archived video when it’s ready).

Here’s a little live-blogging. Usual disclaimer, nothing is a quote unless in quotes.

I got here a little late, Pres Schill was addressing the need to make budget realignment now, not later. Makes sense, we’ve seen what happened in CAS when Coltrane let things slide.

Talks about the importance of on-time graduation and new initiatives to increase this via better advising and retention grants. (Interestingly it turns out these are not UO ideas, they are mandates from the state, which has also provided all the publics with funding to implement them.)

Refreshingly honest about UO’s failure in fumbling the basketball rape allegations, and his resolve to set up procedures that will encourage students to report sexual assaults and build confidence that UO will handle them well.

Shout out to the UO Board: obviously I think they are good, they hired me.

Thinks we should stop demonizing athletics and being jealous, and instead use them as a model for how to use money to buy excellence. (Great  – when are faculty going to get the same bonuses the coaches get for graduation rates?)

Claims that UO has become more transparent. (Certainly he’s far more open than recent past presidents and interims, but the Public Records Office has, if anything, become a blacker black hole – more on this in a future post. The VPFA has become more transparent because of the need to report to the board, but the VPBP and the latest budget reform process is not very open.)

Q&A:

Classified employee: Specific complaint about income inequality in the athletics department and the many contingent staff there. How can you call this inequity a good model for UO?

Schill: Don’t know what the term equitable means (me neither). Athletics uses their budget well, tremendous focus, spirit, commitment to excellence.

Faculty: What specific programs to increase undergraduate engagement in research?

Schill: We have two new funded programs. Josh Snodgrass in CAS and another in VPRI.

NTTF faculty – Director of Composition: I appreciate your candor. We run a large award winning program serving thousands of students, with initiatives to help international students, etc. I support your efforts to increase the number of TTF. But where are we, the excellent NTTF, in your vision for UO?

Schill: In a healthy university many educational decisions are made by the Deans. I shouldn’t be making decisions about whether or not we should spend money on more econ profs or on the composition programs. This realignment process will empower the deans – with constraints regarding overall goals of more grad students and TTFs. Regarding the Q of where NTTF’s fit in, under previous presidents and provosts UO increased NTTF numbers without thinking about where they fit in. But we will never be in a situation where we do not value or use NTTFs. But the priority is to increase the numbers of TTFs. Shout-out to UAUO: We’ve established much more job security here than at other universities. (Boy has he learned a lot in the past 6 months!)

Student: Lots of recent conversation on race, but not much focus on how tuition increases effect graduation rates of minorities who are disproportionately affected?

Schill: Do you have an alternative? Student: Cut spending. Schill: We are cutting spending. You just heard an NTTF worrying about that. Student: Cut research, athletics. Schill: You’re being honest with me, I’ll be honest with you. The answer is not as simple as “just cut spending”. Look to the state legislature to increase their support. (Again, what a difference from when he arrived, and thought the boosters would provide money for academics.) We have the Pathway Oregon program for low income students, fully funds 10% of our students – 20% of our in-state students. The state just cut funding for this, UO is making up with internal funding and philanthropy. (Yeah Connie Ballmer!)

Psaki: We all agree with the lofty goals you have articulated. UO has run for a long time on a skeleton crew when it comes to teaching and research. Possible because of a shared commitment and solidarity – an excellent way of getting extra work from people. But we were struck by the way the CAS cuts were done. I know you don’t want to get into the weeds, but that’s were the devil is. The process was demoralizing – perhaps the most yucky experience I’ve gone through in 20 years here. This kind of instability hurt or ability to work for our common goals.

Schill: I am responsible for what happens at UO. You are not quite being fair to Dean Andrew Marcus and his process for managing the cuts. Marcus restructured the cuts in response to some of the concerns you raised. Any university that is not constantly rethinking how to reallocate resources so as to equate the marginal cost and marginal value product. I can’t tell you that we will not go through this again. I hope and pray that the legislature will provide more funds – we’ve requested $100M more for the next biennium. (I think it’s good to hear that Schill is expressing his willingness to work with the legislature, despite the UO Board’s efforts to hold it at arm’s length.)

Gina: I just sound sarcastic because I’m Greek. Schill: And I just sound whiny because I’m, well you know. Gina: An Attorney? (Both laugh.)

Gina: We need to fix Shelton’s Budget Model.

Schill: Yes. We are going to make the budget model about promoting academic excellence, not about rewarding Doug Blandy for online AAD 250 courses that pass out A’s like candy and suck students away from CAS Humanities. (OK, he didn’t really say that last bit, but plenty of people are thinking it.)

Meeting ends. My quick take is that Schill dealt very well with some serious questions, and that the faculty left the meeting with a sense that he’s quickly learning about UO’s problems and strengths and that there is broad support for him and his goals – and worry about how they wil be implemented.

Continue reading

President Schill: Aligning our resources to achieve academic excellence

Sent out this morning. It’s not your generic “welcome back from break” letter. President Schill and Provost Coltrane will be at the Senate meeting on Wed, Jan 13th, to discuss this in more detail and answer questions.

Dear Campus Community,

Since I assumed the presidency of the university last July, I have met with countless members of our community. Whether those meetings were with faculty, students, staff, or alumni, there was virtual unanimity with respect to one proposition: our top priority needs to be academic and research excellence. With this message, I invite you to join me in what I hope will be a transformational process of aligning our resources and our efforts to achieve our aspirations as a preeminent public research institution.

The University of Oregon, as the flagship research university in the state, is committed to furthering knowledge through teaching and research. We are the school with international reputations in molecular biology, neuroscience, green chemistry, special education and other programs. We are the school whose faculty achieves path-breaking research in such varied fields as prevention science, comparative literature, geography, environmentalism and ecology, and evolution.

Today, our university’s research profile is not as strong as it should be. While there are many programs and pockets of excellence throughout the university, the overall landscape is very uneven. As the last National Research Council ranking shows, we have relatively few departments that are listed among the best. The productivity of some of our faculties lag their peers and our program of graduate education is impoverished in its numbers of students. We must do better, and we will do better.

The root causes of our current situation are many. Certainly, part of the problem lies with resource constraints. From 2001 to 2015, the percentage of the UO’s budget funded by the state of Oregon dropped by more than 50 percent. As the institution became more tuition dependent, we increased our undergraduate enrollment and increasingly relied upon non-research faculty to do more of the teaching. Today, our faculty is out of balance; only 47 percent are on the tenure track, 11 percentage points less than our AAU and public research institution peers. Additionally a lack of tight budget controls and monitoring systems created a situation where course loads for tenure-track faculty in some departments fell significantly below the stated institutional standards. We need to rebalance our faculty.

We are experiencing a number of other significant cost drivers, many of which are critical to improving our university. Labor costs, which account for more than 80 percent of our expenditures, have increased significantly in recent years in our effort to bring salaries in line with our peers and through collective bargaining. The serious problem of campus sexual violence has required significant investments in our Title IX staff and programing. To improve student success and completion we are hiring additional advisors. Federal mandates have required us to hire more compliance administrators. And the state’s lack of appropriately mandated pension contributions in the past will require us to substantially increase the proportion of our budget that goes to PERS beginning in FY18.

In the face of these budget constraints and pressures, our current academic budget model—which depends primarily upon student credit hours—does not provide departments with stable sources of revenue to plan year to year, much less for the long run. Some schools and colleges have gone from surplus to deficit in a matter of a few years as students’ curricular preferences have shifted and workforce demands have changed. Furthermore, our culture of decentralization has further weakened our ability to achieve administrative coordination and economies of scale.

The financial stresses on the university have undermined our mission. It is now time to change the status quo. I have already announced my intention to invest in our academic future by increasing our number of research-active, tenure-track faculty by 80 to 100 over the next five years. We will also need to build the research infrastructure necessary to allow us to produce more knowledge, make more of an impact, and rise in national preeminence. This, in turn, will allow us to attract and retain world-class faculty throughout the university. This cycle of excellence is key to our success.

How will we pay for the investments necessary to reach these goals? While we will continue to work hard to persuade our legislators to increase our state support, I do not expect that the taxpayers of Oregon will ever be able or willing to provide us with enough resources to allow us to accomplish our mission. We will work hard with our alumni and supporters, as part of our $2 billion campaign, to raise funds for our faculty and our research infrastructure. Already many have heard the message and we expect to cross the halfway mark by mid-2016. But we owe it to our donors, our students, and the taxpayers to steward our resources responsibly. We must also change how we internally do business.

I have asked Provost Coltrane to lead an effort over the next 18 months to re-engineer our academic budget model with an eye to achieving stable and predictable sources of revenue for our academic units. He will work with our academic leadership (e.g. our deans, University Senate, vice presidents) in this endeavor. In addition to examining revenues, I have also asked him to look at the expense side of the equation. Resources are too scarce and our mission too important for us to waste money in redundant administration, poorly performing programs, and lax accountability.

This work will be in tandem with our strategic planning process. As you may know, before I arrived, the campus engaged in a year-long process of drafting a strategic framework for the university. The goal of this process was to identify how to operationalize our goals for competitive excellence. The provost has been working with deans, department heads, and faculty to refine the work of campus. I have also asked him to ensure the strategic framework is aligned with our academic goals and focused on how to achieve the greatest impact. Next week Provost Coltrane will share a draft of the strategic framework document with campus to receive input. The document, which will eventually go to the Board of Trustees for review and approval, will help guide us as we seek to achieve our goals and stay strategic in our focus and investments.

We will also be looking very carefully at expenditures in central administration. As part of this year’s budget review for FY17, I will ask each of our central units to suggest ways in which they can streamline services and achieve significant cost savings. For the longer run, I will appoint a task force of administrators and academic leaders to examine the efficiency of our central administration as well as to propose cost-saving steps. I expect that this group will provide me with some interim recommendations by the end of the current academic year. University Communications will be the first unit to begin integrations to better tell our story, look for operational efficiencies, and create more collaborations.

In the spirit of transparency, I will not sugar coat this message. This is not business as usual. Not all departments or schools will be net winners. Some members of our campus community may encounter hardship as we become better stewards of our resources. As we move forward, we will do everything within our power to make the transition as humane and smooth as possible. But we must move forward. To do anything less would consign our great university to mediocrity. That is unacceptable to me. I am sure it is equally unacceptable to you.

We have an historic opportunity to elevate this university in ways that serve students, the state, our nation, and that will further the production of knowledge. We must change, adapt, and align our operations and resources with our goals if we are to achieve our lofty aspiration and continue to meet our mission as a preeminent public research university.

Sincerely,

Michael H. Schill

President and Professor of Law