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AAU membership is no longer even an “aspirational goal” for UO, but Ducks ranked #3 in pre-season polls.

Update: The official UO post on the mission statement mentioned below is now getting some comments, here.

As President, Dave Frohnmayer would trot out UO’s AAU membership as a way of silencing faculty who criticized him for shifting priorities, administrative effort, and money towards his goal of running a big-time college sports factory. In 2013 Gottfredson doubled-down on the bullshit, setting an aspirational goal of getting to the top half of the AAU. UO’s academic accreditation comes through the NWCCU, which in turn is supervised by the US DOE. UO filed it’s latest report on 3/1/2013, compiled by Dave Hubin. Full of bold talk and more than a few half-truths. Read it all here. The cover page refers to our goal to be in the top half of the AAU:

But the subsidies for sports and pet projects like armed police and Portland kept growing, and sports scandals continued to suck up what little competent administrative focus the administration had. Just a year after this letter Scott Coltrane came clean with the new Board of Trustees, revealing the chilling “Benchmarking report”, which finally exposed where years of misallocated resources had left us.

The Trustees have responded with a realistic mission plan. Forget about moving up. They no longer mention even staying in the AAU as even an aspirational goal:

We aspire to lead as a preeminent public residential research university encompassing the humanities and arts, the natural and social sciences, and the professions.

Full (draft) statement here with a place for comments. Mine is that, with the board’s authority behind it, the goal of continued (or restored) AAU membership could provide some constraints on the administrative excesses and pet projects we have seen and continue to see come out of Johnson Hall. Giving up on the AAU is not just a sad recognition of reality, it’s a discouraging signal about where money and resources will be redirected in the future.


  1. open minded alum 08/25/2014

    It’s interesting how you claim that UO “is giving up on the AAU”, yet a quick survey of our comparators mission statements shows that you don’t need to include any mention of AAU to be an AAU-calibre research university.

  2. nom 08/25/2014

    Does transition to a new governing structure actually require a new mission statement? One is left to assume, and probably rightly so, that somehow the mission has already changed and, oopsie, someone forgot to mention it to the University.

    • uomatters Post author | 08/25/2014

      The HECC wants a mission statement, but I think mostly this was a make-work exercise from Gottfredson, to try and distract the Board and the faculty.

      Current mission statement says

      The University of Oregon is a comprehensive research university that serves its students and the people of Oregon, the nation, and the world through the creation and transfer of knowledge in the liberal arts, the natural and social sciences, and the professions. It is the Association of American Universities’ flagship institution of the Oregon University System.

  3. Camel 08/25/2014

    And what is wrong with the current mission statement of UO (which mentions AAU, and says what the university as a whole does, not what its employees do)?

    The new proposal isn’t a mission statement. A mission statement created by a committee looks like a horse created by a committee — which looks like a camel.

    This verbose proposal is an insult to camels.

  4. Double Duck 08/25/2014

    There’s little doubt that when Frohn decided to turn UO into a farm for the NFL and make big money with big time college sports, the emphasis on academics took a hit. In life, one can do a few things well, or many things poorly.

    Frohn took UO from being a good small state university to a prostitute for big money college sports and those who make money from big money college sports (read: Nike).

    A sellout of academic priorities of the highest order–that’s Frohn’s legacy at UO.

    • Dog 08/26/2014

      Mission statements are generally empty rhetoric as there is no commitment generally behind the statement or goals. While Double Duck has put most of the blame directly on Dave F – I believe this is an oversimplification and unnecessarily polarizing.
      While Dave F certainly DID NOT help advance the academic priorities of the UO – our perception that this was sacrificed for academic excellence I believe is highly misguided.

      Most of our problems, I believe, stem from bad resource allocation models in the midst of tight revenue streams and the subsequent inability to try anything bold with initiative. We are so risk adverse and decentralized here that it became the UO religion to support everything at a mediocre and mundane level and then to call that EXCELLENT, over and over again.

      The result of years of this approach is what we have now – a very NON-EXCELLENT TTF to student faculty ratio and a lot of investment in legacy and not innovation.

      Will that change?

      Does JH leadership even recognize this legacy dynamic or is my myopia once again, leading to just bullshit?

      Do we have the balls (not a swear word UOM – balls are round spherical objects that generally bounce and are not attached to anything) to try innovate (cluster hires fail at impact scale in my view).?

      Will we ever get out of our Risk Adverse approach to managing higher ED?

      • Puppy 08/26/2014

        Dog is right that Mission statements are generally empty rhetoric – but they don’t have to be. The end up that way because institutions write them to rationalize what they are already doing rather than as a way to mobilize to something meaningful. So, we get a Mission statement that says exactly what we would expect given Dog’s assessment – that we are and aspire to be excellent at everything.

        That is the opposite of a Mission statement – which should define what we are and what we are not. We we do and what we don’t. What we want and what we don’t want.

        And, there will be no commitment to this because there was no engagement. The Admin has done what it usually does – hold a few sessions, put up a website and assume that everyone who does not show up and comment agree, and those few that do show up and comment in critical ways are the minority.

  5. Old Man 08/25/2014

    The new draft Mission Statement is better than the old one ONLY in its recognition that the Liberal Arts include the Natural and Social Sciences. Otherwise, it is a grandiose display of infantile jargon and clichés. I hope it does not reflect the teachings of the Advertising Program of our School of Journalism.

    • Not a notable alum 08/25/2014

      At least the new draft doesn’t contain any of the following:
      “go ducks”
      “win the day for Oregonians”
      “we are a Pre-mieeer univArsity”

  6. charlie 08/25/2014

    AAU, SCMAAU, they were a bowl of dicks, anyway. From the latest JH press release….

  7. baller 08/25/2014

    ” … but Ducks ranked #3 in pre-season polls.”

    Right, but it’s a set-up. KInda like an “aspirational goal”.

    • one eyed pinhead 08/25/2014

      by now more like an aspirinational goal if you ask me….

      • one eyed pinhead 08/25/2014

        or was it aspirirrational???

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