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Administration bargaining team accuses Harbaugh of anti-university blogging

Sorry, this is old news. Back in 2013 the UO administration’s bargaining team posted the “open letter” below about me, on their fact-check blog about union bargaining. Given that Dave Hubin’s Public Record’s Office made me pay $215 for the heavily redacted emails about this, I thought I should post them eventually. Turns out the statute of limitations on defamation in Oregon is just one year though. Bummer.

From what I can tell from the emails, the letter below came from UO General Counsel Randy Geller, Associate GC Doug Park, Faculty Athletics Representative Tim Gleason, VPAA Barbara Altmann, VPAA Doug Blandy, Consultant Marla Rae, HLGR’s Sharon Rudnick, William F. Gary and Kate Grado, and Michelle Cole of Gallatin Public Affairs – or at least they were in the loop.

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My response:

From: Bill Harbaugh <[email protected]>
Subject: your Feb 28 open letter about Professor Bill Harbaugh
Date: April 12, 2013 at 6:22:40 PM PDT
To: Sharon Rudnick <[email protected]>, Randy Geller <[email protected]>
Cc: James Bean <[email protected]>, doug park <[email protected]>, Barbara Altmann <[email protected]>, Timothy Gleason <[email protected]>, Doug Blandy <[email protected]>, [email protected], William F GARY <[email protected]>, [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], Bruce Blonigen <[email protected]>, “[email protected] Coltrane” <[email protected]>, President Gottfredson <[email protected]>, “[email protected]” <[email protected]>, Ryan Hagemann <[email protected]>, Robert Kyr <[email protected]>, Margaret Paris <[email protected]>

Dear Ms Rudnick and Mr. Geller:

I’m writing you in regard to the Feb 28 “Open letter from the UO Bargaining Team” which is attached, and which is posted on the official University of Oregon website for faculty contract negotiations, at

A colleague came across this website a week or so after the letter had apparently been posted, and alerted me to it. I thought it was pretty hilarious, particularly in its discussion of the UO Matters blog at, which I edit, and in regard to the claims that I am “indelibly associated” with the faculty union.

In truth I fought long and hard against faculty unionization. I signed the membership card only at the end, because I wanted to be on the winning side, where I could make a difference. I have made it very clear on my blog and in conversations with many UO administrators that I am still quite skeptical of faculty unions and that my ultimate loyalty is to the University of Oregon and to the principle of public education for which it stands. I regularly tell the union organizers I will turn on the union the moment it starts doing more harm than good to this principle, and I’m pretty sure they believe me.

But I digress. Many UO faculty have now told me that I should be outraged by your letter, that it is harmful to my professional reputation, and even that it constitutes “defamation per se”, whatever that means.

While I’m no lawyer, on closer reading I think they may have a point. The letter is on UO letterhead, is posted on an official UO website, is addressed to my academic colleagues in my university community, and it even uses my professional title:

“We write this letter to our University community because we believe it is both necessary and appropriate to inform you of … the continued reporting of biased, erroneous and inflammatory reports from the bargaining table by Professor Bill Harbaugh …”

The letter and the website also make some damaging accusations about my actions and intentions, stating them as if they were facts. I note in particular the statement that my blog is “consistently anti-university”, and “He has also filed frivolous and repeated records requests for information directly related to bargaining.” I’m thinking maybe that was supposed to say “not directly related to bargaining” but regardless, I am not the sort of person who takes accusations of frivolity lightly, even confused ones. Economics is a serious subject, and no potential employer would want to hire a professor with a reputation for joking around.

However the strangest part of this open letter is that a group of UO administrators and attorneys would write something like this, put it on official UO letterhead, post it on an official UO website, and then not sign their names to it.

So, I am writing to ask Ms Rudnick, who is apparently the leader of this team, or perhaps more appropriately Mr. Geller, her immediate supervisor at UO, to send me the names of the people on the “UO Bargaining Team”.

I’m ccing all the people I’ve been able to identify as potential members of the UO Bargaining Team, from the website, the HLGR invoices, and a few other sources. I’ve also cced my department chair, CAS Dean Coltrane, President Gottfredson, OUS Chancellor Rose, OUS General Counsel Ryan Hagemann, current UO Senate President Kyr and incoming Senate President Paris.

I’d appreciate a prompt response, listing the names of the people on the UO Bargaining Team. If any of the team members want to disavow the letter, I’d appreciate it this would be posted on the website where the letter appears. Feel free to also post this letter if you’d like, and let me know if you’d like a signed copy on UO economics department letterhead.


Bill Harbaugh
Professor of Economics

No answer, so I made a public records request. UO wanted $215. It took me a few years of skimping on the scotch budget, but eventually I scraped together the money, and after a few months of dithering UO’s Public Records sent me these documents – full dump here:

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  1. tweetie 08/12/2015

    What they really need to do is ask you to buy a big blue Magic Marker, compose and print out an empty email to yourself, and then spend quality time coloring it in. Of course, this would deprive them of their party dollars funded by near everyone asking to see public records.

  2. Fishwrapper 08/12/2015

    That’s got to be against the law.

  3. Licensed in Oregon 08/14/2015

    There’s no statute of limitations on violations of the Oregon Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct. See, for example, Rule 4.1.

    In the course of representing a client a lawyer shall not
    (a) make a false statement of material fact or law to a
    third person; or
    (b) fail to disclose a material fact when disclosure is
    necessary to avoid assisting an illegal or fraudulent act
    by a client, unless disclosure is prohibited by Rule 1.6.

  4. Applause for Kenny Jacoby 01/02/2018

    The “dump” link to the documents on dropbox no longer works. Darn.

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