Schill and Coltrane at Senate meeting to consult on strategic plans

Agenda here. Video should be posted here in a day or two. My battery died so live-blogging stopped after a little of the Q&A, sorry.

Cocktail party version of the 1/13/2015 Senate meeting:

President Schill and Provost Coltrane provided a clear justification for the realignment of resources towards what counts for the AAU and for research/teaching excellence.  They outlined the plan and promised to implement their realignment proposals on the basis of data, and with plenty of consultation with the faculty, OA’s, and staff, in order to incorporate knowledge that’s not in the data.

Schill got many tough questions – though none about athletics money or the diversion of students from CAS humanities and some social-science fields into new professional school gen-ed courses and new undergrad programs in law, AAD etc. He gave straightforward answers. He promised more information than has ever been provided to the faculty before, both in terms of staffing numbers and budget data showing where the money has been going. I think he’s as curious as we are. We were told it would be posted on the IR website over the next few days and weeks.

Best of the Q&A: Schill: I’m not a robot, I don’t make all decisions by the numbers, I assume that’s why you wanted me. Or not. Professor: We want you.

As for Coltrane? It was as if he’d been released from a long, dark spell:

Now the hard part starts.

Senate Agenda, Library Browsing Room, Knight Library

3:00 pm Introductory Remarks, Senate President Randy Sullivan

3:05 pm 1. Call to Order

3:05 pm 2. Approval of Minutes

2.1 December 2, 2015

3:15 pm 4. New Business

4.1 IFS Election

Candidates: Robert Kyr (Music), Dejing Dou (Computer and Information Science)

The IFS meets regularly with the HECC. The IFS website is here:

Kyr elected unanimously.

5.1 Topics: The President’s recent letter to the campus and the strategic plan.

President Schill’s letter  to faculty here. Letter to admins below.

Schill: We’re asking donors and state and students to pay more, we have an obligation to do more and spend money wisely. Short run, need savings to get $4M for new tenure track faculty. Long run, need to redo Shelton’s budget model. We’ll do both, in consultation with colleges, departments, Senate.

Pitches centralization as way of saving money and increasing accountability, starting with Communications and IT.

Promises transparency. Work in progress – we’re telling you now, before plans are developed in detail, to prove it.

The message is not cuts. We’re going to growing and getting better, facing the future optimistically, investing in graduate education and undergraduate success. Not retrenchment – reallocation of resources, to ensure future eminence.

Letter to admins:

January 13, 2006

To: Scott Coltrane, Senior Vice President and Provost
Jamie Moffitt, Vice President for Finance & Administration & CFO
Mike Andreasen, Vice President for Advancement
Kyle Henley, Vice President for Communication
Yvette Alex-Assensoh, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion
Kevin Reed, Vice President and General Counsel
Brad Shelton, Interim Vice President for Research and Innovation
Roger Thompson, Vice President for Enrollment Management
Robin Holmes, Vice President for Student Life

From: Michael Schill, President

Re: Central Administrative Budget Cuts

Date: January 13, 2016

As you are aware from our conversations and my recent message to campus, it is imperative that we look for ways to better align our limited resources with the institution’s strategic priorities for academic excellence. To that end, we have dedicated significant recurring funding to tenure track faculty hires and the new clusters of excellence, as well as student retention and graduation initiatives. Additionally, while our budgets are tight, growing costs and investments in the area of labor agreements, health care costs, IT infrastructure, Title IX, and PERS are going to put additional pressure on our limited resources. For this reason, this spring I am launching a two-stage process to reduce our central administrative cost base.

The first step will involve a two percent direct cut on all general fund central administrative budgets, effective July 1, 2016 (FY2017). Given current administrative budget levels, I expect this cut to generate nearly $3 million of recurring funding that can be reinvested in institutional strategic priorities. I know and understand that our current staffing levels are lean and that it will be difficult to implement this cut. However, I expect each of you to look strategically in your portfolios and determine the best way to manage this budget reduction. I do not expect you to simply impose a two percent budget cut evenly across your units. Instead, I expect you to assess your operations for savings that will have the least impact on our core strategic objectives.

As we strategically align our general fund resources, it is critical that we pay attention to our students’ total cost of education. For this reason, it is important that we do not simply shift expenses to auxiliary funds. While this may be a less painful way in the short term to address the general fund cut, it will ultimately lead to higher fees and costs charged to our students.

In addition to implementing this two percent cut, I also expect vice presidents to actively manage their portfolio budgets to best align their resources with the institution’s strategic objectives: (1) building our academic and research profile, (2) keeping our university affordable to students and ensuring their success, and (3) creating a rich undergraduate experience in a diverse and inclusive community. I will be scheduling a series of review meetings the week of March 14 to discuss (1) your critical strategic initiatives for FY17, (2) how you have aligned resources to meet these goals, and (3) what steps you took to achieve the two percent budget savings in your portfolio.

In addition to the immediate, direct administrative budget cut, I also am launching an initiative to assess opportunities for longer term administrative cost savings based on targeted projects focused on centralization of services, strategic sourcing, and business process redesign. While these savings will take longer to capture, our goal will be to identify the equivalent of another three percent (roughly $4.5 million) of additional administrative cost savings over the next two to three years.

The budget office is currently updating BANNER budgets to account for changes related to the recent salary increase process, as well as updates to PEBB costs. Once these budgets are loaded, we will distribute updated general fund figures, as well as data regarding the exact size of the two percent budget cut for each Vice Presidential portfolio. If you have any questions about these figures, please contact Jamie Moffitt.

Provost Coltrane:

Introduces 5-year Strategic Plan, here.  Explains that the CAS realignment followed below will be implemented in other colleges. Will get similar data for other colleges out soon. Will post these data on IR website. Preliminary, focus is on getting info out soon to identify problems, allow consultation.

There will also be a similar process for administrative departments. Budget model redesign will be led by Brad Shelton, with consultation with Senate.

Resources will be reallocated to make us a stronger research university. We will add money for 40 new fellowships, most for PhDs. Money will be available now, for this years recruiting of grad students for fall.

CAS example:

CAS Dean Andrew Marcus letter here.

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 3.04.08 PM

Check full letter for breakout by CAS division.

No reduction in the total number of GTF lines, but there will be reallocations across departments.


Margerum (AAA): Wondering how AAU metrics work for departments like his w/ no PhD students. Schill. Goal is excellence, we’re not a slave to metrics, but we’d like to increase # of PhD students. Different metrics for different departments – e.g. Law, MBA… . Coltrane: Our first focus is PhD’s though.

Clemmons (Business): Big revenue stream is CA undergrads. Is that changing? Schill: Yes, that is how we’ve subsidized Oregon students. Oregon students are key for us. But there’s a dip in Oregon HS students coming, might see some changes but no plans as of now. Demand for students is robust, in part because of athletics. [Serves up anecdote about admissions even at Alamo Bowl… Yes, if you recruit students at a bowl game, students will tell you that they care about the Ducks.]

Psaki (Romance Lang): Letter talked about poorly performing programs and excellence. What are the criteria for distinguishing this, and wouldn’t past resource allocation matter to what deptartments are now pocketed with excellence? Schill: That will be done by provost and the deans we are now hiring. That said I’d look at research productivity, teaching awards…. UO has done so much with so little … Psaki: yes. Schill: Only thing that would get me mad would be a department that thinks it’s “good enough”. Psaki: I know lots of UO humanities departs that are fabulous. I read – or tried to read – Coltrane’s Strategic Plan. Doesn’t seem like lots of room for humanities. How did it happen that these are not institutional priorities? Our “yield rates” are low because we have $13.5K fellowships while other schools have $23.5?

Schill: Maybe I should shut up, but I’m not a robot, don’t make all decisions by the numbers, I assume that’s why you wanted me. Come talk to me. Psaki: Yes, we want you.

[Sorry, battery dying, no more live blog.]

4:45 pm 6. Reports

4:45 pm 7. Notice(s) of Motion

4:45 pm 8. Other Business

5:00 pm 9. Adjournment


President Schill will be at the Senate meeting this Wednesday, 3-5PM in the Knight Library browsing room, to answer questions about the budget realignment letter he sent out Friday (post and comments here.) My takeaway is that the realignment is about keeping us in the AAU short-term, by shifting money towards research, more tenure-track faculty, and more grad student fellowships. Some pain will come with the gains.

Strategic Plan:

UO’s last plan was former Interim Provost Jim Bean’s 2009 Academic Plan – a yada-yada document that was so completely ignored nobody even noticed that it was never finalized. I don’t think our new leadership is going to let us down like that. They’ve been busy drafting plans to get UO back on track, and they’ve now started the process of presenting those plans to the university, getting feedback, and finalizing and implementing them.

Presumably Provost Coltrane will also be at this meeting, to answer questions about the 5-year Strategic Framework plan he developed in consultation with faculty, and released this afternoon. That’s longer run, and Coltrane is pretty clear that with current resource constraints much of it is aspirational. The website is here. The 11 page draft document is here:

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 6.54.56 PM

Read it all, I’m just posting some selected highlights:

Strategic Framework 2015 Institutional Priorities

1. Promote and enhance student access, retention and success.

Expand programs that provide students of limited means with access to the UO and enhanced opportunities for successful and timely completion.

Engage in a comprehensive review of the structure of the four-year educational experience of undergraduate students – including general education requirements – and identify potential pilot projects or models based on best practices.

2. Enhance the impact of research, scholarship, creative inquiry and graduate education.

Explore ways to use the emerging presence of the university in Portland to connect students with exciting internships and employment opportunities.

Enhance pipeline preparation opportunities into graduate and professional programs for students who seek additional education, with special attention to programming for underrepresented students.

Link liberal education to career preparation through advising, curricular, and co-curricular initiatives, including ideas around co-locating or co-operating academic and career advising.

More thoroughly analyze and understand strategic opportunities and limitations of online education (including hybrid approaches).

3. Attract and retain high quality, diverse students, faculty and staff.

Increase the size of the tenure-related faculty by 80 to 100 members.

Develop hiring practices that emphasize current strengths and emerging areas of basic and applied research excellence.

Align hiring strategies with the priority of increased success in obtaining externally sponsored research awards and projects.

Make targeted investments in programs that can “go from good to great.”

Increase graduate student fellowship support, professional development, and career placement.

Find new and effective ways to connect researchers with philanthropic funding opportunities through enhanced collaboration between researchers and development staff.

Strengthen existing partnerships, and explore new ones, to promote institutional teaching and research priorities, including the use of public private partnerships.

Seek resources to provide research support for faculty including but not limited to seed and bridge funding, summer support, salary support for research leave and project completion grants.

Recruit and foster the success of a highly qualified and diverse student body. Increase numbers of underrepresented students at the UO and engage in new tactics to recruit a diverse student body.

Compete for high-achieving and underrepresented students by increasing scholarship resources and by coordinating and strengthening UO pipeline programs. Attract students from diverse backgrounds by increasing faculty and staff diversity.

Expand faculty hiring programs (e.g. dual-career programs, inter-institutional partnerships, the Initiative for Faculty Diversity, the Underrepresented Minority Program, and Target of Opportunity Program).

4. Enhance physical, administrative and IT infrastructure to ensure academic excellence.

Address immediate infrastructure needs to accommodate current and future enrollment and protect existing assets. Develop and implement planning – and increased funding – to address deferred maintenance needs.

Burn down that hideous Collier House and renovate Tree-Tops, in a style worthy of the IAAF’s Lord Coe.

Develop and implement an IT strategic plan that will be informed by institutional and unit needs, but that will also conserve resources, reduce waste and redundancy, and ensure security and excellent service, and a pony.

The comments are open – but I know what you’re really wondering: why is it always a 5-year plan? It’s simple. The Nazi’s gave the 4-year plan a bad name. The Poles tried a 6-year plan, but had to give up after 5. Jesuits do 7-year plans, but they’ve got eternity on their side. So while the inventor of the 5-year plan was not exactly a saint, 5 years it will be.

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16 Responses to Schill and Coltrane at Senate meeting to consult on strategic plans

  1. Logistics, logistics says:

    Will there be a live blog from the senate meeting? Inquiring minds who teach 3-5pm want to know.

  2. Joe J says:

    Just 5 years? Jim Bean has a 10 year plan at Northeastern

    UO’s plan is a pointless waste of time. What’s strategic about it? Coltrane made no tradeoffs, just let everyone throw everything onto a laundry list. It means nothing.

  3. Redudant Dog says:

    Going to beat a dead horse, but this time, succinctly. Very tired of this refrain.

    We will never grow our PHD population through our traditional programs – we need new, especially cross-disciplinary programs, for more relevant PHD. Every university that is done this in the last 5 years (about a dozen) has experienced success.

    Believe it don’t – too tired to document it once again.

    • also tired of this rant says:

      When I hear colleagues say “cross-disciplinary” graduate students and PhD programs, what I hear is that our program is too weak to produce PhD’s who will go on to have jobs in our areas. If we can not produce PhD’s in our areas who will go forth in employment in those fields, then perhaps those Depts should not have a PhD program. The call for “new” PhD programs is a desperate appeal to prop up our AAU standing. It devalues the meaning of a PhD and is the fallback for faculty who cannot produce good students.

      • Jack Straw Man says:

        “also tired of this rant”‘s comment had me at least considering it, up until the last line, which falls back on blaming “faculty who cannot produce good students.” The ability of departments at UO to place their PhDs in good jobs depends on the quality of training we give them, sure, but it also depends on the vagaries of the ever-shrinking academic job market, the ability of UO to attract and retain good students through adequate funding, the overall reputation of UO as an academic institution (AAU status, but also are we a serious school or one that only cares about sports), the non-financial resources we’re able to provide students (research facilities, library collections, etc.), the way we as an institution treat our students as GTFs (do we give them a decent enough life-work balance that they can make meaningful progress on their degrees?), etc. There are a whole lot of ways in which UO is not serving its grad students, problems that could be addressed by an administration that was serious about academics. It would also help if faculty wouldn’t undercut each other by blaming it all on “faculty who cannot produce good students.” Solidarity?

        • just different says:

          Speaking of solidarity, every item on that list is something the GTFF fights for. So why isn’t there more support for the GTFF among the faculty?

          • Jack Straw Man says:

            I don’t know. But I walked the picket line with you last year.

          • Dr. Funkenstein says:

            I don’t know either, but I’ve always supported the GTFF in any way possible, including walking the lines.

  4. Jack Straw Man says:

    This part of UOM’s writeup jumped out at me:

    “though none about athletics money or the diversion of students from CAS humanities and some social-science fields into new professional school gen-ed courses and new undergrad programs in law, AAD etc”

    So nobody asked any questions about (a) the biggest money-suck at this university and (b) the way the university responded to the student credit hours budget model by cannibalizing itself rather than working together?

    Wouldn’t these seem to be important questions to ask? I’m kinda shocked at this. Have we already bought into the administration’s logic? Are we just haggling about the price?

    • cdsinclair says:

      Why didn’t you raise your hand and ask these questions? Were you not there?

      There was only a finite amount of time and most, if not all, questions asked were salient to faculty interests.

      The Senate is a democratic body, and even if you are not a Senator, there are a large number of seats for visitors, and the Senate president allowed questions from visitors.

      Sometimes if you want a question asked, you have to ask it yourself.

      • Jack Straw Man says:

        No, I wasn’t there. I had to teach, unfortunately.

        • cdsinclair says:

          It was a good conversation, though nobody seems to really know how this is going to shake out.

          The one question I had (and couldn’t ask because of time) was how discontinuing NTTF was going to raise enough money to pay for new faculty lines, and how the work of those NTTF will be covered. I suspect there will be a reduction, not just in people in the humanities/social sciences, but also in their programmatic offerings. This would seem to be at odds with the goal of increasing our graduate population (though I suppose GTFs could be used to cover some of the classroom hours).

          I worry that we are going to trade the comprehensive nature of our university for one where we have a handful of excellent departments and the rest are “good enough” to educate our students. President Schill apparently hates this “good enough” mentality, but I can’t see how this won’t be the outcome for some departments.

  5. Dog says:


    Isn’t your supposition already the outcome?

  6. Concerned Peon says:


    Dear VPFA staff—

    Last week, President Schill outlined a plan to better align the university’s resources with important priorities related to achieving academic excellence. As we have extremely limited budgets, it’s critical that we look for ways to conduct our operations as efficiently and effectively as possible. The announced plan includes a two-stage process for reducing administrative costs, the first of which consists of a two percent cut applied to each vice-president’s portfolio. The second stage involves revamping some of our business practices, such as taking advantage of strategic sourcing and centralizing a number of services. The first services to be centrally integrated, according to the president, will be communications and information technology. Attached is a PowerPoint presentation put together by Kyle Henley, VP of Communications, regarding the planned integration of communications functions.

    You may be wondering what a two percent cut means for us. Given the size of the VPFA portfolio, the 2% cut will reduce our recurring, General Fund operating budget by just over $900,000 in FY2017. I recognize that it will not be easy to find these savings. Our current budget situation means that we are already operating with very lean staffing levels. The president has been very clear that he does not expect us to simply cut all departmental budgets by 2%. He has asked the vice presidents to conduct a thorough assessment of their operations to assess how to best achieve these savings while still supporting our critical academic mission.

    Over the next few months, I will be working with the VPFA leadership team to carefully assess our options for meeting this budget-cut goal. Please know that we do not take this task lightly. I recognize it is difficult to have looming cuts on the horizon. I want to assure you that we will move through this process both quickly and thoughtfully. As we do so, I encourage each of you to think about cost cutting opportunities in your areas and I invite you to forward these ideas to your supervisor, department head, or AVP. We have some time to implement these cuts and there may be opportunities to identify how we can redesign business processes or our practices to be more efficient. The leadership team and I welcome your suggestions. We know that you may have insights and ideas that could benefit your unit and our entire division.

    The work that our VPFA departments do is vital to the operation of the university. Our goal this spring is going to be to identify ways that we can do that work more efficiently and effectively.

    Thank you for the work you do every day to further the mission of the university.


    Jamie Moffitt
    Vice President for Finance & Administration and CFO
    University of Oregon

    • just different says:

      OK, here’s what the VPFA website says is in that portfolio:

      Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity
      Budget & Resource Planning
      Business Affairs
      Campus Operations
      Campus Planning, Design and Construction
      Enterprise Risk Services: Risk, Environmental and Emergency Management
      Human Resources
      Institutional Research
      Parking and Transportation
      Police Department
      Printing and Mailing
      Purchasing and Contracting
      Sustainability Office

      Any suggestions about where that 900 grand could come from?

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