Faculty cuts jeopardize value of the university

An Op-Ed in the RG today, full text here:

During February’s legislative session, the University of Oregon’s top lobbying priority was to increase the state hotel tax to get $25 million to subsidize TrackTown USA’s 2021 championship games. There were no visible efforts to work for new funding to improve UO’s academic side or reduce the need for tuition increases.

This is not the sort of leadership we expected from the new, independent UO Board of Trustees.

Meanwhile, in Eugene we have seen a whirlwind of decisions resulting in cuts of instructional faculty. These cuts are concentrated overwhelmingly in humanities and social science departments. More than 80 dedicated people will now be unemployed: Some were recent UO graduates just beginning their careers; others had long, distinguished careers; many, frankly, did not receive the appreciation and respect they deserve.

Instead of allowing the university community to fully participate in developing the academic priorities for use during what has been labeled a “strategic realignment,” we saw the administration announce these cuts just in time for a meeting of the Board of Trustees. Furthermore, the hasty announcement of these cuts did not allow for reflection on their academic, much less their human, effects.

… We pointed out in a petition over the summer numerous financial contradictions at UO: inexplicable transfers between colleges; disinvestment from core academic divisions; further cuts to library resources; and tours by administrators describing impending budgetary doom. At the same time the Athletic Department faces no call for austerity or shared sacrifice.

Cutting faculty without a transparent, long-term plan to maintain excellence in academic programs jeopardizes the values of an institution that bills itself as the state’s premier liberal arts research university. Faculty need to be consulted to help determine the priorities that inform this “strategic realignment,” and what the long-term plan for this realignment includes.

Securing millions for new athletic programs — again — while cutting academic expertise to teach students new languages, improve writing, or support innovative undergraduate programming looks too much like an old habit around here.

Cristina Calhoon, a senior instructor in classics, is executive vice president of United Academics, the union representing faculty and other academic employees at the University of Oregon. Michael Dreiling, an associate professor of sociology, is president of United Academics. Karen McPherson, a professor of French, is United Academics’ vice-president for tenure track faculty affairs.

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9 Responses to Faculty cuts jeopardize value of the university

  1. zach says:

    Pardon my off topic question but has anyone heard anything about a new campus police station project by UO at 720E 13th avenue ? I hear renovations of the building have already begun and it will be a second UO cop shop…and no it has not been in any news coverage……and UO is helping get rid of the campus EPD substation (located at 13th and alder) right now.

  2. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    Partly in response to Plain Interested above, let me clarify and perhaps expand a bit on what I said in another post. The CAS deans probably do not bear the primary responsibility for the deficit given to them. It seems to have come from transfers to other sinking units, and the desire of the Provost and the President to fund cluster hires and TTF faculty lines. The ramp-up in NTTF, especially in the face of enrollments that were already declining, seems to have come largely because of TTF who wanted to avoid teaching undergraduate courses, especially intro general courses. In this sense, apparently some of the TTF, especially in the humanities (from what is bandied about), bear responsibility for the sacking of NTTF now that the budgetary chickens of all of the above are coming home to roost.

    I should add that I hear that in fields other than humanities, there is also a fair amount of shirking of teaching responsibilities, varying between and within departments.

    I can imagine that all this is connected with the purported plans of Schill to lay down rules for “teaching loads” of TTF, especially senior TTF.

    Finally, re all the commotion over the tuition hikes: much of the hikes is due to the expansion of TTF and the costs of the cluster hires, all apparently in the service of trying to remain in the AAU.

    So, the students and the NTTF are taking it in the neck in the service of various purposes for which they do not bear much responsibility.

    I have my doubts how much longer UO can keep jacking up tuition at rates far above the rate of growth in incomes. Raising it as much as they want to do this year in the face of declining enrollments may be a losing business model. There could even be a downward spiral in revenue if tuition hikes cause a sufficient drop in enrollment. Perhaps UO knows what it can get away with this year, but I don’t see how they can keep this up year after year.

  3. Dog says:

    At the risk of being an overly anal, unimaginative, thick headed bean counter (oh wait, I am …) the CAS Faculty/Instructor budget goes
    something like this.

    1. IF CAS perceives that the bulk of their funding comes from SCHs (this is true to some extent, but perception here is more important than reality), then they will seek to have the lowest unit cost instruction because QUALITY doesn’t fucking matter (quota used).

    2. Therefore it is far cheaper to teach Irrelevant 101 to 300 students than it is to teach 10 sections of Irrelevant 101 to 30
    studies. Obviously there is some reasonable medium between these two extremes and CAS will get there in a formulaic cluster-doodle (having used my quota).

    3. Obviously there are exceptions, you want to teach Math and Language classes to smaller students (I suppose, with electronic interaction means these days I am not so sure) so there will be a wide spectrum in Irrelevant 101 SCH/instructor number. The CAS attempt is to get a better balance. I think this is a good goal, but the implementation will, as always, be problematical.

  4. Dog says:

    yes sorry
    inverted the ratio

    TTF/Students = 1/30 (about) so we just process them

  5. Dog says:

    two points

    1. Number matter; “more than 80” is not consistent with the numbers in the Marcus Memo

    2. Our extremely high TTF to student ratio should not be translated into efficiency, as the RG article cites – its extremely misleading.

  6. Plain Interested says:

    I happen to think the “truth” of how effective UO is at teaching is somewhere in between the corporate CEO view and unions view: more toward the CEO in my opinion. I recall that UO Matters had a set of charts that showed CAS had increased staffing 80% and decreased teaching credits 8% in the past 7 years. I pattern generally followed throughout the University. Following up on Old Uncle Bernie, he said that this layoff is mostly at feet of the faculty who are teaching less and less each year, not at the feet of the Dean or Provost. There is a concept that empires are been built based on individual self-importance as exampled; 6 staff positions in the dean’s office when away with a letter to the remaining staff stating to just buck-up and rearrange their duties. I would say the same to the faculty and faculty union. Teach a few more classes, and don’t expect the student body to continue to pay for inefficiency, academic navel gazing as such, as indicated in the charts. Bring back the charts for everyone edification please.

    • curator says:

      79 faculty and 6 positions at the Deans office = more than 80. Plain above, how do you know that those cuts had anything to do with the charts you remember? Why were the cuts announced just in time for the board? Are you so sure of this navel gazing? Your judgements are based on what?

      • Dog says:

        After all the numbers in the Marcus memo the net loss seems to be about 40 (+6) as some of those can be hired back, according
        to that memo. I think the layoffs are generated by a formula based on class size and instructor need, particularly in the humanities.

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