President Schill on new leadership

Dear colleagues,

Over the past few weeks we have announced the appointments of a new vice president for research and three deans—an unprecedented series of leadership hires that are critical for the University of Oregon’s future and ability to achieve excellence. I want to extend my deepest thanks to Brook Muller, Julianne Newton, and Brad Shelton, all of whom stepped up to serve their units and schools with enormous distinction. Our whole university owes them a tremendous debt of gratitude.

I greatly look forward to welcoming our new leaders to campus in the coming months—David Conover, vice president for research and innovation, Juan-Carlos Molleda, Edwin L. Artzt Dean of the School of Journalism and Communication, and Christoph Lindner, dean of the School of Architecture and Allied Arts. Of course, I also offer W. Andrew Marcus hearty congratulations on being named the permanent Tykeson Dean of Arts and Sciences for CAS after serving admirably in the interim role. In each of these appointments, we landed our first choices out of incredibly talented and strong candidate pools.

While we have made tremendous progress, our work is not complete. Efforts are ongoing to secure a world-class dean for the Charles H. Lundquist College of Business, and the search is just beginning for a new law school dean. We also have open searches for chief information officer and the newly created position of associate vice provost for student success. While Scott and I are thrilled with the new leaders we have appointed, we both recognize that we need to work much more effectively in the future to hire women and underrepresented minorities for these important leadership posts.

As we, together, focus on developing and enhancing the academic and research capabilities and reputation of the UO, it is hard to overstate how important and indeed striking it is for our institution to have these new leaders. Few universities experience the sort of change we have experienced in such a concentrated period. In just over a year, we hired a new president, three new vice presidents, and three new deans.

Over the past six years, we have experienced enormous churn in leadership, with five different individuals occupying my office and with interim deans in four of our most important schools. While each of these individuals did their best under difficult circumstances, their temporary nature made it impossible for us to do long-range planning and reach our full potential. In the world of higher education, if one doesn’t move forward, one falls back. And we did.

Like any vacuum, our leadership void was ultimately filled. In some instances, the Senate took over a role that went beyond its constitutionally designated jurisdiction of “academic matters as commonly understood.” The faculty voted to create a union to help regularize employment relationships that had been frayed and to bolster compensation that lagged our peers. Individuals in departments, institutes, and administrative units picked up the slack and did the best they could in the face of significant cuts in state funding for higher education. We should all be grateful to everyone who stepped in, grabbed an oar, and kept our boat afloat.

With our new leadership team almost in place, we will usher in a period of long-term stability and reestablish more stable governance of the university. Our relatively new Board of Trustees will work with me and the provost to provide general oversight of the UO’s strategic direction. The president, provost, and administrative leadership team—in consultation with various stakeholders—will implement that strategy, manage day-to-day university operations, work with external constituencies, and make the decisions necessary to achieve our objectives of establishing the UO as one of the preeminent research institutions in the nation.

The Senate will serve its pivotal role as the guardian of our academic mission. The approval of new degrees, selection and tenure of faculty, creation and revision of curriculum, and establishment of requirements for graduation—these are all things that fit squarely within its purview.

Most important, though, it is the deans who will run the UO’s academic units. While Scott and I will remain active in jump-starting new academic and programmatic initiatives, the deans and department heads and center or program directors have much better knowledge (local and substantive) than those of us who sit in Johnson Hall. My job and Scott’s is to set the budget for the academic units, maintain a level of oversight over their operations to ensure that they comply with the law, stay within their means, and follow the strategic direction of the university, but also to let each unit follow its own path to excellence. It is the dean, in consultation with faculty members, who will decide which departments and programs will grow and which will shrink; which priorities will move forward and which will not; which faculty and staff members will be hired and which will not be renewed. That is the sign of a healthy academic institution. It is a vision to which I am committed.

I cannot wait to have the new deans on board. It will be a new beginning for the University of Oregon. Our future is limitless.


Michael Schill

President and Professor of law

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23 Responses to President Schill on new leadership

  1. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    After a quick browse, it seems certainly a better tone than his previous missives about past leadership, maybe they read UOM in Johnson Hall?

    Except for a dig about the UO Senate and its “constitutional” prerogatives? (And remember, this guy is an attorney, so that had to be quite deliberate.)

    • OAnonymous says:

      I read this as a definite “know your place” message–a slap on the wrist to the senate for overreaching, a reassertion that management of the academic units is the purview of the deans, and to clarify that Schill isn’t responsible for the form that recent cuts took, especially in CAS. Putting Marcus in place as permanent dean is an affirmation of CAS’ radical cuts, and this email reinforces the message that the deans, not the pres, made the heads roll.

      I think it’s also a reminder that Schill is invested in the institution, and that it’s his way or the highway–you’re either on the bus or you’re off. Makes me wonder who’s next to leave in central admin–Jamie Moffitt? Now that her husband has returned to the faculty, and given the fiscal debacle at this university, I have to imagine she’ll either receive or issue her walking papers within the year.

    • HUB, can you elaborate on why you view the statement about the Senate’s prerogatives as a dig? I have never been quite clear on exactly what the Senate’s role is and what it’s powers are, so I found this note to be helpful. Is there some debate over the role/powers of the Senate that I’m missing?

      Whatever the scope of their roles, a clear delineation of what the Senate and other governing bodies on campus are and are not expected to do would be quite useful in promoting effective and efficient problem solving within the University.

      • honest Uncle Bernie says:

        I simply thought that

        ‘In some instances, the Senate took over a role that went beyond its constitutionally designated jurisdiction of “academic matters as commonly understood.” ‘

        was meant to put the senate in its place, and as a dig.

        Other nearby posters seem to take it as even more of a rebuke than I did.

  2. Sun Tzu says:

    This wordy missive is what we have come to expect from Schill. It repeatedly emphasizes the primacy of the administrative hierarchy structure while continuing the long-term process, begun by Frohnmayer, of reducing the Senate and faculty governance to the mundane (approval of new degrees, curricular changes and graduation requirements). The sentence that is most telling is “Most importantly, it is the deans who will run the UO’s academic units.” This is yet another step towards consolidating administrative power and decision-making at the expense of shared governance. When will the Senate, on behalf of the faculty, begin to take back our university? Are you listening Bill or are you just content with throwing bombs and watching the destruction?

    • solidcitizen says:

      You call for the faculty to “take back our university.” Can you point to the time when you think the faculty had control of the university? Can you provide a couple of examples of the differences between when faculty had control and now, when they do not?

      • Sun Tzu says:

        The faculty never “had control of the university”. We did however have a much larger say in many university decisions and worked more closely and respectfully with the administration during the 60s, 70s 80s, and early 90s.
        Three past examples of strong faculty-administration cooperation:
        a) The Assembly discussion in the late 80s on the multicultural gen ed requirement;
        b) The multiple conversations between faculty and administration on how to deal with the financial fallout from Measures 5 and 47 in the early 90s;
        c) The establishment of a representative Senate in 1994-5.
        There was a time when the UO President’s door was always open to faculty. Past presidents had near-daily lunches with faculty. Since Frohnmayer, our administrators have been too haughty, too removed from day-to-day academics, too concerned with size of their paychecks and perks, and too enthralled with their accumulated power to listen to or work with faculty. We also have had outstanding faculty leaders such as Ann Tedards, Jeff Hurwit, Jim Earl and Peter Keyes, all of whom had the best interest of the faculty at heart. Unfortunately subsequent Senate leaders since 2010 have shirked their responsibility to the faculty and allowed the administration to take full control of the university without a fight. Some Senate Presidents have amazingly taken junkets to bowl games paid for by the Administration. I use to be proud of our faculty governance system. It was a major reason I came to UO. Now it is a ghost of its former self. Next year’s Senate President could start turning this around. Or he could continue to crap on everything without making a positive contribution.

        • honest Uncle Bernie says:

          Many people remember the days when Paul Olum ate with the faculty almost daily in the EMU at one of the several alas now-gone interdepartmental faculty groups at the alas now-gone circular tables. Myles Brand largely continued this.

          Dave Frohnmayer was not one for eating with the faculty in the EMU. But he did communicate frequently with faculty. On one noteworthy occasion I am told he took my advice. On another occasion, he told me that he wished that he had.

          The collegiality mostly died out after that, on its way out with Dave and gone with the others.

          Note, not just the collegiality between faculty and top admin, but between faculty themselves, especially from different departments.

          People who remember it miss it, I suspect.

          • dog says:

            Yes there can be better memories of the past but SCALE matters.

            In general, I think the UO is a MUCH more collegial place when
            we have 15000 students instead of 25000 students. My feeling is that this is the principal driver behind most of the malcontent.

        • solidcitizen says:

          Thanks for replying. I was not at the university before 1991, so I really only know the Frohnmayer years, which were not marked by much faculty-administration cooperation.

          How to rebuild those relationships is an intriguing question. I, for one, hope that they can be rebuilt and faculty-admin relations do not continue to fall into battles of power and will.

  3. cdsinclair says:

    One would think that an attorney would read the entire constitution. Especially the part “… it requires that the University Senate express its views on University issues through appropriate Legislation, Policy Proposals and Resolutions.” and “Resolutions shall be unrestricted in scope.”

    It sure sounds like the Senate can talk about anything it wants without going “beyond its constitutionally designated jurisdiction”.

    I’d argue that it is in the Senate’s best interest to focus mainly on academic matters (though my “commonly understood” impression of what is academic is likely broader than his) since this is where the Senate’s real power lies, but the Senate has constitutional authority to comment on whatever it wants, and should not be chided for doing so.

  4. Hey Schill, says:

    Thanks for that reminder that our elected faculty leaders need to know their place. Also thanks for the reminder that we all need to lobby for the HECC to have a greater oversight role over the board of trustees. You’re a peach. We’ll be sharing more details about that campaign later, but for now you can start by e-mailing Senator Floyd Prozanski at [email protected] that you support a stronger Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

  5. Old Man says:

    I’m not surprised that Mike Schill is uneasy with the degree of latitude afforded to the Senate by the Constitution. The Constitution was designed as a strong, defined framework for the Professors and President to execute the co-governance responsibility that is imposed by the University Charter. The committee that created the protocol anticipated that it might make some presidents uncomfortable, at least until they became used to Oregon’s tradition of real shared governance.
    The Faculty, as well, has yet to fully understand that concept. Some Senate Presidents have been painfully anxious to see that the Senate does not irritate the Boss, failing to recognize that the Constitution provides the framework for resolving the inevitable irritations that come with shared governance.

  6. >~~~>~@] says:

    I know this comment will be hugely unpopular among the esteemed readers here, but in my opinion not all was dandy and rosy in the 1980s and 90s. I think the overall level of faculty and quality of research is much better now. Eugene was a painfully provincial place in the 1980s. I’d rather have faculty who are killing it at their field and distant (yet honest) administrators then happy kumbaya of mediocracy.

    • honest Uncle Bernie says:

      I partially agree, but only that. I think UO was in a state of decline then, unavoidably. There were also most of the people from the glory years, still here. I got to know them towards the end of their careers. They were good, really good.

      I do think UO is rebuilding after a long descent. I also think that Eugene is a far more vibrant place now. So is Corvallis, so is Portland, Ashland.

      All that said, I do still miss the old days in some ways. Call it nostalgia if you like, but I don’t.

  7. I'm no organization management expert says:

    Key point: The deans are in charge but schill is picking the deans and rewarding those doing his bidding with budgets. He is in complete control yet able to distance himself from unpopular decisions within colleges.

  8. Just Stating the Obvious says:

    Changing the subject… Am I the only one who is bothered by the lack of diversity in the Schill/Coltrane hires? It looks like a line up of white males, except one.

    • Hippo says:

      It’s one thing to tell departments to diversify, it’s another thing to practice what you preach!

    • Anonymous says:

      No, not worried at all. As long as the best person is being hired. “Best” is subjective, to be sure, but I don’t think gender or racial origin is an attribute that makes a good dean or administrator, so I don’t think one should be selected based on that. People’s judgement about whether candidate A is better than candidate B should be independent of that candidate’s gender or race.