Inside Philanthropy looks at disconnect between $50M gift and student protest

A University Nets a Huge Donation and Students Protest. What’s Going On Here?

…  So let us agree that the UO protesters were rude and perhaps misguided. Youth is, indeed, wasted on the young. Does that make their concerns about escalating tuition any less valid, especially considering the optics at play?

After all, Phil and Penny Knight gave the university a $500 million donation a year ago. UO has a nationally renowned and (presumably?) lucrative football program. Michael Schill earns $798,400 a year, making him one of the highest paid university presidents according to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s salary rankings.

And now, a few months after a proposed 10.6 percent in-state tuition increase, a new gift—and an anonymous one at that, replete with concerns about transparency and accountability—has added another $50 million to the pot.

Indeed, there are many factors contributing to escalating tuition at public universities, including escalating health and pension benefits, ongoing budget cuts at the state level, and a broken federal student loan system. It’s understandable why people should be grateful for donor largesse. Without private philanthropy, things would get really ugly.

Yet, it’s of little solace for many UO students facing a lifetime of debt, given the fact that it seems to be figuratively raining money all over campus.

And so rather than lament the impetuousness of youthful rebellion, it would behoove donors and administrators alike to ask why students are frustrated and address the divide that seems to be widening with every new mega-gift.

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13 Responses to Inside Philanthropy looks at disconnect between $50M gift and student protest

  1. Long-time UO Professor says:

    The Inside Philanthropy article articulates my own reaction to this whole episode better than anything else I have yet seen. The income and wealth and resource divides here grow and grow. The values become more and more corporate. And – not sure why or how this can be in 2017 — but the power here is more and more almost exclusively held by men. In the meantime today the photos all over the UO web page are of new gleaming buildings…when there is so much social injustice right now – such a missed opportunity (just as that op-ed was such a missed opportunity to share the platform with students). In the meantime students tell me how shut out they feel by the current administration at UO.
    Shouldn’t we act like an educational institution and a public institution rather than a company that worships materialism, status, and profit?

    • UO Community Member says:

      “values become more and more corporate”

      I think the new deluxe residence halls and refurbished EMU cost more combined than the Knight gift. However, they won’t amount to much in terms of student achievement or research excellence. Why was no one protesting such extravagance?

      “Shouldn’t we act like an educational institution and a public institution rather than a company that worships materialism, status, and profit?”

      This all predates Schill. Unfortunately, the donor class is the only real source of income growth for UO.

      Your beef should be with the State and the democrats who have been leading it for 30 years.

      • dog says:

        1. the knight gift is nominally 500 Million dollars; that is greather
        than the residence hall and refurbished EMU

        2. the refurbished EMU was a necessary project and I would hardly call it extravagant.

        3. The two new residence Halls were built relatively on the cheap and there are problems – nothing extravagant there either.

        4. Perhaps Schill is committed to carrying on the pre-dated priorities

      • Environmental necessity says:

        Correction, the beef is with the 2/3 requirement for revenue measures which give a minority of hardline GOPers de facto veto power over most investments in the common good in this state including higher ed funding.

        • mindless husk says:

          “the 2/3 requirement for revenue measures”

          That was voted in, according to my recollection, by a citizen initiative. In other words, it is the will of the people of Oregon, a large plurality of whom are Democrats . Your beef is with the citizenry of Oregon.

      • solidcitizen says:

        The students did protest the EMU expansion. They were told they had to pay for it through their student fees. The UO scheduled a referendum so the students could vote to increase their fees. When it became clear that the students were not going to vote to increase their fees, the referendum was cancelled.

        The university admin then ran a year-long campaign effort to convince the students that it would be awesome to pay $100 more a term in fees to have a terrific new building. When it looked like the second vote might fail, the admin said that the vote was merely advisory and strongly hinted that a new EMU was going to be built with student fees whether the students liked it or not. I do not recall what the result of the vote was, but here we have a fun new EMU.

        • mindless husk says:

          It was voted in by the students the last time around. Of course, then there are no more votes. It’s a game that has been curbed at the state level.

          In my opinion, the expanded EMU was not needed. An extravagance. Too bad the small number of students who vote in these matters finally succumbed to the UO propaganda campaign.

  2. dog says:

    Nicely said …

  3. It's the Tuition, Stupid says:

    Thanks for posting this. The column raises important issues. Back when Uncle Phil graduated, you could go to the UO for under $500 a year. The money could be made by a student working part time and summers. With all the tuition hikes including this year’s highest ever, that’s impossible now. Many students are forced into massive debt. Why isn’t this a philanthropic priority? A UO President priority?

  4. environmental necessity says:

    Only partially, in that the vote was not the current citizenry and the measure was sold with a wave of corporate propaganda by Sizemore’s corporate backers. So your recollection is not wrong, just partial and limited and not pertinent, not responsive in the way you want it to be.

    There is also a question of whether the consequences were known at the time. We have more recent data that the citizens do want to raise taxes, but must do so outside the legislature because of the poor decision of an earlier electorate, a decision enacted with ignorance of the consequences.

    So put down the GOPer talking points for a moment and consider the entire flow of the argument.

    Even though at one time the citizens voted for it, the consequence has been to permit GOPers from Burns to prevent social investments and that power has been exercised by them repeatedly, every session sense with at most minority support. Go ahead and explain that is what voters wanted in 1996. In other words, your recollection does not answer my observation.

    • mindless husk says:

      I will not respond to your collection of red herrings — GOPers from Burns are controlling Oregon!!?? — except to say that the “current citizenry” are certainly capable of amending their state constitution again to get rid of the supermajority rule, if that is their will.

      As far as I can tell, the “current citizenry” show zero interest in eliminating the supermajority provision.

      • Focused anger cuts says:

        I suspect EN was using Burns as an illustration that stands in for their observation that a minority of Republicans, whose base is rural Oregon, have effective veto power over revenue provisions. Perhaps EN overestimated your literary mindfulness.

        Granting everything you say about the citizenry, it doesn’t change the point that there is a majority of legislators who favor revenue increases for things like supporting higher education but that majority is stymied by a minority of Republican legislators representing a minority of Oregonians who are empowered by the super-majority provision to block such moves. It is highly anti-democratic and it is a cause of the problems of funding for higher ed in Oregon.

        Nothing you say in any way addresses that political observation.

        • mindless husk says:

          Nothing you say in any way addresses the political observation that the citizens of Oregon seem to like it that way just fine, expressed very democratically when they exercised their right to amend their state constitution accordingly. They seem to want to curb the propensity of the legislators always to raise taxes. You might not like it, but at least see it for what it is — the will of the people.

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