CAS task force recommends against dismemberment

While President Schill’s charge to the task force told them not to make a recommendation for or against breakup, they ignored this, and recommend against a breakup. He has accepted their advice, for now. Perhaps the new provost will try to restart this fight someday, but the report from Karen Ford’s committee doesn’t leave a lot of room to try. Presumably the next step will be to start integrating the Knight Campus into CAS.

See below for the full report and Pres Schill’s response. From the report’s conclusions:

Even those on the Task Force interested in learning about other, possibly better, college structures raised concerns about the costs (financial, time, effort, and personal costs) of restructuring CAS. There is a general skepticism about making large structural changes that would require the UO to set up two or three new college dean’s offices. Given the widely held conviction that we do not have resources to create something better than what we have, the group concluded that this is not the time to make large, structural changes. Even those most interested in change do not want to change unless we are sure we’re creating something better and have the resources to realize its benefits.

Most agree that the cost of restructuring CAS would be prohibitive and that we should invest any money there might be for this project in improving CAS. This sentiment deepened over the course of our deliberations by news of the budget cuts and the Provost stepping down. CAS TF discussions tended toward improving rather than restructuring CAS, a focus that fell within the broad charge from the President and Provost. To aid communication and facilitate reference, we enumerate our principal conclusions. Since specific suggestions made by large, visible committees may become unwanted and unwarranted benchmarks, we restrict our conclusions to summary assessments and the attendant lessons drawn (with one exception, item 1 below).

1. We recommend seating a small vision committee tasked with addressing the President’s concern about the establishment and communication of division- and college-level visions raised during the lunch meeting in March. It is understood that this committee will seek input from all CAS stakeholders.

2. CAS is anomalous relative to most other public research universities only because UO lacks medical/engineering/agricultural schools.

3. There is broad and strong resistance to large-scale restructuring, including “splitting up CAS.”

4. There is considerable evidence that success is not closely related to structure–any structure can work. Leadership quality, administrative roles, and internal structures may be primary to a college’s success.

5. There is broad and strong support for the recommendation that if CAS is to be split or otherwise significantly restructured, then the reasons must be clearly articulated; further, in case of restructuring, it should be evident that the benefits outweigh the substantial costs, which include transition costs and uncertainty.

6. There is broad and strong support for a renewed emphasis on liberal arts education and scholarship as central to the university’s mission.

7. There is broad and strong support for a renewed emphasis on interdisciplinary education and scholarship.

8. Cooperation, rather than competition, among deans should be fostered–a best practice that CAS already enjoys and should be extended to the deans of the other schools and colleges.


President Schill’s response:

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4 Responses to CAS task force recommends against dismemberment

  1. Dog says:

    I really would like to hear some honest answers posted here by some of the committee members about the perception of any real progress made here or is some better recognition of CAS issues arose together with some feasible improvements.

    Overall, I think this was a colossal waste of people’s time but would like to have that view corrected.

    I also read through all of the faculty comments on all of the survey responses and didn’t detect much of a common thread except the notion that CAS is “too big”. This comment I really don’t understand – Universities and their missions are generally scalable, so CAS is “too big” with respect to what?

    Also, having been involved in Interdisciplinary Stuff on campus since 1995 (I helped set up the current ENVS major good or bad) I really don’t agree at all with the many comments that suggest that CAS “fosters interdisciplinarity”

    Let me give one example – when I was on the ENVS Core Facutly and we had our regular meetings with CAS – always only 1 Dean showed up for those meetings and that was Dean 2 (social sciences) – this sent at least me a clear message that CAS is just spreadsheet assigning ENVS to a slot to be managed by 1 Dean and in the real world this hampered ENVS from making, in my opinion, real interdisciplinary progress; I eventually resigned from ENVS core activity (I think there was lots of applause for this) over this issue.

    One of my persistent and annoying comments in the faculty survey was that Risa Palm’s creation of the DeanLet system has not resulted in better unification of CAS but has amplified levels of alienation and polarization. Again, I would be happy to be corrected by Task Force members.

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    • Elliot Berkman says:

      I thought it was a useful experience and that we came up with a number of recommendations for CAS on which we achieved majority or even consensus opinion. Those recommendations are in the report mostly embedded within each of the sections (research, teaching, etc.).

      I think this report will be quite helpful for the new CAS dean (and probably for the interim CAS dean and divisional deans) and the new provost.

      Of course, not all faculty agreed but it is apparent from reading the responses to the surveys that the prevailing view was that CAS did indeed promote interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching in several ways, especially in contrast with other structures that did not unify the units within CAS.

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      • Dog says:

        well I doubt most will ready that report to sleuth out the recommendations – provide a brief bullet point list here,

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      • oldtimer says:

        the Quality of this report reflects well on the committee chair and members, whether one agrees or disagrees with particular conclusions. Well done. Among many organizational challenges, the newest and most pressing issue is how to nurture the Knight campus, as well as both cas and the rest of campus this was not the committees charge, at least explicitly. What is schills plan for this? Is there one?

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