AVP Ellen Herman has no records on status of Faculty Track Software


Another year, another budget crisis, more questions about where UO’s money is going. I emailed VP Herman, who is charge of this project, on March 25th:

Hi Ellen,

I’m heard a rumor that the administration has abandoned or perhaps just delayed this effort. I’m hoping that you can provide some details on where this proposal currently stands. Thanks,

Bill Harbaugh

She didn’t answer, so on April 1st I filed a public record request. Yesterday I got this response:

Dear Mr. Harbaugh,

The University has searched for, but was unable to locate, records responsive to your request for “…a public record showing the current status of the Faculty tracking / Insights project”, made 4/1/2020.

It is the office’s understanding that this project has been placed on hold, however there are no records documenting this decision.

The office considers this to be fully responsive to your request, and will now close your matter. Thank you for contacting the office with your request.

Sincerely, Office of Public Records

5/8/2019 update: 

With the budget crisis, you’d think this proposal would be in the trash can. Apparently not.

3/18/2019 Faculty tracking software vendor explains time-suck & “thought leadership programming” junket

So why isn’t the provost’s office being clear about what this will cost?

From the Digital Measures website here. On top of the ~$100K per year in fees, they suggest we hire or reallocate an Insight Administrator, a project manager, a technical representative, have a champion provost who “is committed to the success of the implementation and ensures the rest of the project has the time, resources and buy-in they need for the project to be successful”.

I’m hoping Provost Banavar has better uses for his time. But wait, there’s more!

Some PR flack time, a technical representative, a trainer, pilot groups, and unit representatives  who “coordinate and voices the needs of their individual units to the general project team and encourages the use of the system …”. This is starting to make Concur look user friendly:

And, if that’s not enough, their website includes this helpful template to use to convince your boss to send you to their annual conference in New Orleans, with a conference fee of just $825 & 189 per night! For “thought leadership programming”. Their words, not mine:

Need to justify your attendance?
Use our custom letter to help convince your boss, request funds for travel or just let everyone know the amazing benefits of attending Engage!

Why do we have unlimited money and time for this expensive online c.v. software, but not for raises for the GTFF or for hiring OA’s and staff?

2/11/2019: Admins to combine Faculty Tracking Software with metrics scheme

This software was pitched to us last year as a way to keep your c.v. up to date. But when linked with Brad Shelton’s faculty metrics scheme it’s so much more. Here’s a link to the provost’s website notice:

The project, called Faculty Insights, will result in a sophisticated online system that enhances our ability to capture the wide range of research and creative activities that our faculty do. The primary purpose of the system will be to manage the faculty review process university-wide – including promotion, tenure, and post-tenure review – more efficiently and effectively. Introducing a Faculty Insights system at UO will enhance our ability to streamline faculty personnel processes and make the achievements and instructional activities of faculty in all the schools and colleges more visible, within the campus community and to the broader public. The system will also support the local metrics process and the production of annual unit-level research reports.

UO will contract with Concur to provide the software.

Just kidding, it will likely contract with Digital Measures, a software company out of Milwaukee, with a hip award winning office that doesn’t look cheap. And they aren’t cheap. Their proposal to Western Michigan a few years ago worked out to about $90K a year for a license, and that’s just the start of the costs. The University of Maryland is hiring them too, and their administration just told their Senate the new software will require a full time administrator and 5 grad students paid to input data from the previous failed faculty tracking system.

But of course there will be benefits as well as costs to implementing Brad Shelton’s metrics scheme, such as giving our administration the data they need to track faculty in real time, and allowing them to set our annual goals for promotion or whatever, as explained in Azusa Pacific University’s Activity Insight Basic User Manual, here:

With Activity Insight’s flexible software the administration’s “servant-leader” monitoring can drill down to a remarkable level, such as this Faith Integration Activities report:

From Maryland:

From Western Michigan:

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18 Responses to AVP Ellen Herman has no records on status of Faculty Track Software

  1. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    I guess UO’s academic and financial status have already improved so much after several years of these guys, right? Look at major surveys of academic standing, grants, the newfound financial stability, the latest salary jump. Oh, and the great news on enrollment, student quality… keep it up guys!

    I know I will be accused of being a pollyanna, but gotta face facts.

    Seriously, though, I think there is some good news on faculty hires. For which we can thank?

  2. St Francis says:

    Would love to read some good news honest uncle Bernie. Provide a link or two.

    • Elephant Seal says:

      good news

      [The UOM Editor: Your comment has been rejected because you failed to connect this good news about elephant seals to UO. You may resubmit.]

  3. Sun Tzu says:

    Ah, yet another attempt to quantify faculty performance. Most of us don’t remember that John Moseley, when he was our beloved Provost 20+ yrs ago, raised this idea but never actually did anything about it because of fierce faculty resistance. Fast forward to another outstanding Provost, Mr Bean, who revisited the issue at the behest of the State Board. He held bimonthly meetings with ~10 faculty for the entire academic year yet completely ignored the committee’s final recommendations (the committee had ~40 appropriate and detailed measures). Instead he made up his own list of academic measures (a grand total of 6!), all of which were vague and inappropriate. Fortunately the State Board didn’t follow through because they were fighting their own existential battle which they lost. The current quasi-quantification effort is typical of our mediocre administrators, i.e., let’s hire a bunch of people, pay a ton of money to outside consultants in order to inappropriately measure something. The assumption in this case is that measuring faculty performance is no different than measuring widget production in a factory. But hey, it is much easier for the dimwitted to value what we can measure instead of measuring what we value. And our current administrators have shown a serious paucity of academic values. Maybe, just maybe, this scheme is a ruse to pad the CVs of administrators when they go out on the job market? The real question is why isn’t the Senate pushing back real hard on this?

    • Dog says:

      I have always felt that, to the UO, I am merely a name/item on a spreadsheet that can be randomly assigned on some admin’s matrix. Never have I ever felt valued for what ever unique or creative IP that I possess (perhaps I don’t possess any …). This Brave New World tracking software should NEVER belong in the Academy.

      All of this is just way wrong but is there any stopping it?

      • uomatters says:

        Dog, it’s these sorts of unhelpful comments that have led to serious questions being raised in JH about your commitment to fulfill your Faith Integration Activity metrics. We expect to see an improvement next year, if you really want a 1.5% merit increase.

      • Oldtimer says:

        as John Le Carre’s character Smiley laments, some insist on jumping up and down and calling it progress, while others … something about lined up against a wall.

  4. Dog says:

    and surely the Insight system as applied to Shills latest missive on the budget Woes of the UO (yes indeed, apparently the KC is now killing the rest of campus …. and yes I am assured that this is not true) — will determine who is lined up against the wall.

  5. Flattened says:

    There is a hidden universal algorithm that governs many campus decisions: Will this increase the bureaucratic power of administrators over the university (and especially the faculty) or not? If the answer is yes, then proceed to next question.

  6. Rubashov says:

    I honestly thought this was a joke–a sophisticated parody of everything that has gone wrong with leadership in higher ed. I thought it was hilarious. Dark Orwellian verbiage and sloganeering with colorful graphics and happy not-quite-human faces. The description of the Project Team Roles was a roar. The overt money-grabbing and prepping of the leaders for how to cash in on their university was especially gut-busting. I was aglow at the brilliance of this satire. I couldn’t stop grinning.

    Honestly, as this went on, I only slowly realized that this was no joke, that there really is a thing called Digital Measures, that this vacuous verbiage was actually functioning, that this hyper-bureaucratic Gleichschaltung of the University into the emptiest kind of anti-intellectual machinery and bureaucratic shredding was no joke. It’s no joke, right?

    • uomatters says:

      A joke? I suppose it’s possible. Our provost does have a pretty dry sense of humor. Maybe he’s waiting til April 1 to let us all in on the joke.

      BTW, I was concerned that your use of Gleichschaltung might have required me to invoke Godwin’s Law and disable comments for this post. However the UOM general counsel’s office has ruled that it’s OK so long as no one posts a english translation.

  7. Classified, Not Stupid says:

    UO *loves* to spend vast quantities of money on broken software, inappropriate software, Management Consultant Fad of the Week software, you name it.

    As far as I know, MyTrack still has a today is yesterday date field (it came from Australia).

  8. Canard says:

    David Graeber has expanded his famous Bullshit Jobs article into a new book, which can’t come a moment too soon. https://www.newyorker.com/books/under-review/the-bullshit-job-boom

  9. Bert says:

    The real problems are not that the BS jobs are simply a waste of resources, or that they are too often held by people who have questionable aims, or that they keep self-expanding into huge bureaucratic layers. It is rather that the people who hold these jobs are incentivized to interfere with the work of the faculty who do research and teaching and offer service to the core mission of the university–a mission that is different from that of other institutions. The distractions are endless and the time stolen is not recoverable. And the creepy surveillance of endless forms and monitored procedures and reports and training sessions and new ways of measuring and new platforms and so on and so on are all thought up and implemented by people with BS jobs.

    I can say without qualification that the way digital systems have been implemented and the great expansion of the bureaucratic stratum of the university have left scholars ands teachers with less rather than more time to work deeply and seriously on their research. Campus email alone has become a heavy and onerous tax on one’s time. But the list of institutionalized interruptions is a long one. And in our time BS is nothing if not institutionalized

    • Canard says:

      Agree with all of this completely. So maybe our current situation is explained by Bullshit Jobs + Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy.

  10. Amanda Frost says:

    I’m curious. How many TTF/NTTF UO faculty over the course of 1 year are actually teaching classes? (if you ran the data, actual true numbers, not inflated) If you took that number and divided it by all of the expenses you list above, what would that expense come to per faculty head, per year?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Count down to layoffs. 24 days. Get ready people.