Int Pres Phillips committed to an ethos of stability and positive engagement

Dear University of Oregon community,

It is with tremendous excitement that I write to you today as interim president of the University of Oregon. I am very honored by the appointment and humbled by the responsibility to our entire community that this opportunity entails. I am grateful for all the well wishes and expressions of support I received after last week’s announcement.

I could not be more firmly committed to this role as interim president. I have served in a variety of roles during my 22 years at the UO, most recently as provost, during one of the more challenging periods of our history, and so have been fortunate to have had a front row seat to observe and support the amazing passion and creative energy that our faculty, staff, and students bring to their work. But I have also been here through disruptive changes in leadership and damaging cuts to our budget, which is why I am particularly committed to an ethos of stability and positive engagement as a central feature of my time as interim president. And I feel particularly fortunate that we have been able to institutionally maintain such a strong path forward in a manner that allows stability—in vision, in finances, and in operations—to be a foundation that we can rely upon at this particular moment in time. I know I speak for so many of us in extending thanks and gratitude to my friend and colleague Michael H. Schill for helping lead us to this position.

When I first came to the UO two decades ago, I was struck by the sense of shared purpose and community that I experienced: that we could seek to expand the bounds of human awareness through cutting edge research and creative practice while still being caring and transformative teachers and mentors to our students. A variety of largely external and societal forces have frayed at those edges a bit over the years, but there is still something uniquely Oregon about this university, and the steadfast commitment to growth and learning demonstrated by members of our university community. This is something that we need to continue to embrace and celebrate. Just last week I was able to hear a research presentation by an undergraduate summer research fellow working in my lab. He spoke about the excitement of sitting for hours looking at a glowing red worm that he had just created to help us track changes in gene expression over time as a tool for improving healthy aging. It was exactly the feeling that I had when I accomplished the same feat for the first time as a young scientist. It reminded me yet again why we do what we do. Each of us, regardless of field, know that sense of joy and awe when everything is just right. We believe in the transformative potential of being immersed in an environment that seeks the cutting edge of knowledge and insight about ourselves and the world around us. And we believe in using that work—that commitment—with a goal of maximizing the human potential of every member of our community.

In my administrative roles as provost, in the Office of Research and Innovation, and in helping to establish the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact and the Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health, I have had an opportunity to travel extensively around Oregon and across major economic and cultural centers of the United States. Meeting with people in government, business, research centers, and other universities during these trips has made it clear to me that the UO has a critical role to play in the world that transcends the classroom, research lab, library, or concert hall. I think that we all feel that we are in a moment of intensifying change. Higher education itself is at a crossroads, but more importantly, society as a whole is in flux. I cannot emphasize strongly enough that the world needs what the UO has to give. I also have to tell you that the world does yet not seem to recognize this as clearly as I would hope. And so this is a path whose initial steps will largely need to be built upon our efforts, but we will take them, because it is what we are called to do as a public research university. This is why I am particularly grateful to the many alumni and friends of the university who also see this potential for broader impact and generously support the work that we do.

Over the last few years we have worked with hundreds of members of faculty and staff to build a strategic vision for what these impacts can be in a few initial key areas. I am committed to advancing this vision during my time as interim president. This will be a year of accelerating momentum, not of placeholding. That we are now in such a position of strength is a testament to heroic work of our faculty and staff over the last few years, as well as the continued commitment and flexibility of our students. It has been exhausting, and nearly everyone feels drained. I hope that this can be a year in which we can take a bit of a breath and return more and more to the core activities and values that brought us to the UO in the first place. My primary motto is: We are better together. And frankly, that is our only path toward greatness. And we seek that greatness so that we can do great things. It is why we are here.

I feel very fortunate that I have an outstanding leadership team and, together, I know we will continue to build the momentum behind our academic and research impact; our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion; and our relentless focus on student success. As Board of Trustees Chair Ginevra Ralph said in her message last week—it is an exciting time to be a part of the University of Oregon. I have no doubt this year will bring tremendous opportunities for our university community to further our knowledge and research, prepare our students for successful and engaging careers, and help our world grapple with some of the most pressing issues of our time.

You will hear more from me in the coming weeks and months. I look forward to working with you, and hearing more from you, as we continue our service to the University of Oregon.  


Patrick Phillips
Interim President and Professor of Biology

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40 Responses to Int Pres Phillips committed to an ethos of stability and positive engagement

  1. honest Uncle Gangsta says:

    stability, hah, he should talk with CAS departnents about the shared services fiasco. Oh, it’s a smashing success, the “world does yet not recognize.” OK!

    • Anonymous says:

      While I think the “shared service” approach is highly flawed, I don’t this idea originated with Phillips.

      • honestly! says:

        can you say more about how it did originate, according to your understanding? I have heard that it came from above CAS. Is that not true? Was it a Blonigen idea, perhaps the brilliance that got him made dean of Business? If it did come from above, that leaves the provost and pres, right?

        • uomatters says:

          I think it was a purported cost saving measure pushed on CAS by Schill, who had it pushed onto him from those “business leaders” on the Board of Trustees.

          • Dog says:

            yes I think UOmatters is correct here – the genesis of the idea
            was from CAS that thought too much duplication of service
            was occurring. To some extent they are correct, but his reorg into shared services was not well thought out and will likely in the short
            term cost CAS even more. The implementation may well becoming
            from above, but I don’t think it was so much of a “push”, I think
            CAS wanted this, particularly for the science complex.

          • honestly.... says:

            The measure might have come from the Board, but the interpretation and implementation was all Blonigen and his committee.
            They said that every current employee will have a spot in the new structure. So, it seems that the only cost-savings would be from not increasing the number of staff? Since we’re short-staffed now, to make that work they need to make things more ‘efficient’ so fewer people can do the same work. Alternatively and I fear much more likely, ultimately they will reduce the services. The hidden costs of the disruption, the confusion, and the low morale will never be articulated. Terrible.

          • Observer says:

            Some folks in the know, whose judgment I trust, tell me that the original idea was that shared services would save money (even though a number of people scoffed at this notion), but that it has evolved so that it will actually cost the university money to cause confusion and upheaval, decimate staff morale, and show the utter disregard of administrators for the opinions of the hoi polloi. But the good news is that we spent a whole year of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training purporting to listen to the concerns of staff! So that means this doesn’t cause them any trouble, right?

          • honestly! says:

            Ah yes, the “business leaders” operating on a pliable sub-operative. Who was on his way out already to greener (yes, that kind of greener!) pastures. That sounds plausible. It also helps explain Blonigen’s “enthusias” and his move to — wait — Business! A move upward no doubt from CAS. I have heard, though, that they are claiming they’re not doing it to save money. Rather, it is to improve services. Thanks a lot!

            • Leporillo says:

              Could these be the same money saving geniuses behind the (thankfully) slow moving Kronos rollout?

              • honest Uncle Gangsta says:

                Oh, please. I doubt that this is the Kronos Quartet. Does it have something to do with clocks? What are they up to?

    • CAS staff member says:

      I would urge those commenting about shared services (especially faculty) to recognize that, although it has been a largely unpopular move, it’s demoralizing to the staff who are left to implement the new organizational structure to see comments like these. The first year will likely be bumpy, yes, but we hope and are now getting more bought in to the idea that things really will improve for us (and you!) in the future and have now begun working hard to make this the case. The idea was never to save money — which it certainly won’t, as we are increasing staff weekly now — but to create a better environment for staff. Please give it a chance to work now, because it is happening, and if you have concerns, feel free to reach out to your ASU or Dean’s Office leaders.

      • Dog says:

        This might be right but it does require trust in operational competency and there has been little in the past to warrant
        such trust. A la Concur, a very terrible invest in a software
        solution, “shared services” could end up with the same fate.

      • Pissed Programmer says:

        “…and are now getting more bought in to the idea that things really will improve for us (and you!) in the future and have now begun working hard to make this the case. The idea was never to save money — which it certainly won’t, as we are increasing staff weekly now — but to create a better environment…”

        Please elaborate.

        Without more detail, your post appears as a plea to voluntarily drink the KoolAid as an act of solidarity with those have no choice in brewing it.

        • Anonymous CAS staffer says:

          I agree, Pissed Programmer. I had hopes that the CAS Shared Services deal would not be the utter clusterfuck that the shared service “TransformIT” was/is. Note massive loss of wonderful IT employees due to “TransformIT”, the current mess, and a lot of university wide frustration with IS (never mind what internal IS metrics might be “showing). Note the thus far extremely poor implementation of CAS Shared Service. I suspect we will also lose excellent employees in CAS and excellent employees will not find even better placements.

          • CASsandra says:

            Some excellent employees in CAS have already called it quits over this debacle unfolding in front of us, and you really cannot blame them.

            • honest Uncle Gangsta says:

              I know of a fairly large department that has lost about a third of its office staff. And the remaining are dreading the new setup. I’ve heard literally no enthusiasm about the new setup — only, in some cases, a desire to see if it works.

          • Outside Systems Contractor (OSC) says:

            I have been involved with and implemented many “Off the Shelf” (OTS) software systems and solutions.

            Here are the problems:

            ** Most large institutions have (had) implemented and running perfectly good (in house) systems, that everyone knows how to use and manage;

            ** New administrators are hired who (truly) do not know how to do their job. Instead of taking a year and learning how to do their job, a sales lizard from a multi-billion dollar company, comes in and tells them how great they will look once their software (which is so amazing) is running. The OAs then creates a selection process, and ultimately (usually after a few boondoggles and implied job offers) one product or another is selected (does not really matter which);

            ** The OTS vendor sells the package as a drop in, staff cutting replacement to OA’s and as a job easing idyll to staff; in reality it is a complete reimplementation of the system and the EXACT SAME pain points that needed to be fixed in old systems–but were never funded–are the EXACT SAME pain points in the implementation of the new system (Axiom one: What worked in the old system will (usually) continue to work in a new system, what did not work in the old system will need to be fixed or sidestepped in the new system= money, money money). EG: let’s say your current system has a hard time finding a student across systems due to data quality and conformity of identifiers. Everyone knows this, and has asked for it to be fixed for decades, and has their own work around, at this point. The new system has a (whiz bang) Unified Identity SSO CDAP system which solves this and is one of the main points many OA’s point out when purchasing; however, to get it to work the same workload (which again was never a funding priority before) of cleaning, consolidating, and correcting all the existing, systems, workarounds, and historical systems must still be done so that the UISSOCDAP in the new system actually works.

            ** Unfortunately, for the institution but fortunately for revenue of the multi-billion dollar vendors and the consultants: after a half to a full decade of implementation woes, and the OA’s who picked it have moved on (sometimes into their new positions of sales lizards or consultants and 3-6x their former salary); Brand New OA’s come in and see the mess of this failing decades old system, that can be replaced by the latest (choose buzz: cloudified, edge, Dew, containerized, hybrid, super scalar, zif, omni, quantum…) system that will fix everything!!!!!


            • Dog says:

              Many Many years ago, I made the suggestion that research
              Universities develop their own unit of professional programmers. not just for research scientific computing, but that software
              development team could also produce course management
              systems and other large scale institutional software. Of course
              that was wildly laughed at, that’s not “our” business, that will
              cost too much money (likely only in the short term). Of course as suggested above, we are not at the mercy of vendors with generally poor support and increasing costs for software “solutions”. I am now quite sure that my silly proposal all those
              years ago would have been a far better outcome with robust
              internal support for the products. Indeed, after JAVA was developed in 1995 I wrote an internal proposal to develop a course management system. That too was roundly criticized (but to be somewhat fair – the concept was really not even understood). In 1999 we bought Blackboard and the rest is

              • just different says:

                In my experience, no matter how much third-party software and interfaces suck, in-house sucks worse. It’s hard to execute well. If it weren’t, the third-party stuff wouldn’t suck so much.

                • Dog says:

                  that is because most in house stuff is developed by amateurs; higher ed needs to pay in- house professionals (but never will) but instead we contract out to third party suck-ass interfaces.

                • just different says:

                  Dog, how are you getting this to pencil out? A good UX designer is $120K. Good programmers are even more. Now look at the crap salaries here for everyone who isn’t a dean and above. Anyone with the skillset you’re requiring would make a lot more working for an established ed-tech company than a broke-ass state school.

                • Anonymous says:

                  I am well aware of the costs. Research Universities have plenty of ICC return to fund any kind of computing enterprise involving professionals. This is what I suggested years ago (and Boston University actually did this many years ago – although it hasn’t spilled over to institutional software – but it could).

                  Because Universities did not make this investment, makes
                  is nearly impossible to do now and besides we have already
                  abdicated this responsibility to the corporate vendor world.

                • just different says:

                  Did not know that about BU. But they have a research footprint several times the size of UO’s.

                • Dog says:

                  and hence the available ICC dollars to support that unit

  2. thedude says:

    Will Provost Phillips be the first president to care about raising faculty salaries close to external comparators since the Hat? Given current morale and expect real salary cuts over the next couple of years, we could use some salary increase beyond what the union agreed to back when we all (or at least some of us) bought into the idea of transitory inflation.

  3. IT's Classified says:

    At least he acknowledges “and staff” in his email… unlike Schill in his farewell address. That earns him a few points.

    • Anon says:

      No matter what SOME people might like to purport, Schill never, ever was supportive of classified staff.

      • IT's Classified says:

        I resemble that remark. I can’t count the times that acknowledging the work that staff do here was left out of his proclamations.

  4. Forever and Anon-ymous says:

    See Purpose & Goals at

    While balancing the budget on the backs of classified staff is no doubt one effect of the change to shared services, the supposed goal was to address issues raised by an audit that found, among other things, that well-meaning staff were stepping up to fulfill roles they were untrained for.

    Schill, Phillips, and Moffitt are the featured players.

    • Observer says:

      I would say that well-meaning administrators are stepping up to fulfill roles that they were untrained for, except that I’m not sure all of them are well-meaning.

    • anon says:

      “Well meaning staff were stepping up to fulfill roles they were untrained for”. I call bullshit. How about management shoving more work onto staff and not teaching them/not giving them opportunity to learn how to do it. How about management shoving more work onto staff because other positions lost. “Bob quit, here’s his work.” “We laid Bob off, here’s his work”. “Just do what you can.” Never mind not compensating the staff for working out of class. Never mind staff who cannot afford to “just quit”. There is NO WAY Jamie, Schill, BOT, give two hoots about “creating a better environment for staff”. Of course, it’s about consolidating, pushing down classified staff jobs, making more OA jobs (at shitty pay). Staff morale in CAS is subterranean. And only getting worse.

      • Forever and Anon-ymous says:

        Anon, we’re saying the same thing… I was just being more constrained in my word choices. Over the years, as classified folks left and were not replaced, existing staff have had to take on more and more work, without compensation. By well-meaning, I meant that they took one for the team. By untrained, I meant, as you indicated, that they were tossed into the new work without training. I didn’t mean to imply that anyone is unskilled or inept. Just doing their best in untenable circumstances.

        • anon says:

          Forever and Anonymous — Thanks for the clarification. I appreciate it. Staff didn’t “step up” — they got piled on. Obscenely and with zero care in the world about what it did/does to staff, their physical and mental health. Obviously, it infuriates me, the the utter lack of care by certain middle and top administrators. Grind those cogs!

  5. Pissed Programmer says:

    I’m surprised FASS hasn’t been mentioned here yet, with the same criticisms and vitriol.

  6. Townie says:

    UO will likely start planning its next capital campaign soon if it hasn’t already. Does anyone know if UO includes state and student funds in their capital campaign totals? For example, state funds/bonds used for construction projects or student fees used to fund construction projects (EMU/SRC)?

  7. vhils says:

    Next campaign was already in ‘silent phase’ when Schill announced he was leaving. Hard to know what will exactly happen now cause it was based on the ‘initiatives’ which were largely Patrick’s, but obviously a new president will have something to say about it. And no, to my knowledge it doesn’t include state funds or student fees, although corporate gifts/grants would count towards the total.

  8. Jane Rock says:

    The morale among staff is the worst I have seen it in my 20 years at Oregon. Shared Services is a continuing insult–even though some very dedicated people are trying to stop the bleeding. The lack of morale in the Departments–not having any kind of real autonomy about hiring–is also a disaster. I do hope that the vastly expanded middle and upper bureaucracy is having a good time. And I’m happy that the fund raisers in upper admin have done well. But I am less confident about the idea of a university than I have been in a long time.