Pres Biden gives Super Bowl half-time prayer that science will OK 2021 Olympics

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/02/08/national/joe-biden-tokyo-olympics-science/

Speaking on the Westwood One radio show during a halftime interview at Super Bowl LV, Biden told host Jim Gray that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was “working very hard to be in a position to be able to safely open the games and have the games, and I think that has to be based on science.

“Whether or not it is safe for that to occur. My prayer is that it will be,” he added.

UO AVP Melanie Muenzer appointed Chief of Staff to Biden’s Undersecretary for Higher Ed

Ms Muenzer came to UO as Chief of Staff to Interim Pres Scott Coltrane – in the aftermath of Pres Gottfredson’s brief, disastrous, and expensive presidency – and is experienced at the sort of swamp-draining that the Department of Education will need after Trump. I don’t know who will replace her as the UO Administration’s liaison to the UO Senate.

https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/department-education-announces-more-biden-harris-appointees

Melanie Muenzer, Chief of Staff, Office of the Under Secretary

Melanie Muenzer most recently served as the Associate Vice President and Vice Provost for Academic Initiatives at the University of Oregon. She was also an elected member of the board of education for Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon. She previously served at the U.S. Department of Education from 2009-2015 under the Obama Administration as White House liaison, chief of staff in the policy office, and deputy assistant secretary for higher education policy. Prior to her work at the Department of Education, she served on President Obama’s 2008 campaign and his presidential transition team. 

UO Pres Schill, AD Mullens, & Senate Pres Berkman agree on using athletic profits for student scholarships!

Just kidding, that was the plan from UO’s 2001-4 Athletics Task Force, which included UO Pres Dave Frohnmayer, AD Bill Moos (soon fired by Phil Knight) and UO Senate President Nathan Tublitz.

At the time the Duck Athletics budget was ~$37M, it’s now $127M, and there is no sign current UO President Michael Schill or UO Senate President Elliot Berkman are willing to ask Duck AD Rob Mullens for a dime to support academics. In fact Pres Schill’s proposal is to take still more money from our students, via a new mandatory fee for “free” Duck tickets that will take control away from ASUO student government.

Where will our student’s money go? To ease the heavy burden on Phil Knight and other boosters, who have pledged their donations for millions in raises for Mario Cristobal, Altman, Mullens, and who apparently now want the students to share their pain.

Board of Trustees to meet Tu for update on why UO’s lobbying efforts keep falling flat in the Oregon Legislature

Also news about the latest largess from the Feds, and something about selling more bonds to pay for another expansion of the Athletic Village across from The Phildo and some other dorm renovations. No public comments will be heard.

Meeting of the Board of Trustees February 2, 2021 | 1:30 p.m. PT

Due to current orders regarding campus operations and social distancing, the meeting will be held remotely with a livestream and telephone conference option available for members of the media and the public.

The Board meeting will be available via live streamA link to the broadcast is available here

  1. State and Federal Affairs: Hans Bernard, Associate Vice President for State Affairs; Betsy Boyd, Associate Vice President for Federal Affairs.
  2. Housing Transformation Project (Action): Roger Thompson, Vice President for Student Services and Enrollment Management; Michael Griffel, Assistant Vice President and Director for University Housing.

Meeting Adjourned

Public Comment

Individuals wishing to provide public comment to the Board of Trustees may do so in writing via trustees@uoregon.edu. All comments will be shared with members of the board, but to ensure comments are provided to trustees in advance of the meeting, they must be received by 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time on February 1, 2021.

Why can’t $278K VP Kyle Henley get UO positive publicity like this in the NYT?

Maybe the $278,168 Pres Schill is paying his VP for Strategic Communications Kyle Henley just isn’t enough to induce him to provide his best work? Or maybe his best work is just not very good.

UO’s efforts to help Eugene seem almost as impressive as UC-Davis’s. But while Henley can’t even get UO a positive story in the Oregonian, here’s the New York Times, reprinting what is basically a press release from UC-Davis:

DAVIS, Calif. — The coronavirus test center on A Street was bustling on a recent morning. Michael Duey was in line, as usual, with his teenage son. Margery Hayes waited for her wife in the parking lot. Dr. Elizabeth Pham hustled her children in for a quick pit stop.

Inside, each received a five-minute screening for the virus, administered and paid for by the University of California, Davis. Yet none of them is associated with the school.

All last fall, universities across the country were accused of enabling the pandemic’s spread by bringing back students who then endangered local residents, mingling with them in bars, stores and apartments. So U.C. Davis is trying something different.

Rather than turning the campus into a protective bubble for students and staff, as some schools have attempted, it has quietly spent the past six months making its campus bubble bigger — big enough, in fact, to encompass the entire city. …

UO has 7% of Lane County’s population, and 44% of this week’s new Covid cases

1/29/2021:

For the week ending yesterday there were 406 reported positive tests in Lane County, 178 of which were UO students or employees. As shown below, Lane county cases that are not linked to UO are decreasing, while UO cases are increasing:

Note that UO has a more rigorous testing regime for those students in the dorms than does Lane County, although this should not affect the marked difference in the changes over time much. UO has roughly 25,000 students and employees, total Lane County population is about 385,000. Data and sources here.

And I’ll add a pitch for UO’s program to provide free testing for Lane County residents at Mac and Matt Courts, info here.

1/19/2021: 28% of reported Lane County Covid cases are UO students

According to the NYT, Lane had an average of 84 daily cases over the past week, or 588 total. UO (with a more comprehensive testing program) reports 162 student cases over the same week:

Covid deaths, stock market recovery, and benefit cuts will end Oregon’s PERS retirement crisis even earlier than expected

UO administrators and Republican legislators love doom and gloom stories about the cost of PERS and its outrageous retirement benefits. But the truth is that they’re repeating fake news, and are now going to have to look for a new bogeyman. The truth is that the state could redirect a significant portion of the PERS money it’s now sending to Wall Street and use it for spending that would would help Oregon. This made sense before Covid and it makes even more sense now.

From PERS by the Numbers: While Mike Belotti and his ilk are still sucking on the what Huey Long called the government sugar-tit, past reforms have already reduced typical PERS payouts for new retirees from 100% to 50% of their top 3 years of salary:

And the right wing’s quest for a 100% fully funded plan that will raise the cost of government – and provide a gift from Oregon taxpayers to Wall Street, the private equity firms that get their fees from managing the reserves, and their lobbyists – is doing fine. The downward blip shown in the chart below does not include the market recovery after the Spring market drop. The S&P ended the year up 18%. PERS will be fully funded in 20 years, probably less:

And that’s before the latest good news (for PERS and Oregon taxpayers). Covid-19 will reduce life expectancy for 65-year-olds by an estimated 5%. (PNAS paper here.) This will of course reduce the unfunded liability even faster, as PERS annuity recipients die off without collecting the full value of their pre-Covid calculated annuities:

UO should see even larger reductions in its PERS contributions, due to a fluke in the formula for getting the system to 100%. As high-paid older Tier 1 faculty retire, not only does UO no longer have to pay into PERS for their salary, but the state reduces UO’s share of the cost of building up the cost of the systems unfunded liability for past retirees like Belotti. That cost – not the cost of providing retirement for new retirees – is about 66% of what UO now pays to PERS:

The part of this I don’t understand is how PERS continues to earn less than its benchmarks, year after year. Don’t get me wrong, they do way better than Paul Weinhold’s UO Foundation. But, given year after year of missing your benchmarks by 1%, wouldn’t you just fire your advisers, abandon active management, and put the money in the benchmarks?

From what I can see the poor performance and fees of active management is enough to account for almost all of the current unfunded liability. But I’m just an economist, so any explanation would be welcome:

Board of Trustees schedules another ad hoc meeting

No info on their agenda yet, though they’ve picked an auspicious date:

The Board of Trustees will hold an ad hoc meeting on February 2 at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time. This meeting will occur remotely given ongoing health guidance and operational practices. Livestream and telephone access will be available for members of the media and public. The meeting agenda and associated materials will be available at least 4 business days prior to the meeting at the “Upcoming Meetings” button, below.

Those wishing to provide public comment for this meeting should email trustees@uoregon.edu. To ensure your comments are provided to trustees prior to the meeting, they must be received by 5:00 p.m. on February 1.

Covid has cut costs of Oregon state employee health insurance by $75M, so far:

Compared to a pre-Covid predicted 3% annual increase, though presumably costs will rebound after elective tests and surgeries resume. I don’t know if PEBB will rebate the savings to UO, or add it to their reserves.

If it’s a rebate, it would be about $1,300 in costs per employee, or for UO very roughly $6.5M total.

https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PEBB/Pages/Board-Meeting-Minutes.aspx

Pres Schill shit-cans Pac-12’s Larry Scott. Will his replacement be Rob Mullens, or someone who supports academics?

CBS here:

“We appreciate Larry’s pioneering efforts in growing the conference by adding new competitive university programs and accelerating the Pac-12 to television network parity with the other conferences,” Oregon president Michael Schill said in a statement. “At one point, our television agreement was the most lucrative in the nation and the debut of the Pac-12 Network helped deliver our championship brand to US and global markets on traditional and digital platforms. That said, the intercollegiate athletics marketplace doesn’t remain static and now is a good time to bring in a new leader who will help us develop our go-forward strategy.”

UO Chemistry students caught paying to cheat on-line.

Daily Emerald reporter Claire Warner has the story here:

… Launched in 2014, Chegg Study provides students 37 million Q&A’s “to help students better understand their schoolwork,” according to its website. While many of its customers use the service to do just that, some students pay the $14.95-per-month subscription fee to get dependable answers during unproctored online exams.

“Students had been posting our questions from the very first exam,” Kelly said. “They were actually getting real-time answers from the Chegg tutors.”

Students can type or upload photos of questions and receive solutions from Chegg’s network of “experts” in an average of 46 minutes, according to the Chegg Study webpage. Senior instructor of chemistry Thomas Greenbowe told the Emerald that Chegg allegedly attempted to recruit UO graduate students to answer chemistry questions uploaded to Chegg in the spring. The students informed instructors that they declined the offer. 

Services like Chegg have become more accessible to students during unproctored exams in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, causing what UO chemistry professor Shannon Boettcher believes is a “huge problem with academic dishonesty across the nation in the light of remote learning and COVID-19.” …

The Oregon Way: carjacker returns kid, keeps car

From Reason:

This incident unfolded in Beaverton, Oregon, on January 16, according to The Oregonian. It was about 9 a.m., and the mom needed milk and meat. She put her four-year-old in the back seat, buckled him into his booster seat, and headed to the grocery store. She made sure to park right near the door and ran inside, leaving the car running and unlocked.

She was never more than 15 feet from the car, according to police spokesman Matt Henderson. Nor did she dawdle. She was in the store very briefly, a clerk at the store attested.

But the carjacker saw her walk in, saw the car running, jumped in, and raced away. Realizing just moments later that there was a kid in the backseat, he did a U-turn in the parking lot next to the market and came straight back, whereupon he ordered the mom to remove her son.

The thief then drove off again, and if you happen to see a 2013 silver Honda Pilot—license plate 357 GLV—please call the Beaverton police to have him arrested.