Good news for bad UO administrators and local pols!

Bad news for good government. The Eugene Weekly has been hit by an embezzler, and will have to drastically scale back operations: https://eugeneweekly.com/2023/12/28/wheres-the-damn-paper/

…Shortly before Christmas, we discovered that EW had been the victim of embezzlement at the hands of someone we once trusted. We are still counting up the damage, but it’s thousands upon thousands. The theft of EW’s funds remained hidden for years and has left our finances in shambles. A team of private forensic accountants is analyzing our books and accounts. We’ve reported the thefts to the Eugene Police Department, which is conducting an investigation.

We’ve discovered that many companies we do business with — vendors who turned out to be very patient — haven’t been paid in months. EWemployees who thought they were paying into retirement accounts have learned the money never arrived at its destination. We had to lay off the entire 10-person staff EW three days before Christmas. One of our biggest creditors, our printer, says it will print EW again only if we pay upfront.

The damage is more than most small businesses can bear. The scale of this moment is unlike anything we have ever faced. But we believe in this newspaper’s mission and we remain determined to keep EW alive. …

If you’re a UO student or employee you’re already being forced to pay to support our administration’s PR flacks and “Around the 0” – people whose job includes keeping President Scholz from having to answer questions about what UO is doing with hundreds of millions in public funds.

If you want to contribute to ensuring the survival of an antigen, you can do so at https://support.eugeneweekly.com/?product=contribute-to-the-eugene-weekly

First, lets replace all the lawyers with AI

And the PR flacks too. How long until President Scholz does the same?

The WSJ has the story:

… Rosário sat down in front of his computer back in June and described the bill he wanted in a sentence. A perfectly-crafted law with eight articles came back, including a clause Rosário had never thought of: if the water authority didn’t replace the stolen meter within 30 days the property owner would be exempt from paying their bill. 

… The idea isn’t to replace all politicians and public servants, just some of them, he said with a grin. He cited, for example, the city hall’s public-relations assistants down the hall who write news releases like the one ChatGPT just churned out. “There must be 20 or 30 of them—they probably won’t be needed in the future, well, to be honest, they’re already no longer needed.”

An economist boards a plane and …

From the NYT:

… He told the agents that he had a Ph.D. in economics and marketing and had worked as an economist in Russia a long time ago, according to an F.B.I. affidavit. He said he had not slept in three days and “did not understand what was going on,” the affidavit says. … Mr. Ochigava asked for two meals during each meal service, and “at one point attempted to eat the chocolate that belonged to members of the cabin crew,” the affidavit says. One crew member said Mr. Ochigava tried to talk to other passengers, “but most of the passengers ignored him,” according to the affidavit. …

Are you rooting for Phil Knight’s Ducks or Jerry Falwell’s Liberty U?

No disrespect to the Jesus of Lynchburg but if I cared enough to watch I’d go with Uncle Phil on this one – although the Eugene Weekly notes some similarities:

Now the Ducks will face the Liberty University Flames in the Fiesta Bowl. Sounds like a mismatch, yes? But consider: Liberty, founded by right-wing Christian zealot Jerry Falwell, was accused by the Department of Education this fall of creating an atmosphere of fear around reporting sexual violence on campus, concealing a football player’s past sexual assaults and threatening women who filed charges with expulsion. You may recall that the UO’s response to a student who said she was raped by three basketball players a few years ago was to use her private medical records against her. And, more recently, a group of women students filed suit against the UO for sex discrimination in sports under Title IX. Bottom line? Both campuses worship revenue sports more than morality or the law. A perfect match.

State gives $800M for raises & engineering in exchange for university freezing diversity positions

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

In a deal months in the making, the University of Wisconsin System has agreed to “reimagine” its diversity efforts, restructuring dozens of staff into positions serving all students and freezing the total number of diversity positions for the next three years.

In exchange, universities would receive $800 million for employee pay raises and some building projects, including a new engineering building for UW-Madison.

“This is an evolution, and this is a change moving forward,” UW System President Jay Rothman told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “But it does not in any way deviate from our core values of diversity (and) inclusion.”

The compromise brokered with Republican legislative leaders caps a contentious six months of negotiations for the state university system over diversity, equity and inclusion programming. Campuses view DEI programs and staff as critical in supporting a broad range of students while conservatives cast the effort as wasteful and racially divisive. …

Provost Woodruff-Borden wants faculty to dumb down courses now, in prep for possible Grad strike

The Senate’s Academic Council has not even approved an Academic Continuity Plan yet – unless they’ve done so in secret – but Provost Woodruff-Borden is already encouraging faculty to trade academic rigor for administrative expediency. Full email here. A snippet:

Instructors and research groups are strongly encouraged to develop coverage plans for work performed by GEs. Refer to the frequently asked questions for academics and research for guidance.

As noted in the academic continuity FAQ, faculty lecture instructors of record with associated labs and discussions should be prepared in case GEs are absent for a period of time during the winter 2024 term, potentially beginning in Week 1. Potential strategies to prepare for GEs who might be absent from labs or discussions include: 

  • Modify lectures to incorporate material from labs and discussions.  
  • Use existing or create asynchronous Canvas modules that could replace labs and discussion content. 
  • Adjust course grading rubrics to reduce reliance on lab/discussion grades.
  • With any strategy, ensure consistency across lab/discussion sections associated with the same lecture because some discussion or lecture leaders might be present while others are absent.

Deans continue to work with the Office of the Provost to evaluate winter courses with GE IORs to identify coverage needs and strategies to reduce impact. 

President Scholz’s minders won’t let him talk to student reporters

The Daily Emerald has the news here:

“Thank you for the request, but we’d like to hold off on this one for now. Right now there wouldn’t be much more to say than was covered in the interview a few weeks ago,” Director of Issues Management [sic] Angela Seydel said in an email to the Emerald.

From what I can tell that interview was seven weeks ago, and yielded the few brief quotes here.

Back in the day – before JH was overrun by PR flacks – President Frohnmayer gave the Emerald his home phone number and would answer their questions anytime. Why doesn’t Scholz do the same? After all they are our students, and it’s not like there are any other reporters covering UO to worry about.

Economist to bring Trustees up to date on UO’s continued decline relative to AAU

When the UO Board of Trustees took over from the OUS in 2014, UO faculty were on average paid 92.4% of pay at our AAU public university comparators. As of 2021 UO pay had fallen to 84.1%, and it is now declining not only in relative terms, but also in real dollars.

The public portion of the Trustees meeting starts at 9AM with public comments, and it will include a report from UO Economist Keaton Miller on this problem.

Video link here, official board agenda (which does not mention this dismal fact, much less propose a plan to address it) here.

UO Strategic Communicators to piss away more money on brand awareness

From https://apps.ideal-logic.com/files/ver20230925144108/public/4c1250b5f4678c1a_V1C9-239VG/orig/RFQ_for_Brand_Awareness_Study_092523_lkh.pdf

General Information: The University of Oregon, on behalf of University Communications (University), is issuing this RFQ seeking a vendor to conduct a follow up study to measure nationwide brand awareness of the University of Oregon and create an overview guide to train communicators broadly on our campus. The focus of the study will compare brand awareness of University with that of top public research universities. Additionally, the study will gauge overall perception of the University around the strategic communications goals of excellence, experience, access and diversity. Factors such as age, race, ethnicity, sex, geographic location will be taken into account.

This study is needed to justify our VP for Communication’s budget, and like past studies will produce nothing of benefit to the university.

Pres Scholz takes bold action to improve the life of UO’s diverse employees

A day off for whatever reason you might want, to celebrate our individual diversity! Good for Atheists to Zoroastrianists. Take your kid to Wildlife Safari on their birthday or drive up to Willamette Pass and genuflect to Ullr, the god of telemark skiing. Too bad this wasn’t announced in time to celebrate the death of Kissinger, for those so inclined:

President Karl Scholz
Dear colleagues,

As fall term winds down and we look ahead to celebrating the winter holidays, I am filled with pride and appreciation for our UO community and our many successes. During my first five months as president, I’ve met with thousands of members of our faculty, staff, student body, alumni, and community at dozens of gatherings and events, all of which have helped me understand what it means to be a Duck. I’ve enjoyed learning about your rich and diverse experiences, expertise, and deep commitment to our mission.

Today I write to convey my thanks, provide holiday guidance, and give an update on our UO Onward university strategic planning.

Holiday Programs

I’m pleased to announce we are piloting a new floating holiday that will give eligible employees an extra paid day off to observe any day of cultural, personal, or religious significance. In recognition of the many unique experiences and needs of our campus community, this gives employees flexibility to celebrate a day that is meaningful to them over the next 12 months. 

I also encourage all units to observe a “quiet period” between the December 25 and January 1 holidays, as operations allow. We encourage leaders to maintain only essential work. Reducing operations will allow employees who choose to take time off the opportunity to relax and recharge. Those who will be working will have more time to focus or plan for the year ahead with a little lighter workload.

We want to support well-being in our work and personal lives and recognize our employees’ diligent commitment. The pilot holiday and quiet period guidance are small ways we can continue to foster belonging and flourishing at the University of Oregon.

UO Onward – Strategic Planning

[UOM: redacted on the grounds that no one cares.]

… In closing, thank you for the warm welcome to the University of Oregon. I wish you a wonderful end to the fall term, a restful holiday season, and a joyous year in 2024.

With gratitude,

Karl Scholz
President

Rob Mullens and Duck sports bring more international recognition to UO

From the Guardian – thanks to an anonymous reader for the link:

The lawsuit claims the beach volleyball team has to practice in a public park littered with feces and drug paraphernalia.

Thirty-two female athletes filed a lawsuit against the University of Oregon on Friday that alleges the school is violating Title IX.

The plaintiffs, who are all either on the varsity beach volleyball team or the club rowing team, are accusing the school of “depriving women of equal treatment and benefits, equal athletic aid, and equal opportunities to participate in varsity intercollegiate athletics”.

The lawsuit filed in US district court in Eugene, Oregon, seeks correction of the alleged violations and unspecified damages.

The lead counsel for the women is Arthur H Bryant of Bailey Glasser, who is known for legal efforts to enforce Title IX, the federal law that prohibits gender inequality by educational institutions receiving federal funds.

.. the team could not practice this week because someone had died at the park. …

What are the chances Mullens will compensate UO’s General Fund for the insurance, legal bills, and GC Kevin Reed’s invaluable time and expertise to make this go away?

Departing Provost was terrific colleague to boss, showed him many kindnesses

Of course she treated those people who couldn’t help her get a new job somewhat differently. In any case this is great news for UO and I’ll take her unexpectedly speedy departure as a sign Scholz may have a better understanding of UO’s campus climate problems than came across in the recent town hall.

Dear colleagues,

I am writing to share the news that Janet Woodruff-Borden, interim provost and executive vice president, will be leaving the University of Oregon to take the position of senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has been a terrific colleague, leading with wisdom and thoughtfulness through transition, while continuing to advance our academic enterprise. I am also grateful for her support and many kindnesses to me as I have taken on my new role. Her expertise will be missed.

Woodruff-Borden has served as interim provost since August of 2022. In this role, and in her previous role as executive vice provost for academic affairs, she led initiatives focused on student success to address equity gaps, interdisciplinary academic efforts, and supported inclusive excellence across the academic portfolio. She helped in the development and implementation of the UO’s Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health. She also promoted and advanced work in curricular development and approval, program review and accreditation, faculty professional development, inclusive teaching, and online and hybrid education.

Woodruff-Borden joined the UO in 2018 as dean of the Graduate School (now Division of Graduate Studies), where she focused on growing the graduate program and improving processes, policies, and graduate recruitment and admissions. Her final day in the office will be December 31.

I have appointed Karen Ford to serve as interim provost effective January 1. Ford currently serves as interim executive vice provost in the Office of the Provost and has served in numerous leadership roles in her 30 years at the university, including as dean for faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences, interim dean of the Clark Honors College, and senior divisional dean for humanities in CAS. I thank her for her leadership through this transition time.

As I announced in October, the search for a permanent provost and senior vice president is underway. Following input from the campus community and academic leadership, the search committee has finalized the position description, which is now available on the search webpage.

Please join me in wishing Janet the best in her next chapter.

Sincerely,

Karl Scholz 
President

UAB post, presumably taken from her application letter:

In her role as interim provost and executive vice president at the University of Oregon — and in her previous role at Oregon as executive vice provost for academic affairs — Woodruff-Borden led initiatives on three key fronts: interdisciplinary initiatives focused on the environment, child and adolescent behavioral health, and sport and wellness; student success initiatives to address equity gaps; and inclusive excellence across the academic portfolio. Woodruff-Borden also helped in the development and implementation of UO’s Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health, which included a $425 million private gift.

Woodruff-Borden steered the University of Oregon’s work to promote and advance the provost office’s work in curricular development and approval, program review and accreditation, faculty professional development, inclusive teaching, online and hybrid education, and employee and labor relations matters.

As dean and provost of the University of Oregon’s graduate school, Woodruff-Borden fostered interdisciplinary relationships to help the program grow. She improved processes for how her team interfaced with and supported graduate programs within the university’s schools and colleges. She also advanced several initiatives, including development of best practices in graduate recruitment and admissions, professional development, data-informed decision making, and university graduate education policies. …

Pres Scholz responds to GE’s credible strike threat with offer to match AAU average for minimum starting pay.

Dear colleagues, 

Recognizing the impact that negotiations with the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF) has on faculty, we want to keep you updated on developments in the bargaining process. The bargaining teams met yesterday in mediation and will meet again on November 20, 2023. Reaching agreement on GE salary is a top priority, and I want to share with you the details of the university’s latest salary offer presented to the GTFF bargaining team yesterday.  

Consistent with our [newly discovered] commitment to position graduate student employees and the university for long term success, our latest salary offer focuses on significantly raising compensation for those GEs at the lowest rates of pay. Our latest offer also brings the GE salaries into better alignment with AAU peers to improve the UO’s competitive position when recruiting future GEs. Latest Salary Offer 

The latest offer to the GTFF proposes setting a single minimum pay rate for graduate employees prorated by FTE. This results in GEs at all three minimum levels receiving a significant increase in year one of the contract. The table below illustrates the annual increases for GEs currently paid at a minimum rate with a 0.49 FTE appointment:  

Current 
Levels
Current 
Academic Year 
Minimum
Proposed 
Academic Year
Minimum
Percentage Increase
in Year 1 
Percentage Increase 
Over 3-Year Contract
 GE I $17,155  $21,487  25.25% 32.75%
 GE II $19,380 $21,487  10.87% 18.37%
 GE III $20,457  $21,487  5.00% 12.50% 

This proposal provides a total minimum compensation package for GEs that includes: 

  • Pay of $28.11 per hour. 
  • Full health benefits for GEs and their families (95% of premiums covered). 
  • Coverage of GE tuition and mandatory fees except for a $61 per term GE contribution.

The proposal also provides an increase in subsequent years of the contract: 

  • Increases minimum salaries by 3.75 percent each year. 
  • Increases across-the-board pay for GEs earning above the minimum salary – 3.5 percent in Year 1 and 2.75 percent in Years 2 and 3. 

Departments will still have the ability to pay above the minimum rate or provide higher increases, which includes differentiation between GE levels.  

Comparison with AAU Peer Institutions 

The latest offer brings the GE salaries into better alignment with AAU peers to better compensate current GEs and improve the UO’s competitive position when recruiting future GEs. Analysis places this latest UO proposal above the average minimum take-home pay rate of the other public AAU institutions, when adjusted for cost-of-living differences between regions. The following data compares the UO proposed minimum salary with those at other AAU public universities. The analysis focuses on take-home pay after GE contributions for mandatory fees and health insurance premiums, with cost-of-living adjustments based on the MIT Living Wage Calculator.  

AAU GE Take-Home Pay Analysis (9 month 0.49 FTE) 


AAU Average 
 UO Proposal
Minimum GE Stipend
(0.49 FTE)  
 $23,572$21,487 
Mandatory Fees
(GE portion of mandatory fees)
 $(481)$(183) 
Insurance Premiums
(GE portion of health insurance premium)
$(919) $(353) 
Take Home Pay 
(Stipend less Mandatory Fees and Insurance Premiums) 
$22,171  $20,951
Cost-of-Living Adjustment 
(
Eugene cost-of-living as % of AAU average using MIT Living Wage Calculator)
 92.5%N/A 
Net Take Home Pay  
(Take-Home Pay after Cost-of-Living Adjustment)
 $20,507$20,951 
Difference ($)  $444 
Difference (% above AAU average)    +2%

Factors considered for the analysis: 

  • MIT Living Wage Calculator used to align with GTFF analysis. 
  • Calculator adjusted for Eugene cost-of-living, which is 92.5% of AAU public peers. 
  • To ensure a consistent comparison of take home pay, we deducted from the stipend the GE’s contributions to mandatory fees and health insurance premiums on an institution-by-institution basis, both of which reduce total take-home compensation. 
  • This analysis does NOT include the additional investment that the UO makes in the UO GE health insurance program, which is over $2,500 more per GE than other public AAU institutions, as explained below.

The contract proposal is focused on providing graduate students with a competitive total compensation package for their part-time employment as they work toward degree completion. 

UO Investment in Health Insurance 

It is important to recognize that the UO health insurance program for GEs is far more generous and expensive than the plans offered by other institutions. University administration was clear at the start of bargaining that there would be no proposals to change GE health insurance introduced by the university’s bargaining team, and that remains the case. We do not seek to reduce the contributions the university makes toward GE health insurance nor change the health insurance program structure, which empowers a GE majority-led trust to make all decisions about plan design and benefit levels. In particular, the UO plan provides 95% premium coverage for all GEs, their partners, and families, which is very unusual for most institutions.  

We will continue to keep you apprised of developments with regular updates about bargaining. We will also share information about continuity planning to minimize disruption and deliver a quality education to the students enrolled at the UO.   

Best regards, 

Janet Woodruff-Borden 
Interim Provost and Executive Vice President