OSU President F. King Alexander’s family business is running the “Oxford International Round Table Symposiums [sic]” scam

Every professor I know gets spam like this about fake academic conferences with prestigious sounding names, held in popular holiday locations. They accept all papers, have a similarly unreviewed “journal”, and I assume some people try to get reimbursement for them, or try to use them to pad their c.v. – which would be laughable at any reputable university.

What a scam. A scam run by OSU’s new President and his family. You’ve got to wonder what else the OSU Board of Trustees and Witt/Kieffer search consultants Zachary A. Smith, Ph.D., Suzanne Teer and Kim Brettschneider missed – or ignored.

There’s a website that keeps track of scams like this, which notes:

Who or what is behind these efforts? They appear to be organized far from Oxford by the International Round Table Symposiums, which is said (6/2/17) to have have a “location in Oxford” at the Harris Manchester College. But a webpage on its history — which does not indicate when and where this group was founded — reveals that

The Round Table is, thus, not an academic programme conducted by the umbrella University. Harris Manchester College is the venue, the situs, location of the Round Table. The colleges, themselves, in their private corporate capacity, traditionally host an array of academic conferences assisted by Conference Oxford. The Round Table is one such conference. Harris Manchester College was selected as the location for the meeting because of its reputation, its location in the heart of Oxford, and because of its congenial working relationship with the members of the Round Table Programme Committee and Advisory Board.

I have not located the names of any members of the committee or advisory board. The history webpage ponderously advises that

The International Round Table Symposium is an international educational organization whose purpose is to promote education, art, science, religion and charity … effectuated by the conduct of interdisciplinary symposia and the publication of meritorious manuscripts emanating therefrom. …

The lack of sponsorship by Oxford University is a virtue because it advances “Academic Independence”:

Academic Independence is an important aspect of the Round Table. As a private charitable educational organization, the Round Table is not under the control of the hosting Oxford colleges, most of which are established as endowed sectarian foundations, nor is it in anyway under the aegis, restraint or sanctions of the University of Oxford; rather, the Round Table is free-standing, apolitical and non-denominational.

When accused by an Oxford faculty member of deceptive advertising, the group sued her. The domain name oxford-population-and-environment-symposium.com is registered to Shenette Alexander, London Education Research Symposium, Sand Dune Aly, Saint Augustine, Florida 32080, telephone: (562) 676-6382, email: internationallawsymposia@gmail.com. Shenette describes herself as “Dedicated Wife, Loving Mother, Assistant to Oxford Round Table.” Her husband, Fieldon King Alexander, is the chancellor of Louisiana State University and A&M College and president of the LSU system. The group, which has existed under various names and corporate charters (mostly in the US) is a creation of the Alexander family.

OSU’s jock-sniffing Pres F. King Alexander gets called before trustees to explain cover-up of the usual athletic assaults at LSU

Public meeting notice for 12:30 Wed here.

The OSU Trustees hired Alexander last year, after a closed search by Witt/Kieffer search consultants. At LSU Alexander’s accomplishments included a $85M “lazy river” and firing a professor for cussing. But these weren’t his only problems. Former Daily Emerald reporter Kenny Jacoby, now working for USA Today, uncovered Alexander’s role in covering up the usual sorts of big-time sports scandals that presidents of sports factories get paid the big bucks to cover up. USAToday has a summary here:

… Alexander has come under increasingly heavy criticism since the March 5 release of the Husch Blackwell report, which detailed LSU’s “serious institutional failure” when it came to handling cases of physical and gender violence. Husch Blackwell is the outside law firm LSU hired in November to review its handling of Title IX cases after USA TODAY chronicled systemic failures.

Among Husch Blackwell’s revelations was that then-athletic director Joe Alleva urged Alexander to fire head football coach Les Miles in 2013 after another internal investigation found Miles had behaved inappropriately with female student workers, and that LSU had intentionally hired an outside law firm to do the investigation so the report wouldn’t be made public.

Miles was not fired until 2016, after LSU started the season 2-2. The 2013 investigation did not come to light until last month, after USA TODAY sued for a copy of the report.

No word yet if OSU will ask Witt/Kieffer search consultants, Zachary A. Smith, Ph.D., Suzanne Teer and Kim Brettschneider for their money back, as the UNC system did when it also banned its schools from hiring Witt Kieffer for searches, after they failed to do due diligence on a chancellor hire.

Of course it’s equally possible that during the hiring process Pres Alexander bragged about his ability to keep these sorts of scandals private – as UO General Counsel Kevin Reed did – and the trustees saw it as a positive.

Pres Schill to teach Honors course on what’s wrong with higher education

Thanks to an anonymous reader for forwarding the course description, full text below. President Schill’s own porkalicious contract, which will presumably be #3 on the reading list when it comes to reasons for the increasing cost of college – after faculty pay and guvmint interference – is here:

and, just in case Uncle Phil decides Schill hasn’t done enough to promote Duck sports and has Chuck Lillis fire him, he’s got this insurance clause. Smart:

And here’s the course description, which seems like a pretty good summary of the frustrations of trying to run a university these days:

Professor: Michael H. Schill

HC 410H: Higher Education in the United States: An Introduction to Key Issues and Challenges

2.00 credits

  • CRN 37045: Mondays, 1515-1715 @ REMOTE               

       Higher education today faces an unprecedented set of challenges.  Even before COVID-19, many of the most divisive issues facing our nation were playing themselves out in the ivory tower.  Partisan politics either cast universities as places overrun by the left and inhospitable to freedom of speech or as corporativist entities out to exploit the poor and middle class.  The Black Lives Matter movement added fuel to the critique by suggesting that universities were failing to adequately serve marginalized populations.  Costs rose every year faster than inflation as universities competed for faculty and administrative talent, as students demanded greater levels of services, and as government saddled universities with costly requirements.  State support dropped precipitously and student tuition and debt increased to fill the void.    In 2020, COVID-19 threatened the very underpinnings of many universities by making it difficult or impossible for people to study together in a residential setting.

                This class will survey a number of different forces and issues facing the higher education sector.  We will begin by examining the structure of higher education and some of the changes that have taken place over the past 75 years.  We will then discuss the financing of higher education and how that has affected tuition and increasingly widened the gap between well-funded “elite” institutions and the rest.  As part of this analysis we will discuss the critique of universities as “neoliberal” institutions.  We will then launch into a discussion of a number of issues such as access and affordability, diversity and inclusion, freedom of speech, lagging levels of student achievement, and intercollegiate athletics.

                The class will be in the form of a discussion with only occasional lectures.  Expert guests may join once and a while.  Student participation will be highly valued and grades will be based upon a combination of a final paper, short class presentations, and participation in weekly discussions.

Students pissed that UO will host in-person Olympic Trials, but not commencement

Reporter Joanna Mann, in the Daily Emerald here:

… UO social media accounts faced backlash from students, particularly graduating seniors, after the school announced the decision Feb. 9. Students called for the university to cancel the in-person Olympic trials if it was going to cancel in person commencement.

Graduating senior Ethan Shafer said he had been expecting a virtual commencement, but the decision to also go through with the Olympic trials felt like a “slap in the face.”

“How can you say that you’re trying to keep people safe, and that you’re making this huge decision to cancel graduation for the second year in a row, but then also not even address what’s happening with the Olympic trials?” Shafer said. “The university has not said anything. They won’t even address something that everyone is really pissed off about.”

This is not the first time UO has messed with commencement to accommodate the Ducks’ big-time athletics program. In 2010, Pres Lariviere moved graduation from its traditional Sunday to Monday, to accommodate the NCAA Track & Field Championships schedule that Pres Frohnmayer had agreed to.

UO Senate votes 42-2 to oppose Pres Schill’s new $2M student fee for Duck tickets

Senate Pres Elliot Berkman had tried to keep the Senate from voting on this, but the students were persistent and persuasive, and in the end the only nay votes were from an LCB accounting instructor and a Math prof. The gist:

2.1 THEREFORE BE IT MOVED THAT the University Senate calls on UO Administration and the Board of Trustees to respect ASUO’s autonomy and authority over their own budget.

2.2 BE IT FURTHER MOVED THAT the University Senate supports the decision by the ASUO Student Senate to reject the proposals from the UO Administration that ASUO send a portion of the money they have saved as a result of not paying for tickets during the pandemic to UO’s Athletic Department, and to instead support basic needs programs and return money to students.

2.3 BE IT FINALLY MOVED THAT the University Senate opposes the new mandatory Athletics fee on students for the ticket lottery, and calls on President Schill to work with the Athletics Department to provide adequate funding for student tickets from the Athletic Department’s other sources of funding, or adopt a voluntary plan by which those students who want to attend intercollegiate sporting events can purchase a package of tickets from the Athletic Department for the student section at reduced prices.

Meerah Powell has the full story for OPB here, with many good quotes from the students, e.g.:

As part of the UO Senate’s resolution Wednesday, the Senate explicitly opposed the Athletics Department’s proposed mandatory fee. It also called on UO President Schill to work with the department to identify other funding sources, or to adopt a voluntary plan for students interested in attending games.

Mayne with ASUO’s Athletics and Contracts Finance Committee said she thinks a university that collected nearly $300 million in contributions and in-kind donations to its athletics department last year should be able to provide tickets to students without this fee.

An alternative, Mayne said, could be looking to what other universities are doing, which members of ASUO have researched. She said for example, the University of Alabama, home to the perennial football powerhouse Crimson Tide, has a program that has students opt-in to buy tickets to football games. Student advocates suggest the Ducks could try something similar.

UO’s PR flacks stack the TFAB breakout rooms with ringers from athletics, cheerleading

My room had 4 administrators, me, and a football player who gave his lines with camera off then said nothing for 40 minutes.

Pres Schill’s next step of course will be an Around the O report claiming this Town Hall shows student support for his new $90 tick lottery scheme, which he’ll then use when this comes up in the UO Senate on Wed. If Senate Pres Berkman ever gets around to posting the motion and agenda, that is. It has a noteable thirteen co-sponsors so far, plus much additional support, but Berkman and VP Gildea have been slow-walking it.

Report on the TFAB town hall in the Emerald here.

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InsideHigherEd reports on student fight against Duck sports ticket tax

The UO Senate will vote this Wed on a resolution to support the students, and oppose the new mandatory fee President Schill wants our students to pay the the Ducks. I’ll post more on that soon. Meanwhile, more free national press for President Schill and UO, this from InsideHigherEd here. Read it all, some snippets below.

Pandemic-Era Priorities, by Greta Anderson February 22, 2021,

Members of the student government at the University of Oregon were reviewing their $17 million annual budget last summer when they came across a decades-old contract with the athletics department, which gave students access to tickets for football and basketball games. About 10 percent of the student government budget, or $1.7 million, was going to the athletics department each year in exchange for “free” student tickets to athletic events, according to members of the Student Senate’s Athletics and Contracts Finance Committee.

Under the current contract, students pay $25.50 each during the fall, winter and spring terms for access to tickets, even if they don’t attend any athletic events, according to Annika Mayne, a student senator and chair of the committee. The fee gives students access to a lottery for a game ticket, not an actual ticket. The charge is part of a mandatory $271.50 Incidental Fee, which funds student government programs and clubs and is paid by students each term.

…Like their counterparts at colleges and universities across the country, the ASUO’s focus on athletics and other student fees reflects a growing financial activism by young people worried about the long-term economic consequences of the pandemic and intent on not having their colleges’ financial burdens passed on to students. As a result, they are increasingly reviewing the funding and spending priorities of their institutions, especially those related to athletics, and are more closely scrutinizing how students’ tuition and fees are being spent.

Nick Schlereth, a sport management professor at Coastal Carolina University who studies athletics department spending, said in an email that conversations about student spending on higher education typically revolve around the cost of tuition, whereas fees are not commonly discussed. That’s starting to change, he said.

The ASUO decision could set an example for “student governments across the country to re-evaluate their fee allocation and usage,” Schlereth said. “It also brings to light the reliance on student fees and funds directly from the university to support an auxiliary service.”

At Oregon, Mayne, the student senator, took particular issue with administrators describing the tickets as “free.” That’s how President Michael Schill referred to them in a recent email to students, faculty and staff members.

“It’s this notion that students paying money gets them something that’s free, and that’s not true,” she said. “It’s just so inequitable to have students pay for something they’re not using.” …

Board of Trustees unveils 1st replacement for Pioneer Father and Mother

It’s been a while since I walked past Johnson Hall, so I missed the unveiling of the first in what will apparently be a series of culturally relevant yet classically motivated monuments:

Thanks to an occasionally reliable source for the info and photo. I salute our Trustees for erecting this fitting complement to the triumphant Phildo.

As for the Pioneer Mother and Father, despite rumors that they’ve been melted down for scrap to pay for the latest raises for Rob Mullens, Dana Altman and Mario Cristobal, they are apparently still safely quarantined in an undisclosed location, more or less intact:

UO appoints Alicia M. Salaz from CMU as new VP / University Librarian

Full mail announcement here:

Dear Colleagues,

I am excited to announce that Dr. Alicia M. Salaz will become the UO’s new Vice Provost and University Librarian, overseeing the five locations at our Eugene campus and the branches at UO Portland and the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology. Currently, Alicia is the associate dean for Research and Academic Services and a senior librarian for Carnegie Mellon University Libraries. She will join our institution on June 21, 2021, taking over the leadership reins from Mark Watson, who has served in an interim leadership role since June 2019.

UO Libraries is a core strength of the university, serving as an essential partner in our educational, teaching, research, and public service mission. Alicia will bolster our already outstanding team at UO Libraries, who provide critical resources, programs, and other services to students, faculty, staff, and the community. She also plays key roles in her current job around the arena of data science, diversity and equity, and innovation, which all mesh quite well with the work we are already doing here at UO in those areas.

Alicia has been in her current role at Carnegie Mellon since 2018, leading the library’s research and academic services division, along with the access services division. As a member of the library’s leadership team, she oversees faculty mentoring, organizational development, and vision and strategy. She also leads the development of the institution’s service portfolio, along with handling professional and scholarly engagement.
Under her leadership, the CMU has experienced growth in the library’s research and academic services to campus, particularly in the development of partnerships with scholars and research centers across disciplines. With this strategic focus in mind, she invested in the acquisition and licensing of computational tools, digital infrastructure, expert consulting, and conducted the outreach necessary to accelerate the work of researchers, creators, and innovators across campus.

Alicia also guided the launch of a number of new academic services, including research metrics services and evidence synthesis services. She led the library’s subject specialist selectors through a full, data-driven collections review, and she collaborated with Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Technology Transfer and its entrepreneurship centers to connect campus entrepreneurs with consulting support. And she played a crucial role in developing library faculty and staff as full partners in the academic enterprise – up to and including teaching credit courses and serving as principal investigators.

… Thank you to all the UO Libraries faculty and staff, as well as numerous other members of the university community, who provided critical input on the search. I am eager for Alicia to join our team. I also want to thank Mark Watson for his steady leadership of UO Libraries. He has handled a broad gambit of challenges, including the pandemic response and the covering of two controversial murals, with deftness and grace and has remained a firm voice for the future and important role of the library within the UO as a whole. Mark will continue in his interim role until Alicia starts in June.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at provost@uoregon.edu.

Sincerely,
Patrick Phillips
Provost and Senior Vice President

“No one should be charged. That would be nuts.” Prof Simmons

2/15/2021 repost of the 2013 Snowpocalypse – a Duck PR scheme gone bad:

Members of the Campus Community:

On Friday, a short video was posted to YouTube depicting an incident in which several individuals inappropriately interfered with two vehicles attempting to drive through a snowball fight on our campus.

The UO Police Department responded to the situation quickly, and in concert with the Office of the Dean of Students and other campus officials began an immediate investigation of the incident. We have identified several of the individuals involved as UO students and are determining appropriate disciplinary actions to be taken in accordance with the university’s established policies and protocols. In cases where those involved are student-athletes, additional disciplinary action is being carried out by the Athletics Department.

Over the weekend, the UO Police Department, Dean of Students Paul Shang, and Coach Mark Helfrich spoke with the motorists seen in the video, an emeritus faculty member and a current staff member. Dean Shang issued a public statement on Saturday that read, in part:

“The University of Oregon takes the conduct of its students seriously. Consequences are clear for those whose actions reflect poorly upon the university or violate its standards for student behavior. However, until the facts of the snowball-throwing incident are sorted out, it would be premature to speculate about any potential outcomes in this case.”

Dean Shang’s full statement, as well as other statements regarding the university’s response to this incident, will be posted on the UO Communications website as they become available.

As president, I assure you that the University of Oregon will not stand for behavior that threatens the safety of our campus or violates our code of conduct. This unacceptable incident is not being taken lightly, and we continue to take swift, appropriate action to address the matter.

Regards,

Michael Gottfredson, President

The ODE editorial page on the snowball fight and the administration’s reaction to it: Shame and embarrassment. Meanwhile the video has now reached 2M youtube downloads, and more than 400 comments. As President Gottfredson told the faculty Senate on Wednesday, you just can’t buy the kind of publicity that the Duck athletics program brings to UO.

The administration has cancelled all 8AM Monday exams. Official panic alert here.

  • Wondering what to do about conflicts with rescheduled times (which were not posted as of 7:40PM)? UO Policy is that the prof of the larger class has to deal with it – page to bottom here. But that policy is now replaced with this recommendation, from http://alerts.uoregon.edu/

    “If your rescheduled exam time is in conflict with another exam already scheduled, it is recommended that you attend the exam that was not moved and contact the faculty member of the rescheduled exam and ask to schedule the exam for another time. Faculty members whose exams have been rescheduled have been asked to be flexible when conflicts arise.‬”

  • Didn’t get an email and wondering where and when your exam now is? If your frostbitten gangrenous fingers can still use a trackpad, go to duckweb, faculty menu, class schedule information, select a term, then Fall 2013, then your course, then look at the very bottom for the new time and place.

Update: Julliane Parker has the interview in the ODE with Professor Simmons, who is a total mensch about the entire incident, and does the UO faculty and his profession proud:

“I have confidence that the reaction of the university given what has happened will be proportional,” Simmons said. “It will consider these young people and their futures and will also, I hope, suggest to them that they need to rethink behavior like that.” …

 “People were cheering when snow was thrown into my car,” Simmons said. “I don’t think people do that except under some sort of psychological mechanism that comes with people feeling they have permission because other people are doing it, and to act in a way they maybe wouldn’t act individually.”

Duck football Snowpocalypse. My guess is this all started when some Duck Strategic Communications sub-director flack decided to exploit the snow for PR, by unleashing the football players from their indentured servitude in the new $140M “Hatfield-Downing Football Operations Center” for a few moments of fun. Or was it just coincidence that the cameras were rolling, and it was heavily hyped in the national press?

Screen Shot 2013-12-07 at 11.41.36 PM

Before long, the Duck athletes were using their twitter feeds – apparently closely monitored by their athletics overseers – to challenge regular UO students to a fun snowball fight. Just the sort of camaraderie that might reestablish some connection between UO athletics and the students who subsidize the salaries of Matt Helfrich and Rob Mullens? I’ve heard worse PR ideas – like “we are the University of Nike” – but this one went bad even more quickly:

Now UO’s Dean of Students Paul Shang, has had to issue an apology:

Paul Shang, University of Oregon dean of students, issued the following statement regarding a Dec. 6 incident on campus:

The University of Oregon Police Department is investigating an incident, captured on video, in which a passing vehicle was the target of snowballs thrown by young people in an area on the UO campus. Police hope to determine the identities of those who were throwing snowballs, whether they are UO students and whether their actions constitute a criminal act.

A criminal act? Sure, though what kid hasn’t done worse? The professor seems to handle it exactly right, considering the provocation and intimidation. He gets out of his car, and tries to get them to talk. Presumably so he can explain to them what it means to be a bully and a jerk. And the Oregonian is now reporting it was Art History Professor Sherwin Simmons:

“It was a snowball fight,” Simmons, who does not plan to press charges, told Canzano. “The students shouldn’t involve people who aren’t part of it, but this is not high crimes, not an assault, not even a misdemeanor. No one should be charged. That would be nuts.”

UO email alert, December 2013:

Crews are working diligently to reopen campus for regular operations on Monday morning; please check the UO Alerts blog for updates.

Due to extreme cold conditions forecast for the next 24 to 48 hours, students and others are urged to dress appropriately and limit their exposure to the cold. Frost bite can occur in less than 30 minutes, and hypothermia can lead to disorientation and death.

But show up for that Monday 8AM final! Update: Don’t show up – the administration has cancelled all 8AM Monday exams. Official panic alert here.

As French resistance fighter and mountaineer Maurice Herzog wrote on his return from the first ascent of Annapurna in June 1950, where he lost his fingers and toes to frostbite, “There are other Annapurnas in the lives of men”:

Will Pres Schill, Chuck Lillis, and BoT use 4.5% tuition and fee increases for academics or athletics?

Full report here.

UO’s student government has already voted to repurpose the current fee for student housing assistance etc. They’ve also refused to accept President Schill’s proposal to retroactively charge the students $1M for games that never happened.

UO’s Tuition Fee and Advisory Board – normally a rubber-stamp group for the administration – has now held two meetings on this. They also refused to support Schill’s plan.

It’s now up to President Schill to either recommend that Chuck Lillis’s Board of Trustees raise in-state tuition by 4.5%, and non-resident 3.0%, or let the Ducks siphon off part of that potential increase to the academic budget for a mandatory fee to help pay for the recent and future increases in salaries for AD Rob Mullens etc.

So Pres Schill and our Board of Trustees have a simple choice: Spend the 3.0% and 4.5% Tuition and Fee increases for UO’s academic purposes, or give part of them to the Ducks:

The full TFAB report includes a caricature of the actual discussions, which ignores the many well-thought out arguments from UO students and others against the fee for athletics but highlights the comments of one Duck fan – who as faculty, won’t have to pay the fee:

What would Uncle Milton say about mandatory athletic ticket fees? An open letter to Pres Schill

Like many economists, I’m a bit of secret fan of former University of Chicago economics professor Milton Friedman and his “Free to Choose” book – and opposed to making our students subsidize big-time sports and coaches salaries.

Googling around, I find plenty of universities that give students the option of paying for sports ticket packages, rather than forcing them to do so, e.g. UT-Austin: https://catalog.utexas.edu/general-information/registration-tuition-and-fees/tuition-and-fees/optional-fees/

The Big Ticket is the UT Austin sports pass giving students access to home, regular season Texas Longhorns Athletics events for just $175 (plus $20 processing fee). More details on the Big Ticket are available on TexasSports.com/BigTicket, and are also emailed to active UT Austin students.

Texas doesn’t seem to have a problem filling the student section or getting the students to stay for the whole game – a long-time problem for the Ducks, as noted in this Daily Emerald story by Kenny Jacoby: https://www.dailyemerald.com/sports/football/oregon-beats-arizona-state-but-many-student-fans-leave-before-the-ending/article_7518a43a-3219-570a-9a35-a14e1ad8da04.html

This is just what Uncle Milton would have predicted. It’s his argument against the Vietnam War draft lottery, but in reverse. The mandatory fee with lottery means many students who get a ticket don’t really care that much about the game – while an optional fee will select for those students who are most likely to show up, most likely to wear face paint for the TV cameras, and most likely to stay to the end. A Pareto Improvement, as we say.

If people object to the inequity of the price mechanism, the athletic department can simply give a discount to students on financial aid – sort of like the Earned Income Tax Credit – also a Friedman idea.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/0mCV29j9_nY?start=72

For contrast, here’s President Schill’s proposal for a new mandatory fee on all UO Students, to replace the current fee which UO’s ASUO student government has voted to eliminate. He wants to make everyone pay – there’s not even a clause allowing for conscientious objectors: