AAU taps another distinguished elderly retiree for presidential sinecure

Note: I’ve changed the headline of this post, in an effort to raise the tone of discourse and limit the slow drip of toxicity.

Recent AAU presidents are Bob Berdahl, Hunter Rawlings the IIIrd, and now Mary Sue Coleman.

Berdahl took in $619K as “past president” from this scam prestigious organization of publicly minded research universities:

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Hunter III had a few problems filing the IRS return, so I don’t know what his take was:

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Diane Dietz interviews new UO Pres Michael Schill

In the RG here. I think it makes more sense to judge these presidents by what they do than by what they say, but this statement about the AAU has some people worried:

Schill said it’s not fruitful for the UO to worry about whether it will be asked to leave the elite, 62-member Association of American Universities. That group is getting more selective as the UO’s academic metrics have slipped.

“What we need to be is the very best academic institution we can be and everything else will sort itself out,” he said. “If we follow the right path for the University of Oregon, which is to enhance our academic standing, which I’m deeply committed to — I wouldn’t have taken the job if that wouldn’t be my goal.

“My whole life has been to celebrate academic excellence and to move the institutions I’ve been a part of forward in those areas,” Schill said. “If we follow that path, we will be successful with whatever we choose to do.”

Many faculty see AAU membership as one of the few constraints on the less noble instincts of the Duck boosters and the Johnson Hall junketeers. If we get kicked out, the faculty’s power takes a big hit. And rumor has it more than one top JH admin is already saying that tradeoff would be just fine with them.

AAU membership is no longer even an “aspirational goal” for UO, but Ducks ranked #3 in pre-season polls.

Update: The official UO post on the mission statement mentioned below is now getting some comments, here.

As President, Dave Frohnmayer would trot out UO’s AAU membership as a way of silencing faculty who criticized him for shifting priorities, administrative effort, and money towards his goal of running a big-time college sports factory. In 2013 Gottfredson doubled-down on the bullshit, setting an aspirational goal of getting to the top half of the AAU. UO’s academic accreditation comes through the NWCCU, which in turn is supervised by the US DOE. UO filed it’s latest report on 3/1/2013, compiled by Dave Hubin. Full of bold talk and more than a few half-truths. Read it all here. The cover page refers to our goal to be in the top half of the AAU:

But the subsidies for sports and pet projects like armed police and Portland kept growing, and sports scandals continued to suck up what little competent administrative focus the administration had. Just a year after this letter Scott Coltrane came clean with the new Board of Trustees, revealing the chilling “Benchmarking report”, which finally exposed where years of misallocated resources had left us.

The Trustees have responded with a realistic mission plan. Forget about moving up. They no longer mention even staying in the AAU as even an aspirational goal:

We aspire to lead as a preeminent public residential research university encompassing the humanities and arts, the natural and social sciences, and the professions.

Full (draft) statement here with a place for comments. Mine is that, with the board’s authority behind it, the goal of continued (or restored) AAU membership could provide some constraints on the administrative excesses and pet projects we have seen and continue to see come out of Johnson Hall. Giving up on the AAU is not just a sad recognition of reality, it’s a discouraging signal about where money and resources will be redirected in the future.

UO’s Strategic Plan to stay in the AAU?

10/21/2013: President Gottfredson is at the fall AAU meeting now:

Current Schedule  

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 20 AAU meetings, Washington, D.C. 

MONDAY, OCTOBER 21 AAU meetings, Washington, D.C. 

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 22 AAU meetings, Washington, D.C.

2 years ago the AAU kicked out Nebraska, and Syracuse voluntarily left. See below.

In March, UO told our accreditors that President Gottfredson’s goal was to move UO up to the top half of the AAU. Word is that JH is now drafting a Strategic Plan for UO – apparently without much faculty input. Here’s hoping that staying in the AAU is still part of that plan.

Read the full accreditation report here.

5/2/2011: Nebraska, Syracuse out of AAU

I believe this makes UO the marginal institution, for many of the same reasons. Maybe Rice and Brandeis too. Frohnmayer’s disinvestment in faculty and grad students will catch up with us. Lariviere shows no sign of turning it around. Maybe the AAU review committee will be impressed by the jock box and our new police force? Reading the blunt UNL-AAU emails, which the Chronicle got from a public records request here, I sort of doubt it.

AAU update. RG calls out Gottfredson and Hubin on public records fees and delays.

Update: Can Oregon’s flagship university stay in the AAU? If so what do we need to do? That seems like a question of public interest. But not to President Gottfredson, whose public records office is trying to charge UO student journalists $94 for the records:

Public records fees charged by the UO continue to hamper the newspaper’s ability to get records that student reporters need, Stites said. For example, the UO said the Emerald would have to pay $94 for copies of correspondence between UO President Michael Gottfredson, Provost Jim Bean and the American Association of Universities, Stites said. 

“We haven’t been able to get it yet because we can’t scrape up the money because we’ve already used so much money on other public records,” he said.

At Gottfredson’s previous university, UC-Irvine, these sorts of records would be available at no charge. The University of Nebraska, the last university to get kicked out of the AAU, can charge for the pro-rated cost of the pdf scanner and the electricity it uses, but nothing else. Under Gottfredson UO has *never* waived fees on the basis of public interest.

And for the Potemkin Village press release story of UO’s public records office, check out Friday’s report in “Around the 0”.

6/16/2013: President Gottfredson seems hell-bent on raising journalists’s suspicions about the legislation for an independent UO Board. Diane Dietz of the RG has the latest story, which emphasizes the continued stalling by Dave Hubin and Gottfredson on a Senate Transparency Committee recommendation to give student journalists fee waivers, so that they can get information about UO and keep the students informed:

The debate is happening as the UO asks the Legislature to create an independent UO governing board — on the assumption that the board would govern the university as a public body in an open and transparent way.

So presumably Gottfredson is getting his marching orders to cut back on transparency from the donors pushing for a UO Board. Hubin has a lot of quotes about how complex it all is:

What if, Hubin said, a student wanted to know if faculty travel to conferences was done with the lowest carbon expense, and the student asked for records involving 60 departments? Would that be reasonable?

What if? That’s Hubin doing what he does best – running out the clock. In fairness to Hubin he did a great job implementing public reforms under Lariviere. He got the public records office to respond promptly and cheaply to public records requests. But now we’ve got a new president who hates transparency, and at the most recent meeting of Hubin’s public records advisory group Hubin wouldn’t even let the 3 student journalists present ask questions.

Meanwhile, Hubin is fine with letting his office charge Nick Ekblad of the Oregon Commentator $240 for a copy of President Gottfredson’s official calendar. And now UO won’t even let them use student funds to pay to see it. The RG quotes Frank LoMonte, attorney and executive director at the Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Va.:

“We tell people all the time that if the president won’t sit down and make himself available for an interview, then use your state open records law to get a copy of his appointment calendar and e-mails. If the president would open his door and sit down and make time for you, then you might not need his e-mails.”

Speaking of which, it’s now been more than a month and no answer from President Gottfredson to my question on how an independent UO board will be handled under the public records and meetings law:

The current draft says that most of ORS 192 will apply to “a university with a governing board” but it does not say that the board itself will be. Additionally, the intent is to have the board appointed by September of this year, although it doesn’t have any actual power for another year. Under ORS 192 this means the board’s meetings until then might not be subject to the open meeting rules, even if ORS 192 does apply to the board.

Student reporter Dash Paulson had an excellent ODE interview with President Gottfredson back in January, and extracted this quote:

When asked about transparency at UO, Gottfredson said, “I absolutely support it.” However, he didn’t dive into details. When asked about making public record requests less expensive (or free, as they are at his previous university) Gottfredson said, “That’s something we’ll look into.”

Sure. Gottfredson hasn’t let a student journalist interview him since. As for the rest of the press, Gottfredson told the RG last August that:

In the future, Gottfredson said, his presidential press conferences will be more substantive — and not like White House press briefings, where reporters are reduced to hollering their urgent questions at the president. 

“I look forward to meeting with all of you on a regular basis, and you won’t need to shout your questions,” Gottfredson told the assembly. “I may shout a few answers, but you won’t need to shout questions.”

That’s not happening. He’s withdrawn deep into the JH bunker. It’s sad. We’re a public university, we need a president who is not afraid to talk to the press and who is not afraid to share information with the public.

Update: And the contempt from the administration continues. Want to find out about the secret “Budget Advisory Group” where Gottfredson claims faculty have a chance to weigh in on budget priorities?

From: Jamie Moffitt
Subject: RE: [Econ_faculty_staff] cas-heads: Open Letter from the Deans to UO CommunityDate: June 16, 2013 8:16:07 AM PDT
To: Bill Harbaugh , Brad Shelton

Bill –

I would suggest that you contact the Office of Public Records for this type of document request.


Jamie Moffitt
Vice President for Finance and Administration & CFO
University of Oregon

 Here’s what Hubin told our accreditors in March:

2.F.3 The institution clearly defines and follows its policies, guidelines, and processes 
for financial planning and budget development that include appropriate opportunities 
for participation by its constituencies.

The UO engages several cross-functional teams to assist with budget preparation and
operational assessment. These teams include:
• Budget Advisory Group – comprised of students, faculty and staff; advises on
general fund allocations
• Tuition and Fee Boards – comprised of students, faculty, and staff; advises on
tuition and fees, and evaluates performance and projections.
• Internal Bank Advisory Committee – comprised of faculty and staff; analyze and
advise on debt-funded projects.
• Senate Budget Committee – comprised of members of the elected University
Senate; review and make recommendations on budgetary policy and long-term
financial strategies.

I’d say the reality is a little different. The SBC website is here – not a lot of consultation going on, much less reporting. The academic plan was drafted by Bean in 2009 and then forgotten about  (the 2011 date is when they located a copy of it – not when it was revised.)

The only link I can find to the “Budget Advisory Group” on the UO pages is to the accreditation report itself. How’s that for “appropriate opportunities for participation”?

However the faculty union did learn a little – see page 4 of this doc, which they were able to extract from Moffitt during bargaining. Basically the BAG deals with the small change that’s left over from Shelton’s budget allocation model. If Gottfredson even has a process for setting long-run budget priorities he isn’t letting the faculty get within a mile of it.

Legislature approves $1.5 billion for University

The $1.5 billion construction component is an investment in building new scientific laboratories, purchasing advanced equipment, constructing new classrooms, and adding housing.  The state will also invest $137 million in operating funds to hire hundreds of new faculty, and to expand the student body in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math). 

UConn President Susan Herbst says it is unquestionably one of the largest single investments made by a state in its flagship university, and its effect on UConn will be “nothing short of transformational.” 

U Conn seems well on their way to joining the AAU. They have had a faculty union for years (my father helped start it). Their contract is between the “U Conn Board of Trustees” and the “U Conn chapter of the AAUP”. No petty insecure admin nomenclature nonsense. The contract includes a clause protecting shared governance, but it’s not grievable. I don’t know what Conn law says about shared governance. 6/5/2013.

Research Advisory Panel (RAP) Report to the Provost

Several people have now sent me copies of this, thanks. It was written after a multitude of complaints about how VP for Research Kimberly Espy was handling her job, and concern over the consequences for UO’s research mission and our efforts to stay in the AAU.

The authors are 3 very well respected UO faculty PI’s, there was a lot of input from others, and a lot of drafts and back and forth. This final version has sat on Bean’s desk since he got back from the Fiesta Bowl. A snippet:

Given its importance to UO’s efforts to stay in the AAU I’ve posted the part of the report with 7 specific recommendations here. I’m leaving out the background material though. That part is very blunt, and I think making it public might discourage future honest discussion.

For the Potemkin Village view of UO’s research situation, check out this Around the O report. Word has it that Espy closed the event with a rousing rendition of “Mighty Oregon”. Comments welcome. 2/1/2013.