University administrators botch cluster-hire plan, faculty fights back

Jim Bean’s Five Big Ideas, Gottfredson’s clusters-of-excellence, interdisciplinary super-modularity, etc. UO’s administration has a long history of buzzword inspired efforts to take control of faculty hiring away from the faculty and academic departments. They get these ideas from the same bullshit conference powerpoint presentations and “talent management consultants” as every other university does. But now some faculty are fighting back. has a report on the UC-Riverside Senate’s fight to replace their administration’s hubris with some straightforward academic rigor, here:

… While the first wave of clusters already has been approved, the recruitment process is still happening. Part intervention, part response to faculty concerns, the Riverside division of the Academic Senate recently surveyed its members on their views of the initiative thus far. The results were released to faculty members earlier this month, and Inside Higher Ed obtained a copy. A little less than half the faculty — some 330 professors — responded, indicating a high level of interest in the matter. The idea is that the body will use the responses to offer constructive feedback and guidance to the administration in the coming weeks.

Here’s what the survey found. First, most respondents — 82 percent — said their departments already had strategic hiring initiatives in place before the clusters. Some 49 percent of all departments have been able to fill all open positions on their own.

Most of the respondents either agreed that or were neutral as to whether there was sufficient time to prepare cluster proposals (41 percent of respondents were not involved in any proposal). But 72 percent of respondents either disagreed or strongly disagreed that criteria for proposals were clear.

As to the proposal evaluation process, 76 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed that it was transparent. Just 14 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the feedback they received on their proposals was appropriate, compared to 45 percent who disagreed or strongly disagreed (the rest were neutral).

Some 46 percent of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed that the provost’s appointed steering committee for the initiative did a good job, compared to the 14 percent who had a positive view (40 percent were neutral). Nearly half of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed that members of the selection panel knew enough to properly assess proposals.

Perhaps most importantly, the overwhelming majority of respondents — 69 percent — disagreed (over half of them strongly) that the cluster-hiring strategy “is an innovative and appropriate replacement for the traditional departmental hiring strategy.” Most said their own departments’ hiring strategies were inconsistent with the cluster strategy; over half said the cluster strategy interfered with their departments’ strategies.

Clusters of excellence hiring

Dear Colleagues,

As we begin the final weeks of the academic year, I have exciting news to announce about our plans to attract outstanding faculty from across the country to the UO. We are moving forward with funding for two of the proposals identified last year in the Clusters of Excellence hiring program. These two clusters, in addition to recruiting efforts for a third cluster, will add up to a dozen new faculty researchers to our already stellar team in the coming months. The two clusters are:

The Faculty Cluster in Chemistry and Physics to Amplify Excellence in Energy and Sustainable Materials, coordinated by Professor Jim Hutchison, and

The Center for Genome Function, coordinated by Professor Eric Selker.
Initial funding for these Clusters of Excellence will be provided through a combination of previously identified sources, including recurring funds from licensing revenues and recurring funds identified by the Budget Advisory Group earlier in this year’s strategic investment process. We will continue to look for philanthropic and other external funds to enhance these clusters.

Hiring is also underway for a third Cluster of Excellence in Health Promotion & Obesity Prevention, coordinated by Professor Elizabeth Stormshak. This endeavor was made possible by a generous gift of $20 million.

Incoming President Michael Schill has expressed strong support for our efforts to advance our research and creative capacity and expand our outstanding research faculty ranks. He and I, together with the other members of the leadership team, know these foundational hires are paramount to our success. We are committed to competing for top researchers from around the globe. We continue to actively seek resources to fund the other seven selected clusters and will begin planning for future rounds of additional cluster proposals in the future.

This is a time of new beginnings for the University of Oregon, and the Clusters of Excellence Faculty Hiring Initiative is a key component of our next chapter. I will keep you apprised of our hiring efforts and will continue to work to expand our engagement in cutting edge research and creative endeavors.

Thank you for all you do to advance research excellence at the University of Oregon.


Scott Coltrane
Interim President

Coltrane discusses efforts to keep UO faculty from leaving

Diane Dietz has the story in the RG, here: (whoops, link fixed)

University of Oregon interim President Scott Coltrane on Wednesday outlined his plan to keep top UO faculty from getting picked off by wealthier universities — in the wake of two high-profile departures to the University of Chicago earlier this fall.

Coltrane told the academic and student affairs committee of the UO Board of Trustees that he has a new faculty retention plan.

“We lost those two to the University of Chicago,” he said. “We lost somebody to Missouri. We lost actually four or five to Penn State — one to the University of Florida, one to the country of Norway.”

In total, over the past four years, competing institutions have poached 25 tenured or tenure-track UO faculty.

… The hardest items to match when marauding universities (sic) knock is laboratory space, instruments and more research graduate students.

Salaries aren’t the problem, Coltrane said. “Professors’ salaries are just not that high. We can often match the salary,” he said.

Really? I thought the well was dry, especially now that our new interim VP for Research Brad Shelton is at the trough with the other JH admins.

UO loses two underpaid neuroscientists, hires overpaid VP for Research

Diane Dietz reports the sad news on Ed Awh and Ed Vogel, two top “cluster of excellence” professors who are leaving UO for the University of Chicago, in the RG here.

The report on our newly appointed and overpaid Interim VP for Research Brad Shelton is here. UO Today video interview with Shelton about his job, here.

More on the increasing gap between the underpaid UO faculty and the overpaid UO administrators, from UO’s increasingly transparent and subversive Institutional Research website, here:

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 11.00.05 PM

And a snapshot from last year:

UO neuroscience at the crossroads. Cluster of excellence, or rebuild effort?

UO’s overpaid VP for Research Brad Shelton is going to have an interesting time rationalizing these low retention offers.

Diane Dietz has the story in the RG, here:

At least one UO brain researcher has already been poached.

Clifford Kentros, a neuroscientist in the psychology department, who designed and produced a new species of mouse, left for Norway in spring 2013 — although he’s maintaining his laboratory at the UO for a while yet.

Kentros went to work at the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience after getting an employment contract that’s the envy of his peers, who live in a constant state of grant-seeking to pay their salaries.

“They offered him a fantastic salary and research support package,” Awh said. “One back-of-the-napkin way to describe his package was that he doesn’t have to write any more grants and he will have (research) funding until he’s 70.”

Kentros — and others scientists — left behind a state-of-the-art animal vivarium in the new Lewis Integrative Science Building. It has room for 4,000 cages but only about 1,000 are in use, according to the cluster proposal.

More departures in neurosciences “could very well spark a chain reaction,” Awh said, that would put the UO on the defensive. In that event, “neuroscience at Oregon will have to focus on rebuilding rather than on expanding.”

Oregon State University has shown cluster hires can work, he said. “I was impressed that there were actual hires — it happened,” Awh said. “We all hope there will be a similar way to describe this (at the UO) some day, but it’s not today.”

For more on how UO got to this point, check out the Espy posts.

Instead of paying faculty competitive wages, we’re paying failed former provost Jim Bean $245,000 a year to work on “experiential learning”. Apparently that doesn’t involve actually teaching a class.

Genetics proposal aims to build research on the mystery of life

9/1/2014: Diane Dietz has the report in the RG:

The university is floating a proposal to hire a “cluster” of three new professors to rebuild the classical genetics and genomics program at the University of Oregon and to launch a Center for Genome Function. … “You could think of it as re-establishing our eminence in this field,” said Eric Selker, whose work in epigenetics mirrors fundamental genetics research.

Researchers are likely to find out beginning this fall whether donors are ready to help with their cluster proposals.

The UO’s success in genetics in the 1960s and ’70s was built on just such a “cluster hire” as the university now contemplates, [Frank] Stahl said.

8/24/2014: Systems biology cluster hire proposal

Diane Dietz has the report on a real cluster of excellence proposal: Continue reading

RG features sustainable cities cluster of excellence

8/3/2014: RG features sustainable cities cluster of excellence:

Diane Dietz in the RG, here.

7/17/2014: RG features UO nano-science cluster

Diane Dietz has the story here:

A lot of the work is done on nanoparticles, which are 1/50,000th the width of a human hair and can only be imaged and manipulated by high-tech equipment resting on bedrock for stability in the underground Center for Advanced Materials Characterization in Oregon , or CAMCOR.

7/13/2014: UO faculty recruiting relies on wrath of Vulcan, angry God of Fire

Diane Dietz of the RG has the story on the volcanology cluster hires here:

Recruiting won’t be a problem, Wallace said, because … Crater Lake, Mount Hood, Newberry, Three Sisters, Mount Saint Helens, Mount Rainier, Glacier Peak and Mount Baker — all are on the U.S. Geological Survey’s list of volcanos most likely to blow and endanger people.

7/6/2014: RG on Ken Prehoda lab

Diane Dietz’s report here, part of a series on the “clusters of excellence”. Here’s hoping the UOPD gives a pass on the champagne drinking!

More cluster info here.

OSU claims UO stole cluster hire plan from them

7/20/2014: In the RG, here. This is silly, the idea has been around forever. OSU does seem to be ahead on implementing it though. But hey, the Beavers can’t beat the Ducks at spending money on sports!

6/28/2014: RG reports on surreal mismanagement of UO research efforts

I’m no humanities professor, but I think surreal is good description. If I was a law professor, maybe I’d use a different word.

Mike Gottfredson has been on the job almost two years, during which his administration has repeatedly dropped the ball on what to do about UO’s research problems. This spring he rushed through the “Clusters of Excellence” or “Cluster Hires” plan. Not a good sign when they can’t even agree on the name.  Diane Dietz has the story in Sunday’s RG – with some blunt facts and quotes – on this latest effort.

I guess you can say it’s better than Jim Bean’s Five Big Ideas – although Gottfredson and Coltrane apparently decided to give Bean his big slice of this little pie a bit early. A full sixth of it, by my math.

Will this be enough to keep us in the AAU? In March 2013 Gottfredson and Dave Hubin told UO’s accreditors that the plan was to get UO into the top half of the AAU. Later Gottfredson backdated UO’s 2009 draft “academic plan” to make it look like it had been finalized. That plan is all about our place in the AAU. It wasn’t until November 2013 that UO finally came clean, with the terrifying “Benchmarking report” that we paid Academic Analytics to prepare. Then we suddenly stopped talking about the academic plan. Now Scott Coltrane doesn’t seem to think we can even stay in the AAU – he’s removed any mention of the AAU from UO’s new mission statement. Apparently the Trustees are going to go along with that.

How did we get to this place? Years of mismanagement by Dave Frohnmayer and his cronies, coupled with hostility and indifference from the OUS board. The new UO Trustees are our only hope, but there’s no evidence yet they are up to the job. Meanwhile it’s amazing to see how many of Frohnmayer’s administrators are still on the ever expanding Johnson Hall dole. And how much is Frohnmayer himself billing us? I don’t know, UO redacts that from the HLGR invoices.

Clusters of excellence start with $245K for Jim Bean

6/28/2014 update: Slow Saturday, thought I’d repost this classic. President Gottfredson and Provost Coltrane have now given former Provost Jim Bean a new job – directing UO’s new “Sports Product” cluster of excellence. We’ve been paying him $245K a year for putting the proposal together:

4/16/2012: Bean and Davis rehire John Moseley

Johnson Hall has two simple hiring rules:

  1. When UO has money to hire either a professor or an administrator, hire an administrator.
  2. When choosing between an open search for a new administrator and hiring one of your old friends with no search at twice the pay, hire the old friend.

John Moseley was Dave Frohnmayer’s longtime Provost and Lorraine Davis was his VP for Academic Affairs. Back in 2004 Frohnmayer wrote them both special golden parachute retirement contracts. The Oregonian wrote a story about the questionable deals in 2008. OUS audited Moseley in 2009 and required Jim Bean to write him a new, clean contract, here. The Oregonian wrote another story, here on the audit. In the summer of 2010 Pres Lariviere announced he was killing the UO-Bend program that had served as the justification for Moseley’s pay check. Greg Bolt had this to say in the RG on July 19, 2010:

… Some faculty members who reviewed the budget concluded that the program was costing the university more than $1 million a year beyond what it brought in, draining revenue from the Eugene campus as it struggles with steep cuts in state funding.

But Bean maintains that at least in the program’s most recent years the UO’s Bend efforts were breaking even. “We have gone to minute detail and passed the spreadsheets around, and some people believe them and some people don’t,” he said.

The Bend program also is tied up with another sore spot among some faculty: the post­retirement contract the UO made with former provost John Moseley. After retiring from his full-time provost position at the UO in Eugene, Moseley since 2007 has been working half time as a special assistant to the provost, acting as the liaison for the Bend program on a contract that pays him $124,000 a year.

The large paycheck for part-time work has drawn the ire of many professors. Moseley will continue in his post through next year, which also is when the UO expects to wind down the undergraduate program in Bend.

So by the original Frohnmayer deal and by this report it sure seemed that we would pay Moseley his last paycheck summer 2011. More than enough money to hire one of the 100 new professors that academic plan has been promising.

But nope. He’s still pulling down $10,372 a month in UO salary – plus another $10,095 in PERS. So how is it Moseley is still on the UO books a year after Lariviere said he’d be gone?  Easy: Jim Bean and Lorraine Davis rehired him:

The contract and other emails are here. More on Moseley’s other adventures here.