Forensics Director Jacobsen on fund modification and debate at UO

12/19/2019 from Forensics Director Trond Jacobsen:

I’d like to thank him for sending this very interesting letter on the history and present of debate at UO. It also explains his work on the fund modifications, which will allow these gifts to be used to benefit our students. And follow his link below to the Daily Emerald article, which has much more.

As the Director of Forensics at Oregon, and an alum of the forensics program, thank you for bringing attention to the good work of Oregon Forensics. Oregon Forensics traces our origins to October 1876, a week after the university opened, and we are among the most successful co-curricular activities at this university.

Oregon students participated in some of the first intercollegiate forensics competitions, the first radio and televised debates, and the first world tour of debate. An Oregon economics professor in 1926 invented the type of debate dominant in the United States, one that is practiced in modified form in parts of Asia as “Oregon-Oxford” debate. There is no public university in the country with a more impressive forensics legacy. Now based in the Robert D. Clark Honors College – President Clark was also the Director of Forensics in the 1940s and 1950s – we are and will always remain open to every undergraduate student on campus, regardless of background or experience.

That legacy attracted modest gifts over the years designed to promote and encourage student participation. As the Director of Forensics I became aware that three such gifts, totaling $140,000 as of 2018, were dormant, benefiting no one because they imagined a speech and debate environment that no longer exists. For instance, the smallest and most recent envisioned distribution through a Department of Speech that no longer exists. The other two imagined a world where 2500 people would buy tickets to see Oregon debate Oxford on campus and where competitive speech was the cultural highlight of a small and remote campus.

More students now compete in forensics activities at Oregon than perhaps any time in our nearly 150-year history, with more than 120 students in speech, debate, and mock trial, up from about a dozen when I arrived in 2013. Unlike competitions in 1889 or 1920, our competitions now take place mostly outside Eugene, at institutions like Washington, Berkeley, Utah, UCLA, UC-Irvine, Texas, and Cornell.

Using the regular and normal process we succeeded in ensuring that every cent of the income from these endowments will support students competing in modern forensics activities, rather than supporting precisely zero students, perhaps awaiting some future use removed from the intent of the donors.

Here is a link to an Oregon Emerald article about my efforts:

Trond Jacobsen
Director of Forensics and University Forum
Career Instructor, Information Science
Robert Clark Honors College
University of Oregon

12/17/2019: UO Foundation’s latest donor fund modifications: communism, oratory

Back in early 2018 I had a series of posts about the UO administration’s successful effort to seize control of a $2.5M fund donated by former professor Marion Dean Ross to the Department of Art History, for the purpose of buying books and photographs on architectural history. Full post here. The gist was that, over the objections of Ross’s executor, UO GC Kevin Reed and Foundation CEO Paul Weinhold were able to eliminate the restriction that the money go for books, and get control of spending from the fund removed from the department’s faculty, and put under the discretion of the CoD Dean – at the time Christoph Lindner.

Since then I’ve been keeping an eye on these fund modifications, thanks to the Oregon DOJ’s Public Records Office, which sends them on request without the fees and delays Kevin Reed’s office here at UO uses to subvert the clear intent of the law.

Most of these are sensible modifications to small gifts from long ago, with “impractical and impossible” (sic) restrictions, e.g.,

Although that doesn’t stop our INS from asking something similar on their Application for Naturalization:

In any case the court has agreed with UO to remove this test:

Here’s another one, dating back to 1889. That year about one out of a hundred Americans got as far as a Bachelors Degree, and the possession of one was apparently enough to attract a crowd, eager to hear your thoughts on matters of the day:

Times have changed:

What’s perhaps most remarkable about this modification is that Jacobsen didn’t have to give spending authority to his Dean – instead it gives it to him, the program director, where it should be. With the Ross modification, GC Kevin Reed argued that it was standard practice in gift modifications to take spending authority from the faculty and give it to the Administration. Glad to see it’s not.