Daily Emerald editor fought for freedom of the press. UO, not so much

8/26/2013: An amazing story in the Oregon Quarterly by UO journalism graduate Elisabeth Kramer, on 1966 ODE Editor Annette Buchanan and her role in creating Oregon’s shield law, which protects journalists and their sources.

All over a story about pot smoking on campus. How far have we slid back in terms of freedom? This spring UO imposed a new policy that allows the athletic department to randomly test its athletes for pot use, and take away their scholarships if they fail even one test. And last summer UO General Counsel Randy Geller sent a veiled threat to Senate President Rob Kyr and IAC Chair Brian McWhorter for complaining about how he tried to do it in the dark, and to me for publishing information criticizing him and the process:

Dear Rob and Brian:

I received your email of July 24, 2012, requesting a delay in the public hearing scheduled for August 23rd, 2012. The hearing will be rescheduled for September 13, 2012. Written comments will be accepted until noon on September 14, 2012. We will similarly postpone the date the rule will be filed with the Secretary of State and become final. The rule will be filed on September 21, 2012.

Your allegations about the University’s rulemaking processes are offensive and false , as are the comments made publicly by members of the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee. I ask that you apologize in writing to President Berdahl, Rob Mullens, and me. I also ask that you censure the members of the IAC who have published offensive and defamatory comments.

Randolph Geller  

General Counsel
University of Oregon

From what I can tell Geller faced no consequences from President Gottfredson for this.

And UO President Emeritus Dave Frohnmayer hasn’t been shy about getting the Emerald to retract things. From a post here back in Feb 2013:

Last year Frohnmayer took umbrage over Oregon Daily Emerald publishing this story about the Oregon SPJ giving me their “First Freedom” Award. Apparently at the insistence of his lawyers, the ODE website later posted a “clarification“:

In the article, we paraphrased UO Matters’ Bill Harbaugh saying “former University president Dave Frohnmayer was proposing pay cuts for faculty and Harbaugh found public records showing he had negotiated a big raise for himself with Chancellor Pernsteiner not long before.” Documents provided to the Emerald indicate that while Frohnmayer did get a raise, it was nine months before he asked the faculty to take cuts and months before a serious economic downturn. 

Additionally, while he was asking staff to take paycuts, Frohnmayer himself took a 7.6 percent paycut, the largest of any administrator.

I’m a little puzzled by Frohnmayer’s math. If you pull the unclassified salary reports at ir.uoregon.edu you get this for him:
February 2009: (before furlough scheme)

$225,700 12 months FTE at 100%, president
$18,333 12 month FTE at 100%, chair pay
$20,000 12 month FTE at 100% expense allowance (taken as salary)
$111,627 12 month FTE at 100% supplemental pay
$69,300 12 month FTE at 100% recognition award/stipend
$130,000 12 month FTE at 100% law professor (on leave no pay) 

May 2009: (after furlough scheme)

$225,700 12 months FTE at 92%, president
$18,333 12 month FTE at 100%, chair pay
$20,000 12 month FTE at 100%, expense allowance (taken as salary)
$111,627 12 month FTE at 100%, supplemental pay
$69,300 12 month FTE at 100%, recognition award/stipend
$130,000 12 month FTE at 100% law professor (on leave no pay)  

August 2009 

$245,700 12 months FTE at 100%, president emeritus

So, if you include all the various pots of salary he was getting, he took a furlough cut from $37,080 a month to $35,575, or about 4% per month, for about three months. Call it about 1% for the year. His furlough plea was for faculty and OA’s to take 5% cuts.
I’m also a little confused by Frohnmayer’s dates. He did get one big raise from Pernsteiner in 2008, and that was indeed before the furlough scheme, as his clarification indicates. But his retirement contract also included a very nice raise, however you calculate it. And many other special emoluments as well. 
So, was Frohnmayer really negotiating with Pernsteiner for a nice retirement deal for himself at the same time he was trying to persuade the rest of us to take 5% furlough pay cuts? It sure looks that way to me. His contract is here. The Oregon Audits Division report on it is here. The furlough town hall was 4/14/2009, video of Frohnmayer pitching the furloughs to the faculty and OA’s is here. And here’s an email from OUS chief lawyer Ryan Hagemann, saying Frohnmayer’s contract had not been finalized as of 4/29/2009:
From: “Hagemann, Ryan” <[email protected]>
Subject: Public Records Requests
Date: April 24, 2009 11:16:29 AM PDT
To: “Bill Harbaugh” <[email protected]>

Professor Harbaugh:
I have returned from the road, and am in receipt of your two public records requests.  Generally, you have requested President Frohnmayers post-presidential agreements and the contract, and other agreements, for incoming President Larivere.  For your information, Professor Harbaugh, to my knowledge, neither of these agreements have been finalized.  I have a proposal for your consideration:  if you would be willing to withdraw these two requests, I would be willing, when I receive these finalized agreements in my office, to forward them to you at no cost.  That way, you would not need to make a new public records request; Id just forward to you when I receive. 
Would that work?  If not, I would be more than happy to process your request and get you an acknowledgement letter!
Thanks for your consideration,
R y a n   J a m e s   H a g e m a n n
Legal Counsel & Secretary to the Board
Oregon University System

After I raised questions about the legality of this $245,700 emeritus contract UO renegotiated it according to the standard rues, leaving Frohnmayer at $201K with an 0.5 FTE and with fully specified teaching and research responsibilities. Saved UO a good $145K, that did. Contracts here.

1/27/2013. It’s starting to seem like a movement. They even call out Frohnmayer, when discussing Kitzhaber’s plans to cap the COLA:

A number of prominent Oregonians found themselves the subjects of unwanted attention when Kroger raised the curtain two years ago. Among them was former University of Oregon athletic director Mike Bellotti, who received the biggest PERS pension of them all — $41,342 a month. No. 4 on the list was Steve Goldschmidt, who represented the Eugene School District during a 1987 teachers’ strike, whose monthly check was $21,517. Former UO President Dave Frohnmayer came in at No. 5, with $21,207.

From what I can tell from the UO salary data, we’re also paying Dave $100,514 a year for co-teaching 2 small classes on “leadership”, with his former special assistant Barbara West – not sure what she gets. Also can’t find any evidence that the Senate Curriculum Committee ever approved his courses. He also teaches a week long one credit pass/fail course in the law school – so he’s a “law professor” when he’s outsoliciting clients for HLGR. To top it off he got a lot of deferred compensation from UO, so the PERS number is an underreport of his total state paid retirement income. Contracts here. OK, I’m done with this rant for a while, sorry.

Fees for reporters, subsidies for propaganda

7/15/2013: We’ve written before about the $104K cost of “Around the O”. Here are two much worse examples of how UO is making work more difficult for real reporters, while spending public money on what amounts to propaganda. I suppose you could argue this is good for UO in the short run, except it goes against everything that public universities are supposed to stand for.

1) If you’re a UO student journalist like Daily Emerald Editor Sam Stites and you try to get public records about UO’s athletic department, the Ducks will hit you up for substantial fees, and Dave Hubin will argue it would be wrong to use tuition money to subsidize the release of public records to the public.

But UO has no problem spending money to hire sports reporter Rob Moseley away from the Register Guard to write for the official UO GoDucks.com website. At $50,000 a year, plus bowl games junkets for spouse and kids, and on a year by year contract, I can just imagine how much real information we’ll get from Mr. Moseley about things like the Jock Box subsidies and who paid for the NCAA legal defense.

2) That’s just sports. But UO is playing the same game with substantive things like President Gottfredson’s official calendar, showing who he met with, while negotiating an independent board for UO. Surely that’s important enough to justify a public interest fee waiver? No. Dave Hubin wants to charge $240 for UO’s student journalists to see the calendar.

The Oregon Commentator tried to pay this fee with money allocated by UO’s student government for just that purpose. Hubin responded with a ruling saying student publications like the Commentator and the Emerald can’t use student money to buy UO’s public records.

But President Gottfredson has no problem paying for yet another “strategic communications” flack to broadcast his own spin on things:

Salary: $60,000 to $85,000 

Public & Government Affairs and the Office of the President invite applications for a full-time (1.0 FTE) Director of Public Affairs and President’s Office Communications.  This position is responsible for providing executive communications support to the president of the university and for developing and managing comprehensive communications activities for the Office of the President with internal and external constituencies.  

The Emerald has now set up an independent non-profit to solicit donations, in an effort to get around Hubin’s rules. Donate here, you’ll get a nice letter *from* the Emerald Editor, to show the IRS when you claim it on your taxes. You don’t have to be an economist to understand that free-riding will mean they’ll never get enough money- a fact our UO administration is counting on.

Secret slide update on Senate IAC expels student-journalists from meeting

6/6/2013 update: AAD for finance Eric Roedl’s secret athletic slides, with redactions, here. Oregon Commentator Nick Ekblad got them via a public records request, after the IAC voted to kick him out of their meeting on budgets and athletic subsidies. More below. Why in the world would the blacked out part be exempt from disclosure? No reason, most of the redacted numbers were simple 4% growth projections with a few blips to pay off their operating debt to the Foundation, and Kilkenny’s PK park balloon loan. Net income is always zero, because the AD spends any surplus on increasing their own salaries. Roedl’s just went from $170K to $190K.

5/28/2013: From UO student-journalist Nick Ekblad, of The Oregon Commentator:

Last Wednesday, the UO Senate’s Intercollegiate Athletics Committee (IAC) held a meeting at which AAD for Finance Eric Roedl was scheduled to give the IAC information about the athletic department’s budget and some projections about the next 6 years.
The UO Senate voted last week to require the Athletic Department to start paying back some of its subsidies, like that of the Matthew Knight Arena property, so this meeting had attracted myself from the Oregon Commentator, and two Daily Emerald reporters.
Right away there was tension in the air. This was the last IAC meeting of the school year and the AD still hadn’t released minutes from the previous meeting. Glen Waddell was met with an awkward silence when he asked about the delay in preparing the minutes.

“I’ve been really busy and haven’t gotten around to it,” the stenographer said.

Bill Harbaugh then asked IAC co-chair Andy Karduna if he had followed up on the request to the AD for the syllabus for the College of Education FHS 110 class that the athletics department requires all new players to take.
Karduna replied that he hadn’t, and had no plans to ever do so.
I had been under the impression that the IAC meeting was open to the public, as it was – until AAD Roedl realized that the media was present. And so began the discussion of whether or not to allow the media to stay during the presentation of revenue projections.
Some members of the IAC referred to the projections as “confidential… sensitive information”. When asked why projections would be “sensitive information”, those believing it to be sensitive did not want to discuss specifics because the reporters were still in the room.
Maybe the UO has patents pending on “long-term strategy and business plan” and Roedl doesn’t want competing universities to know the secret. I pointed out that “the information shouldn’t be sensitive as long as they are presented as ‘projections’ and not ‘promises’.”
Harbaugh backed me up, asking, “without going into specifics, why would projections be sensitive?”
“We’re dealing with projected ticket sales. This is sensitive information that should be kept confidential,” Roedl said.
Harbaugh then pointed out that that all five appointed student representatives were missing from the meeting, and argued that we student-reporters had a right to attend the meeting as we are indeed students and could tell the rest of the students where their money is going. Glen Waddell backed him up.
But the rest of the IAC was hostile. Someone was concerned that, with the media present, “the Athletic Department is not going to speak honestly.” That is a direct quote. After a moment, she corrected herself, saying, “I mean they might not speak fully”. Craig Pintens, the AD director of communication, kept his head low, buried in his iPad throughout the entire discussion.
There was then a debate regarding whether or not the meeting was technically public. Apparently this came up last year as well, the result being the IAC deciding that it was not a governing body and not subject to Public Meetings Law.
Harbaugh made a motion to allow the media to stay for the entirety of the meeting anyway, and Glen Waddell seconded it. However, most of the members of the committee present either voted “No” or abstained, keeping their heads down in shame. Members present included Karduna (Human Phys), Rob Illig (Law), David Koranda (Journalism), Donna Laue (English), Kurt Krueger (Printing), Dev Sinha (Math), and Jim O’Fallon (Law).
The Daily Emerald reporters and I begrudgingly left the meeting, but we were invited back at the very end. There were only a few slides left of the presentation and I learned that the Athletics Department’s total expenditure last year was $93.9 million. 34% of that went into Operations, 35% into Salaries and Benefits, 20% into Debt and 11% into Scholarships – athletic scholarships.
Student money has essentially been stolen but the majority of the IAC doesn’t think that students should be informed of specifics. In addition to the Matt Knight subsidization having been forced on ordinary students, $2 million of students’ money is spent per year in the Jaqua Center on personal tutors for student-athletes. 
Because the IAC kicked out student-reporters, it is obvious that the Athletic Department is afraid that students will not be blindly faithful to their Ducks, knowing that we pay to have their grades raised to a passing level.
 – Nick Ekblad

UO Matters:

Having been present for most of the financial presentation, I can say that I didn’t hear anything remotely confidential from Mr. Roedl. If The President’s Council of Economic Advisors can make their revenue and spending projections public why can’t the Ducks? The Daily Emerald has now filed a public records request for Roedl’s powerpoint, so I guess we’ll know after a few months of the usual delays – unless Dave Hubin charges another exorbitant fee.

Some good UO student reporting

4/30/2013: Recently in the ODE,

Sami Edge on Sharon Rudnick’s exuberant legal billings:

According to a billing statement revealed last Thursday on the UO Matters blog, the university has paid more than $300,000 to the Harrang Long Gary Rudnick P.C. law firm in legal fees over the last year. Sharon Rudnick, partner in the firm and attorney leading the University team in bargaining negotiations, claims that a total of $266,245.50, has been billed as a direct result of her employment. …

According to Rudnick, the University funds that pay her bills are pulled directly from an administrative fund contributed to by general revenue from a variety of university departments…. 

As Union negotiations are expected to continue, with meetings scheduled through the end of this term at the very least, the question remains as to how much more money the University will spend on legal representation against its own faculty, an issue especially poignant in light of statistical evidence that UO educators are among the lowest paid as compared to their peers.

… [Rudnick said:] “These negotiations…will lay the foundation for an ongoing relationship between the university and the faculty.”

President Gottfredson, please don’t let this be the foundation of your relationship with the UO faculty. Fire Randy Geller and Sharon Rudnick and start with a clean slate.

Sami Edge on the UO AD’s refusal to implement multi-year scholarships for athletes, with quotes from Jim O’Fallon, Nathan Tublitz and a volleyball player:

According to O’Fallon, the decision about whether or not to grant multiyear athletic scholarships ultimately rests with individual coaches; however, he doesn’t believe the UO is likely to adjust their current practices unless forced into change by recruitment practices. 

“It will affect us a lot if schools start using the multiyear scholarship as a device for recruiting activity,” he said. “We’re likely to see schools that are a little bit farther down on the pecking order try to make up by offering longer scholarships to the most marketable recruits.”

Not clear if the student she interviewed got approval from AD spokesperson Andy McNamara before talking – a Duck policy that Diane Dietz discovered last year when the random drug testing program was being debated and the players wouldn’t go on the record.

Samantha Matsumoto on increases in student fees for the new EMU etc:

Normally, the expected costs letter accurately estimates what students will pay over their time at UO, according to Vice President of  Student Affairs Robin Holmes. While fees generally increase between 3 and 5 percent per year, the increases are usually not significant over the four to five years a student is enrolled at the university.  

But total fees will rise significantly over the next two years because of the addition of two new fees to cover the costs of the Student Recreation Center and EMU remodels at $38 and $67 per term, respectively.  

“We’re in an anomaly period for students because these building fees are coming on as new,” Holmes said. “Four years from now, the students coming in are going to know the cost is x amount because the fees would have already been rolled out. But the next two years are a little bit of an anomaly because we have new fees coming in.”

And Hannah Taylor on professors with biases. (Ryan Knutson had a piece back in 2008 comparing UO faculty contributions to McCain and Obama. Last time I checked 33 of ~650 UO faculty were registered Republicans.)

UO fails public records audit, President in denial

The Daily Emerald reports their audit of UO public records requests finds significant problems with the UO General Counsel’s compliance with the law. But the president is denying anything is wrong:

“If there were a persistent violator or you had the door slammed in your face, that would indicate training would be needed,” he said. “Again, based on a scan, you haven’t persuaded me that the University is seriously deficient in something that indicates a systematic or even a careless inattention to the law.”

The UO president goes on to blame any lack of transparency at UO on Islamic terrorism:

“There are lots of things that in post 9-11, pre-9-11 would have seemed very innocuous, but people are in a very different frame of mind,” he said. “Granted some of that may even seem to approach paranoia, but it’s not unreasonable in terms of how some people have been urged to react in terms of those kinds of issues.”

Wait, sorry, that story is from 2005, and it’s about Grier. The quotes are from Frohnmayer, link here. This was five years before the $2.3 million Bellotti meltdown and the Grier firing, and was rather prescient.

Now that Frohnmayer’s longtime assistant Dave Hubin is in charge of UO public records, and Osama Bin Laden is dead, I’m sure everything is fine with UO transparency.

But maybe the Emerald should try making some public records requests, just to make sure? You could start with the Robin Holmes / EMU election manipulation emails – whoops, someone beat you to it. 10/31/2012.