"Around the O" spam costs ~$107,000. Gottfredson’s calendar costs $103.

I sort of like UO’s official “Around the O” blog. Lots of endearing pictures of our UO administrators, and the occasional informative post about campus events. But I hear complaints about the weekly spam they send to everyone, offering coffee cups and iPads for answering trivia questions. So a couple of weeks ago I asked the blogger, Joe Mosley, for an estimate of the costs. Joe was happy to answer. But his boss, AVP for Strategic Communications Phil Weiler, wanted to make life a little harder for me. So he made me file a public records request. Today I got the reply:

Below, please find the information responsive to your request for “Personnel time spent on the Around the O blog, by person, for the last 3 months” and “$ spent on swag, itemized by item (don’t need to know who got it, just a list like 2 ipads @ 499, etc.)”, made on 1/31/2013.
In response to “Personnel time spent on the Around the O blog, by person, for the last 3 months”:
The university does not possess documents detailing the amount of time an employee spends on AroundtheO, however, the department has offered the following information in response to your request:
  • Joe Mosley  – approximately 50 percent of work time spent on AroundtheO
  • Matt Cooper  – approximately 30 percent of work time spent on AroundtheO
  • Aria Seligmann  –  approximately 25 percent of work time spent on AroundtheO
In response to “$ spent on swag, itemized by item (don’t need to know who got it, just a list like 2 ipads @ 499, etc.)”:
  • Stainless steel travel mugs (100) – $735
  • Three $100 Duck Store gift cards ($250 donated by Duck Store, as co-sponsor of scavenger hunt contest) – $50
  • Two iPads as scavenger hunt prizes – $998
Assuming swag will continue at the current rate, this works out to about $7,000 a year plus $100,000 or so for salaries and OPE.Johnson Hall is happy to spend this kind of money on keeping its employees informed about what JH thinks they should be informed about. But try and get some real info – like President Gottfredson’s official calendar – and they will make you pay $103 and wait a month. Or maybe longer. I asked for that on Jan 8, and I am still getting the run around from Dave Hubin. 2/8/2013.

Duck drug testing begins, without Senate approval

9/6/2012: In trying to defend random drug testing UO spokesperson Phil Weiler comes close to slandering UO’s acrobatics and tumbling team, formerly known as Competitive Cheer. Diane Dietz of the RG has the story here:

In acrobatics, Weiler said, “there are bodies that are literally flying through the air. The chance of injury if an athlete wasn’t caught properly or supported properly is pretty high. You want to make sure people are not under the influence.”

And there was some probable cause or reasonable suspicion about the team that led him to make this statement about UO students to a reporter? Or is it just public relations bullshit to take the heat off the football team’s Purple Kush problem?

President Gottfredson went ahead with this drug testing policy change without going through the Senate Executive Committee as Lariviere’s agreements with the faculty require. Perhaps Randy Geller convinced him that Duck athletics has nothing to do with UO academics, and therefore the policy didn’t need Senate review? It looks like Randy Geller needs to know more, and learn about saliva drug tests and the legality of conducting said tests.

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

The mild-mannered email from the UO Senate President and the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee Chair that set off Geller is here. He has a history of using this sort of intimidation. President Gottfredson made him apologize to the former AG for similar language, but apparently it’s OK to threaten the faculty – particularly when it works.

Student money pays for athletic fundraising

11/16/2011: The UO students are starting to ask some serious questions about athletic department finances. For example, why does the athletic department get $375,000 from the academic side for the “President’s Box” at Autzen?

(Update: I’ve revised this post after UO spokesperson Phil Weiler told KEZI the Autzen money comes from the UO Foundation pot, not from tuition. So it’s technically possible some donor said “use my gift to pay for the skybox and not for scholarships, etc.” but it’s much more likely this is general gift money, which the president’s office then funnels to athletics. We’ve asked to see the the gift letter.)

(Second update: it turns out Phil Weiler was not telling the truth. All the $375,000 comes directly from the academic side, not from the Foundation. Weiler has seen the documents, he has acknowledged to me that he was wrong, but he has refused to correct his statement to the reporter.)

The real reason is simple. Athletics gets that money because Dave Frohnmayer put his signature to this secret deal, two weeks before he stepped down as UO President, after AD Pat Kilkenny had contributed some serious money to Frohnmayer’s Fanconi Foundation.

But I’ll go out on a limb and guess our latest AD, Rob Mullens, is going to put a slightly different spin on this. Soon he will be claiming those ungrateful students should be glad athletics gets this money, because the boosters in the box with Lariviere are big donors to the academic side.

That’s a nice story – but it’s not what the data show. Last winter Stefan Verbano of the ODE had a great interview with former UO Business School Dean and current Warsaw Sports Marketing Prof Dennis Howard on the link between athletic contributions and the real University of Oregon:

“It’s called a donation or a contribution … when, in fact, as we have discovered in our research … it’s a transaction,” Howard said. “It has nothing to do with giving back to the University or a philanthropic motive. It is purely and simply a commercial transaction in which the individual in paying for tangible benefits: better seat location, access to the Autzen Club amenities. All of those things are driving those transactions.” 

As you can see from the photo, Howard is not exactly your anti-establishment, bearded longhair professor type. But his paper, which uses data from UO donors, is brutal:

“Both alumni and non-alumni show an increasing preference toward directing their gifts to the intercollegiate athletics department-at the expense of the donations to academic programs. Sperber’s (2000) assertion that giving to athletics undermines academic giving is strongly supported.”

And here’s an update of the UO data on giving to the academic and athletic sides, showing that most of the growth in giving to UO over the past 11 years has indeed been to the athletic side – and this excludes most if not all of the Knight donations, which have all been to athletics since the WRC fiasco.

And the UO Foundation has just announced a $1.4 million cut in the amount it provides for academic scholarships – while payments for athletics scholarships are up yet again.