Chronicle follows up with Mike Schill on “Academic Reputation at Risk”

5/1/2016: Text and video here: This is a brief follow up to Stripling’s “An Academic Reputation at Risk” report on UO, from September. That story is still gated if you are off campus, but here are some extracts below.

The re-interview touches on realignment and fundraising, and there’s a surprising amount on Schill’s decision to dump our 160over90 branders. Apparently UO’s academic side, and Schill, are still getting good publicity from our new “No branding crap”  brand. Thank you Diane Dietz!

Which prompted me to look at UO’s home page for the first time in months. Some of the 160over90 damage has been reversed – I didn’t see any mention of  What the If? or whatever it was – but it’s still hard to navigate. Which explains why the UO Matters “Crap-Free UO homepage” (TM) is still so popular.

9/14/2015: Chronicle’s Jack Stripling profiles UO and President Schill

Long article, well worth reading it all. Posted today, here: (Gated if you are off campus).

An Academic Reputation at Risk: The U. of Oregon’s big brand masks its fragile standing

An Academic Reputation at Risk 5

The duck is always up in everybody’s face. He shoves. He body-slams. He demands to be noticed.

The University of Oregon’s mascot, a Donald Duck knockoff in yellow and green, is a pure distillation of the university’s iconic brand. This is a place, the duck assures us, of unapologetically splashy sports and irrepressible good times. The image sells remarkably well to undergraduates, whose numbers have increased by 25 percent in the past decade alone.

… On a recent summer afternoon here, an admissions official asked a group of prospective students and their parents what they had already heard about the university.

Toward the back row, a young man said, “Big football team.” “Nike,” another chimed in, citing the university’s longstanding affiliation with the company’s co-founder, Phil Knight. “Track,” another said.

That’s to be expected, given how we recruit these students – UO’s administrators use football bowl games as undergraduate admissions events, so they can get the university to pay for their own junkets, family included.

Of course, there are other ways to attract students. Here’s the report from UC-Boulder admissions, where they emphasized academic rigor, instead of big-time sports (they’re currently #78 in the football rankings). Seems to be working:

A total of 3,083 Colorado residents enrolled as new freshmen in the fall class, as well as 2,786 from out of state and a record 386 freshman international students, a 41 percent increase from last year. …

“Our efforts in recent years to improve the academic rigor at CU-Boulder are paying off with the most academically qualified class we’ve ever seen,” said CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano. “Our Esteemed Scholar program, and our other scholarship and academic programs, continue to attract Colorado’s best and brightest to CU-Boulder, along with outstanding students from around the nation and the world.”

This year’s freshman class includes a total of 898 Colorado freshmen who were awarded Esteemed Scholarships, based on high school grades and SAT/ACT scores, up from 789 last year.  For out-of-state students, 425 were awarded the Chancellor’s Achievement Scholarships, 77 more than in 2013, and 102 were awarded Presidential Scholarships, up 18 from last year.

Stripling’s story continues with some information on the tensions that UO’s emphasis on big-time athletics at the expense of academics have created between the faculty and the administration, and President Schill’s plans to deal with them.

In Mr. Schill’s view, the university needs to break down barriers between professors and administrators. On the symbolic front, he has invited faculty members into his home, and asked them to stock his office library with their books. He has portrayed himself as a faculty member first, insisting that the title of “professor” appear alongside “president” on his business cards.

More substantively, Mr. Schill has signed off on a new contract with the faculty union, and he has agreed to settle a contentious lawsuit with the Oregon student who accused three basketball players of raping her.

“We need to end the circular firing squad,” Mr. Schill says, “and I think we’ve started that.”

If Oregon can avoid turning on itself, Mr. Schill says, the university can reverse the trends that have held it back.

Every promise Mr. Schill has made hinges on the success of a $2-billion capital campaign. The money will be used in part to hire 80 to 100 new tenured or tenure-track professors over the next four to five years.

… “I don’t want to sound too egotistic or narcissistic, but what was missing here was leadership,” says Mr. Schill, who is 56. “The last piece of the puzzle wasn’t here yet, which was a president who was going to stay and build a great university. I’d like to think I’m the person. History will look back and say whether I was.”

10/15/2015: Jefferson Public Radio interviews Jack Stripling Continue reading

University drops FBS football to focus on academic programs, research

InsidehigherEd has the story here:

This is not a trivial decision, but it’s the right decision,” Chuck Staben, the University of Idaho’s president, said in an interview Wednesday.

“What attracts students to our institution is the quality of academic programs, the great outcomes and the preparation for life after college. It’s a great research institution. Football and athletics just complements that. We’re choosing to ensure that students can compete on the field and get a great education.” …

In Rare Company

In 1939, the University of Chicago abolished its football program and, a few years later, withdrew from the Big Ten Conference, a league it co-founded.

Chicago was home to the first recipient of the Heisman Trophy, multiple Big Ten championships and 11 future Hall of Famers. But Robert Hutchins, the university’s president, wanted the university to be known for its academics, not its athletics, and cut the program. The football team returned in 1969, but as a member of Division III.

The decision forever made Chicago the model of institutions that have gotten by just fine without big-time sports. Staben, while explaining Idaho’s decision in an interview this week, referenced Chicago as “the classic example” of an institution successfully leaving top-tier college sports behind. Chicago remains the example, in part, because so few others have followed suit.

Meanwhile here at UO, big-time football is a huge moneymaker, with TV revenue increasing at about 6% per year. But none of the profits support the university’s core academic mission. The athletic department keeps it all plus whatever they can skim off the academic budget, and they spend it on coach’s salaries and subsidies for their many money losing sports.

Meanwhile Duck football has failed to bring in the new undergraduates that boosters such as Pat Kilkenny, Dave Frohnmayer, Rob Mullens, Brad Shelton, and VP for Enrollment Roger Thompson have promised:

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Mike Bellotti’s winning 2001 season was followed by a small enrollment increase, and his mediocre 2002 season by a decrease. But the large increases from 2004 to 2008 occurred during a string of mixed football seasons, with the 2008 peak coming after a decent but not spectacular finish at #24 in the coaches poll. New freshmen enrollment dropped in Fall 2010, after Chip Kelly’s #11 2009 season, and it has been essentially flat ever since, despite football finishes ranging from #9 to #2, and UO’s need for new students to make up for the decline in the number of credits students have been taking.

This lack of correlation at UO is matched by the experiences of other schools. The latest research shows that football wins are, at best, an expensive way to get slight increases in applications from mid SAT range male students. Not every parent wants to spend $45K a year sending their child to a football-factory party school.

University DBAGs money-losing baseball and golf programs

The first response of the University of North Dakota administration to the need for budget realignment was to cut sports, not academics. Story here. The faculty had just demanded more transparency about sports subsidies, here.

Cutting these mens sports at UO would save about $4M a year, depending on how you apportion the Ducks unallocated expenses.

De-Budget Advisory Group (DBAG) needs your help on what to de-fund

A few years back VPFA Jamie Moffitt set up a “Budget Advisory Group” (BAG) to help her sort through the proposals for millions in dollars of urgently needed new funding – stuff like giving the library enough money to keep its book-buying budget from shrinking, upgrade the wifi, retention money for faculty, and so on. The BAG advises Moffitt on how to spend $1M or so – though of course JH gets the final call.

I think it was in 2013 that the BAG allocated $500K, plus $150K recurring, on a computer system to interface the newly armed UOPD with the EPD. I was on the BAG this year, I think all the money ended up going to wifi and IT consultants, except maybe a token amount to the libraries. Chump change when VPFA Moffitt is giving $10M to bail out Dean Moffitt’s law school.

Obviously the BAG needs more money to work with. Therefore I’m following up on today’s Senate Realignment Town Hall with a proposal for a De-Budget Advisory Group (DBAG) composed of faculty, OA’s, staff, and students. Its charge will be to search for things that UO really should stop spending money on. Membership will determined by the waste and irrelevance to UO’s core academic mission of the expenditures that self-nominees identify for de-funding.

The DBAG concept has already been enthusiastically endorsed by at least one senior UO administrator – but it’s up to all of us to make it work. Your suggestions are welcome in the comments.

4/26/2016: Senate Town Hall on Realignment, Wed at 3:30 in Straub 156:

University Senate Town Hall meeting

The University Senate will be hosting a Town Hall meeting to discuss the impact of the resource realignment process on academic units. All members of the university community are welcome to attend.

April 27, 2016 in Straub 156 from 3:30 P.M. to 5:30 P.M.

The forum will address the principles, goals, processes, and results of the realignment thus far—with an eye to our institutional future.

If you are unable to attend in person, you can access the live-stream here: Watch Live

Can hard data support the case for soft humanities?

Inside Higher Ed raises the question and provides some sources, here. My comparative advantage isn’t in reading, so any comments on the research cited below, or links to other research, would be appreciated. (I’ve stripped out most the superfluous verbiage and links to wordy sounding opinion pieces in this excerpt from article without using ellipses):

A friend who teaches classics at a fine liberal arts college told me that she had met the president of the institution walking across campus. He greeted her, and they chatted for a few seconds. Then the president asked, “How can we justify putting resources into Ancient Greek 101 where the enrollment is eight, while the enrollment in Economics 101 is 189?” My friend reported she had become flustered because she was unprepared for that question. She told me she believed that we needed to be doing a better job of making the case for the classics, the humanities and liberal education in general.

Wait a minute, I thought. That’s his job, or ought to be. Her job is to advance and transmit knowledge in a core humanistic discipline. What’s his game? Intimidation? Making himself look good because, in fact, he was not about to let the teaching of ancient Greek end on his watch after more than two centuries on that campus? Or was he genuinely asking for help?

Many important studies and some eloquent advocacy for the humanities have appeared in recent years: a report by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University’s 2013 report “Mapping the Future: The Teaching of the Arts and Humanities at Harvard College,” and “Securing America’s Future: The Power of Liberal Arts Education” from the Council of Independent Colleges, to name just a few. Douglas MacLean, a professor in the philosophy department at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, got thinking about that after Marco Rubio made his famous pronouncement, “Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less (sic) philosophers.” Answering that claim led to collecting data, as MacLean explained in a Time magazine article, some of which was posted on the department’s webpage. MacLean notes, “Studies have shown philosophy majors have outperformed nearly every other major on the law school aptitude test, the GREs and the GMAT, the admission test for business schools. (They also outearn welders.)”

Most important, however, is a carefully structured dialogue among parents themselves. Make sure they have before them the 2014 Purdue-Gallup Index report, a study of more than 30,000 college graduates, showing what aspects of education make a positive difference in the workplace and the community. That report should move the conversation from nervous chatter about debt loads and return on investment to an exploration of what parents really want for their kids and what can best build satisfaction over the long run.

In-state and low-income status of UO undergrads by College and division

I don’t know who is responsible, but UO’s IR department continues to post interesting data. Thank you! Their website at currently features some numbers relevant to President Schill’s realignment efforts, which the Senate will take up during its April 27th Town Hall meeting, 3PM in Straub. Check out their page, the extracts below show the changes in the composition of UO students by College and division from 2005 to the present. I’ve focused on undergraduates and on comparing CAS Humanities to UO as a whole and I’ve added Business at the bottom, since it provides the most dramatic contrast.

In a nutshell, relative to the rest of UO, undergrads in CAS Humanities are now far more likely to be in-state, Pell eligible (low income) and racially and ethnically diverse – if you’re into slicing and dicing students that way. Please let me know in the comments if you see other things in the IR data that deserve attention.

All UO undergrads: The percentage of in-state undergrads has dropped from about 75% to 55%. The percentage Pell eligible has been roughly constant, now at 24%:

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Note the change in the color scheme below: Blue is now undergrads, Orange grad students.

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CAS Humanities: Overall enrollments are down, but the percentage of in-state students has held fairly constant now at about 75%, and the percent Pell eligible has increased to from 25% to 33%:

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Note the change in the color scheme below: Blue is now undergrads, Orange grad students.

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Business: Overall enrollments are up, the percentage of in-state students has fallen from 75% to 40%, and the percent Pell eligible has been mostly flat, now about 15%:

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Note the change in the color scheme below: Blue is now undergrads, Orange grad students.

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Berkeley faculty demand transparency, input on realignment

And they may get it. In the Daily Californian, here:

The Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate held a special meeting Tuesday on the campus’s financial deficit and the faculty’s role in progress with academic restructuring.

… The administration came under fire in February for considering the dissolution of the College of Chemistry — a plan that has since been abandoned — as a potential strategic initiative to remedy the campus’s growing deficit. Dirks also sent a memo to campus employees Wednesday announcing that administrative restructuring may lead to cutting staff by 500 positions.

At Wednesday’s meeting, however, Dirks brought up his proposal of a faculty-led working group that would produce reports by January regarding the future of the campus’s academic structure.

In the nearly two-hour open comment period, about 25 faculty members spoke, many of whom criticized the administration’s lack of transparency in the academic realignment process. Many said they were frustrated that their input, as faculty, had not previously been considered in the process.

“Why are these things secret in a place that has the motto ‘Fiat Lux’?” said Louise Fortmann, a campus professor of environmental science, policy and management,  at the meeting.

Campus ESPM professor Carolyn Merchant, an organizer of the petition, called for a “revolution in cost reduction” through reducing not only administrative pay but positions, among other methods. She also called on the administration to “recreate itself as a lean, efficient, moral entity devoted to the public trust.”

President Schill on Johnson Hall’s “gang that can’t shoot straight”

Diane Dietz’s report on Schill’s campus conversation is here.

Some extracts, carefully selected to support my spin:

“The fact is, we have not carefully watched our central budget over the years. We should have done that. Resources shrank and we weren’t watching. We have been digging a hole for many years, and if we don’t act now, the hole will get bigger and the decisions we have to make will be more painful.”

VPBP Brad Shelton and VPFA Jamie Moffitt have been in charge of UO’s central budget for years, along with Scott Coltrane off and on. They still are – but for how much longer?

“What university in one year is really turning over all its senior leadership? We’re going to be doing that. We’re going to get great deans into their positions and a vice president for research. We’ve already changed a lot of my office. Instead of the gang that can’t shoot straight, we’re going to be the gang that really can transform a university.”

These aren’t the only optimistic quotes in Dietz’s story. Read it all. Here’s one on athletics:

“Instead of demonizing athletics and saying, ‘you know, athletics are getting all of the resources,’ and being envious of athletics, we actually want to model ourselves on athletics in that a wonderful investment of resources and careful, strong execution can lead to excellence.

One UO M commenter has some followup questions on that:

What does he mean by we should model ourselves after pursing the efficiency of the athletics department model?

Does he mean that we need to get tentpole programs that attract nation attention and donations, and that we will use revenues from those programs (football) to subsidize everything else?

Or does he mean that we need to find slave labor, that churns in and out of the university and is quickly forgotten, that will work in essence for free while we pay high salaries to a few people who supervise the work of the slave labor?

Actually, the preferred nomenclature for the NCAA’s labor model is “unpaid student internships, but with brain damage” although there is no denying the racial element in a scheme that is run for the amusement of rich white boosters, nets millions for the overwhelmingly white coaches and athletic directors, gives the mostly white and privileged “student-athletes” in the safe non-revenue sports full-ride scholarships and free travel and coaching, while the mostly black football players take the hits. The general rule of big-time college sports is that “no black man shall make money off college football”

UO’s Official Organ has their spin on the meeting here. It’s by Greg Bolt, so it’s much more accurate than the usual Tobin Klinger PR flack piece.

Liveblog of Pres Schill’s 4/12/2016 campus  conversation on realignment. 

President Schill’s conversation will followed by a Senate organized Town Hall on realignment, currently scheduled for 3:30PM Wednesday April 27 in the new ginormous Straub Hall classroom.

(The livestreaming link is now down, I’ll post the archived video when it’s ready).

Here’s a little live-blogging. Usual disclaimer, nothing is a quote unless in quotes.

I got here a little late, Pres Schill was addressing the need to make budget realignment now, not later. Makes sense, we’ve seen what happened in CAS when Coltrane let things slide.

Talks about the importance of on-time graduation and new initiatives to increase this via better advising and retention grants. (Interestingly it turns out these are not UO ideas, they are mandates from the state, which has also provided all the publics with funding to implement them.)

Refreshingly honest about UO’s failure in fumbling the basketball rape allegations, and his resolve to set up procedures that will encourage students to report sexual assaults and build confidence that UO will handle them well.

Shout out to the UO Board: obviously I think they are good, they hired me.

Thinks we should stop demonizing athletics and being jealous, and instead use them as a model for how to use money to buy excellence. (Great  – when are faculty going to get the same bonuses the coaches get for graduation rates?)

Claims that UO has become more transparent. (Certainly he’s far more open than recent past presidents and interims, but the Public Records Office has, if anything, become a blacker black hole – more on this in a future post. The VPFA has become more transparent because of the need to report to the board, but the VPBP and the latest budget reform process is not very open.)


Classified employee: Specific complaint about income inequality in the athletics department and the many contingent staff there. How can you call this inequity a good model for UO?

Schill: Don’t know what the term equitable means (me neither). Athletics uses their budget well, tremendous focus, spirit, commitment to excellence.

Faculty: What specific programs to increase undergraduate engagement in research?

Schill: We have two new funded programs. Josh Snodgrass in CAS and another in VPRI.

NTTF faculty – Director of Composition: I appreciate your candor. We run a large award winning program serving thousands of students, with initiatives to help international students, etc. I support your efforts to increase the number of TTF. But where are we, the excellent NTTF, in your vision for UO?

Schill: In a healthy university many educational decisions are made by the Deans. I shouldn’t be making decisions about whether or not we should spend money on more econ profs or on the composition programs. This realignment process will empower the deans – with constraints regarding overall goals of more grad students and TTFs. Regarding the Q of where NTTF’s fit in, under previous presidents and provosts UO increased NTTF numbers without thinking about where they fit in. But we will never be in a situation where we do not value or use NTTFs. But the priority is to increase the numbers of TTFs. Shout-out to UAUO: We’ve established much more job security here than at other universities. (Boy has he learned a lot in the past 6 months!)

Student: Lots of recent conversation on race, but not much focus on how tuition increases effect graduation rates of minorities who are disproportionately affected?

Schill: Do you have an alternative? Student: Cut spending. Schill: We are cutting spending. You just heard an NTTF worrying about that. Student: Cut research, athletics. Schill: You’re being honest with me, I’ll be honest with you. The answer is not as simple as “just cut spending”. Look to the state legislature to increase their support. (Again, what a difference from when he arrived, and thought the boosters would provide money for academics.) We have the Pathway Oregon program for low income students, fully funds 10% of our students – 20% of our in-state students. The state just cut funding for this, UO is making up with internal funding and philanthropy. (Yeah Connie Ballmer!)

Psaki: We all agree with the lofty goals you have articulated. UO has run for a long time on a skeleton crew when it comes to teaching and research. Possible because of a shared commitment and solidarity – an excellent way of getting extra work from people. But we were struck by the way the CAS cuts were done. I know you don’t want to get into the weeds, but that’s were the devil is. The process was demoralizing – perhaps the most yucky experience I’ve gone through in 20 years here. This kind of instability hurt or ability to work for our common goals.

Schill: I am responsible for what happens at UO. You are not quite being fair to Dean Andrew Marcus and his process for managing the cuts. Marcus restructured the cuts in response to some of the concerns you raised. Any university that is not constantly rethinking how to reallocate resources so as to equate the marginal cost and marginal value product. I can’t tell you that we will not go through this again. I hope and pray that the legislature will provide more funds – we’ve requested $100M more for the next biennium. (I think it’s good to hear that Schill is expressing his willingness to work with the legislature, despite the UO Board’s efforts to hold it at arm’s length.)

Gina: I just sound sarcastic because I’m Greek. Schill: And I just sound whiny because I’m, well you know. Gina: An Attorney? (Both laugh.)

Gina: We need to fix Shelton’s Budget Model.

Schill: Yes. We are going to make the budget model about promoting academic excellence, not about rewarding Doug Blandy for online AAD 250 courses that pass out A’s like candy and suck students away from CAS Humanities. (OK, he didn’t really say that last bit, but plenty of people are thinking it.)

Meeting ends. My quick take is that Schill dealt very well with some serious questions, and that the faculty left the meeting with a sense that he’s quickly learning about UO’s problems and strengths and that there is broad support for him and his goals – and worry about how they wil be implemented.

Continue reading

President Schill to hold Campus Conversation on UO realignment

April 12, 3PM in the Paul Olum Atrium in Willamette Hall. From Around the O:

UO President Michael Schill is inviting the University of Oregon community to participate in a campus conversation focused on the university’s strategic objectives and priorities. The event is scheduled for Tuesday, April 12, at 3 p.m. in the Paul Olum Atrium in Willamette Hall.

Schill will talk about the priorities and strategies needed to help the UO secure its place among the pre-eminent public research universities in the United States. His presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

Continue reading

UO gives $40K bonus to professor despite half-empty lectures & $3M deficit

3/5/2016: Just kidding, UO is laying off the faculty who find themselves in this situation. The bonus is for basketball coach Dana Altman, after his unpaid student-athletes came in first in the PAC-12 season. He’ll get another $110K if they win the PAC-12 tournament for him, etc.

Meanwhile he can barely fill half of Knight Arena, and he’s losing about $3M a year. More on Altman’s falling ticket revenue and bloated cost structure here.

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3/5/2016: Despite fire-sale ticket prices, Duck fans still avoid Dana Altman’s basketball

Steve Mims has the data in the RG, here:

Oregon lowered ticket prices by more 34 percent this year, including a $500 reduction in the lower half of the 100 level, and added single-game tickets for $10. Oregon also provided free shuttles to games and offered season parking passes for $50 to $100.

Oregon is averaging 6,770 fans this season, which is up from 6,209 last year. The difference is even wider in conference games, with an average of 8,098 following 7,131 last season. (But for today’s Utah conference game announced attendance is only 6,807.)

A 34% cut in the price, and, using the midpoint method, an increase in the Qd of (6770-6209)/((1/2)(6770+6209)) = 8.6%. So the elasticity of demand is about 0.25. And you don’t have to have passed microeconomic principles to understand that this price cut is going to reduce ticket revenue below last year’s dismal $2.6M. And rumor has it that AAD Eric Roedl has realized he can’t squeeze ASUO any more either.

President Schill: Aligning our resources to achieve academic excellence

Sent out this morning. It’s not your generic “welcome back from break” letter. President Schill and Provost Coltrane will be at the Senate meeting on Wed, Jan 13th, to discuss this in more detail and answer questions.

Dear Campus Community,

Since I assumed the presidency of the university last July, I have met with countless members of our community. Whether those meetings were with faculty, students, staff, or alumni, there was virtual unanimity with respect to one proposition: our top priority needs to be academic and research excellence. With this message, I invite you to join me in what I hope will be a transformational process of aligning our resources and our efforts to achieve our aspirations as a preeminent public research institution.

The University of Oregon, as the flagship research university in the state, is committed to furthering knowledge through teaching and research. We are the school with international reputations in molecular biology, neuroscience, green chemistry, special education and other programs. We are the school whose faculty achieves path-breaking research in such varied fields as prevention science, comparative literature, geography, environmentalism and ecology, and evolution.

Today, our university’s research profile is not as strong as it should be. While there are many programs and pockets of excellence throughout the university, the overall landscape is very uneven. As the last National Research Council ranking shows, we have relatively few departments that are listed among the best. The productivity of some of our faculties lag their peers and our program of graduate education is impoverished in its numbers of students. We must do better, and we will do better.

The root causes of our current situation are many. Certainly, part of the problem lies with resource constraints. From 2001 to 2015, the percentage of the UO’s budget funded by the state of Oregon dropped by more than 50 percent. As the institution became more tuition dependent, we increased our undergraduate enrollment and increasingly relied upon non-research faculty to do more of the teaching. Today, our faculty is out of balance; only 47 percent are on the tenure track, 11 percentage points less than our AAU and public research institution peers. Additionally a lack of tight budget controls and monitoring systems created a situation where course loads for tenure-track faculty in some departments fell significantly below the stated institutional standards. We need to rebalance our faculty.

We are experiencing a number of other significant cost drivers, many of which are critical to improving our university. Labor costs, which account for more than 80 percent of our expenditures, have increased significantly in recent years in our effort to bring salaries in line with our peers and through collective bargaining. The serious problem of campus sexual violence has required significant investments in our Title IX staff and programing. To improve student success and completion we are hiring additional advisors. Federal mandates have required us to hire more compliance administrators. And the state’s lack of appropriately mandated pension contributions in the past will require us to substantially increase the proportion of our budget that goes to PERS beginning in FY18.

In the face of these budget constraints and pressures, our current academic budget model—which depends primarily upon student credit hours—does not provide departments with stable sources of revenue to plan year to year, much less for the long run. Some schools and colleges have gone from surplus to deficit in a matter of a few years as students’ curricular preferences have shifted and workforce demands have changed. Furthermore, our culture of decentralization has further weakened our ability to achieve administrative coordination and economies of scale.

The financial stresses on the university have undermined our mission. It is now time to change the status quo. I have already announced my intention to invest in our academic future by increasing our number of research-active, tenure-track faculty by 80 to 100 over the next five years. We will also need to build the research infrastructure necessary to allow us to produce more knowledge, make more of an impact, and rise in national preeminence. This, in turn, will allow us to attract and retain world-class faculty throughout the university. This cycle of excellence is key to our success.

How will we pay for the investments necessary to reach these goals? While we will continue to work hard to persuade our legislators to increase our state support, I do not expect that the taxpayers of Oregon will ever be able or willing to provide us with enough resources to allow us to accomplish our mission. We will work hard with our alumni and supporters, as part of our $2 billion campaign, to raise funds for our faculty and our research infrastructure. Already many have heard the message and we expect to cross the halfway mark by mid-2016. But we owe it to our donors, our students, and the taxpayers to steward our resources responsibly. We must also change how we internally do business.

I have asked Provost Coltrane to lead an effort over the next 18 months to re-engineer our academic budget model with an eye to achieving stable and predictable sources of revenue for our academic units. He will work with our academic leadership (e.g. our deans, University Senate, vice presidents) in this endeavor. In addition to examining revenues, I have also asked him to look at the expense side of the equation. Resources are too scarce and our mission too important for us to waste money in redundant administration, poorly performing programs, and lax accountability.

This work will be in tandem with our strategic planning process. As you may know, before I arrived, the campus engaged in a year-long process of drafting a strategic framework for the university. The goal of this process was to identify how to operationalize our goals for competitive excellence. The provost has been working with deans, department heads, and faculty to refine the work of campus. I have also asked him to ensure the strategic framework is aligned with our academic goals and focused on how to achieve the greatest impact. Next week Provost Coltrane will share a draft of the strategic framework document with campus to receive input. The document, which will eventually go to the Board of Trustees for review and approval, will help guide us as we seek to achieve our goals and stay strategic in our focus and investments.

We will also be looking very carefully at expenditures in central administration. As part of this year’s budget review for FY17, I will ask each of our central units to suggest ways in which they can streamline services and achieve significant cost savings. For the longer run, I will appoint a task force of administrators and academic leaders to examine the efficiency of our central administration as well as to propose cost-saving steps. I expect that this group will provide me with some interim recommendations by the end of the current academic year. University Communications will be the first unit to begin integrations to better tell our story, look for operational efficiencies, and create more collaborations.

In the spirit of transparency, I will not sugar coat this message. This is not business as usual. Not all departments or schools will be net winners. Some members of our campus community may encounter hardship as we become better stewards of our resources. As we move forward, we will do everything within our power to make the transition as humane and smooth as possible. But we must move forward. To do anything less would consign our great university to mediocrity. That is unacceptable to me. I am sure it is equally unacceptable to you.

We have an historic opportunity to elevate this university in ways that serve students, the state, our nation, and that will further the production of knowledge. We must change, adapt, and align our operations and resources with our goals if we are to achieve our lofty aspiration and continue to meet our mission as a preeminent public research university.


Michael H. Schill

President and Professor of Law