Board of Trustees, president's report

June 2, 2016

Good afternoon. I’d like to first say thank you again to Randy Sullivan for his service to the university as president of the senate, and to Helena Schlegel for serving as president of the ASUO.

I plan to keep these remarks relatively short, because I feel I’ve taken my fair share of time at the microphone following yesterday’s investiture ceremony. Chuck, it was an honor to receive the mace and medallion from you on behalf of the board. I didn’t break the Mace, which was good.

I’ve found the last 11 month of my tenure to be wonderful and I have cherished this time getting to know you. I look forward to working with all of you and all our faculty, staff, and students, going forward in the years ahead. 

Yesterday was about our larger aspiration and really the future of public higher education. I talked about the very real challenges we face—related to finances; improving access, success, and diversity; enhancing our research enterprise; re-balancing our faculty, and creating impact for our state. I also talked earlier in committee in more detail about the steps we are taking to improve our diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus.

Overcoming these challenges are a joint effort between all of us; me, the board, administrators, our students, faculty, staff, and alumni.  Everything we do is a culminating of the work of a lot of people.

And so this afternoon, I’m pleased to provide an update on some of our more tangible successes and plans.

  • We have had a good year in hiring faculty and expanded our diversity in the process. The numbers aren’t in but when the dust clears I am hopeful we will have added a net new 20 tenure-related faculty members. As Scott and Brad will share with you we have additional plans to continue focused and targeting faculty hiring.
  • This year we hired three vice presidents and three terrific deans, ushering in a new era of stability. It is difficult to make plans and fundraise when you don’t have someone permanently in place and we are excited to welcome these new leaders to campus.
  • We admitted and funded an additional 60 graduate students this year. I am proud to say that this year’s graduate student class is more diverse than usual.
  • We successfully identified ways to save over $3 million in recurring costs which we could invest in faculty hiring, IT, and other needed investments. The process wasn’t always easy, it entailed some human cost, but it was necessary.
  • We are hiring an AVP for Student Success and made a $17 million investment in scholarships, advising, graduation assistance, and predictive analytics. Our goal is to increase our graduation rate by 10 percentage points over five years.
  • We created a much better Title IX investigatory and accountability system which will help us ensure that our students are as safe as they can be. We have worked with the faculty and our administrators and established a system that I would put up against any other institution. Does that mean we won’t have more reporting? No, in fact we may have more reports because people feel safe coming forward. That is important and it is progress.
  • We successfully completed contracts with SEIU and United Academics with minimal friction.
  • Again, we finalized a strategic framework for the university and have also now finalized the IDEAL framework for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • We have improved the tone and reduced the tension in interactions between Johnson Hall and the senate, and all of the groups on campus.

I and the university community owe a debt of gratitude to Brook Muller, Julianne Newton, and Brad Shelton for stepping up and serving with distinction.

I’m excited we will soon welcome to campus David Conover, our vice president for research and innovation; Juan-Carlos Molleda, the new SOJC dean; and Christoph Lindner, the new AAA dean. I also offer congratulations to Andrew Marcus who will continue his work leading CAS as the permanent dean.

As is the case in higher education, our work to recruit incredible talent is never done. Our search for a dean for our Lundquist College of Business continues and we are beginning our search for a new law school dean.

As you all may know, I’ve recently started sharing my thoughts on issues of the day with those who are interested. We call this Open Mike. In one of my most recent Open Mike letters, I talked about how remarkably important these leadership hires are to our trajectory and success.

In just over a year, we hired a new president, three new vice presidents, and three new deans—an unprecedented amount of change in a very short period of time. In the previous years of leadership churn, while many individuals tried to do their best in the circumstances, we had a very hard time moving forward during the temporary nature of our situation. In this vacuum, we had informal forms of leadership, and we needed that. But I’m looking forward to moving into a more stable form of leadership that looks more like best practice.

Here is my expectation for the management and involvement in the direction of the university by our other stakeholders:

You the board, with me and Scott, provide oversight of our strategic direction.

The president, provost, and administrative leadership team—in consultation—manage day-to-day university operations, work with external constituencies, and make the decisions necessary to achieve our objectives of establishing the UO as one of the preeminent research institutions in the nation.

The senate will serve its pivotal role as the guardian of our academic mission. The approval of new degrees, selection and tenure of faculty, creation and revision of curriculum, and establishment of requirements for graduation.

While the provost and I set the budgets and direction, but it is the deans who run the academic units. It is the deans—in consultation with faculty members—who will set priorities, decide department programs, and faculty direction. That is the sign of a healthy academic institution.

We want to have empowered deans coming up with great programs and leading our faculty. Most good things in academic institutions bubble up from the faculty to the deans and then to the university. The less we do in Johnson Hall in terms of academic prescription, the better off we are going to be as an institution.

Finally, I have an update on our fundraising campaign which continues to have very strong momentum.

  • To date, the FY 2016 totals are $157 million with 30 days left in the year. (Our historic five year totals are $107, $110, $200, $115, $215 respectively.) Usually during times of leadership turnover, universities usually take a hit on fundraising, and so these numbers are really wonderful.
  • As of April 30, approximately 80% of our year to date giving is earmarked for academic use. (Last year’s percentage was 76% and overall campaign percentage of 60%.)
  • 33% of gift total (not all cash) in the campaign is earmarked for the endowment and 26% of all gift total in the campaign are planned or deferred gifts
  • 97,000 + donors have given to the campaign. (2.8 % of the donors have contributed 92% of the total.)
  • And I am very pleased to report that our campaign is now at $985 million, approaching the historic $1 billion level. We are looking forward to hitting several important milestones before the end of academic and calendar year.

I also want to say thank you to all of the trustees. This last year I have felt supported and challenged in the best way by you, the students, the faculty, and so many others. I feel your confidence and I am inspired by your aspiration for this university. We have learned much together and there is a lot of work to do. Our best days are ahead. I have great enthusiasm. Again thank you!