Preparing to welcome a new president

May 14, 2015

This is the first time I’ve addressed the full senate since the Board of Trustees announced their selection of Professor Mike Schill as the new president of the University of Oregon. It is wonderful to have him on campus this week, and I look forward to you all meeting him this afternoon, as I know he is looking forward to that as well.

President Schill is a great choice for our university. He has a real appreciation for and understanding of the importance of public research universities. He has an incredible track record for helping raise the academic profiles of the schools he has led and he is known as a very effective and competitive fundraising.  It’s clear from his visit here on campus these last three days that he fits right in.

I am very excited for his arrival and not just because I get to go back to being provost—although I am looking forward to that—but I am eager to work with him. As you know, you’ll get a chance to hear from him near the end of the senate meeting.

As I transition back to provost, I expect to continue to work closely with the senate and will remain a strong advocate for the faculty.

I cannot thank Frances Bronet enough for her tenacious and inspired leadership as acting provost. She has raised the bar for us all. I will save my full accolades and acknowledgments for her closer to her departure, but I cannot say enough about how much I’ve valued her leadership, counsel, and friendship during the last year. The Illinois Institute of Technology is very fortunate to have her joining them as their provost.

Professor Schill’s arrival creates an opportunity for us and the University of Oregon. It’s important that we receive the full benefit of his vision and leadership.

We will require his input and engagement on the strategic planning process. Fortunately, thanks to all the work of Professor Kyr and Provost Bronet, and the many others who worked this academic year on the framework and priorities for that plan, we have an excellent foundation already established. Frances and I are extremely grateful to everyone who served on the task force groups or participating in the public sessions. The momentum is incredible, and this work will continue in earnest when Professor Schill arrives and into the next academic year.

We cannot squander this opportunity. I hope we can all work together to support the incoming president and help him be successful.

I’d like to turn now to recent senate motions. Over the last month I provided responses to ten senate resolutions or legislation. I won’t address each of them, but I do want to mention a few—you can find all the responses on the Office of the President website. I expect they will also be put on the senate website as well.

I’ll start first with the issue of sexual assault. In response for an update on the recommendations, I have provided progress reports in the form of executive summaries to the more than 120 recommendations that the university received from the senate, president’s review panel, and from the Division of Student Life.

As I’ve shared with you before, we are hiring a new campus leader who will work to address sexual assault and serve as our title IX coordinator. This position will report to the president as well as to the VP for Student Life. Some people have questioned if we have the right structure—and I believe we do—given the make-up of our campus and where our sexual assault services reside. This is the best way to serve our students. But we will continue to assess this, and change if we need to.

The new AVP will work with an executive team and an advisory council to help lead this comprehensive sexual assault plan. We’ve received several dozen nominations for the advisory council to date, and I will continue to accept nomination through May 18. So please email me at if you would like to volunteer or nominate someone else. We want representation from students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other community leaders. This is not a substitute for the senate standing committee, but in addition to. The university needs—and I value−all of this advice and counsel.

As we work to establish this leadership structure, we are focused on “Now to Wow.” That means Student Life and others are working to put all the new programs and enhanced prevention and education efforts into place from now until Week of Welcome—a critical time in ensuring our students are safe, informed, empowered to stand of for each other, and know where to turn for support.

Again, I thank the members of the senate task force to address sexual violence and support survivors for their work on this issue.

Regarding the motions that addressed athletics; the FAR hiring, athletic budgeting, and IAC involvement in admissions—my responses are very much in line with what I said to this body in April. The senate does not have the authority to legislate athletics budgeting, presidential appointments, and the like, and so I have respectfully requested that those motions be withdrawn.

Finally, I’d like to provide an update on some of our important issues related to university funding. This has become one of the most critical issues for the UO.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the massive disinvestment by the state and cut-backs in research and student aid federal funding threaten our education and research mission.

Last month, I attended the AAU spring presidents meeting in Washington, DC and also met with Oregon’s congressional delegation as well as alumni. Along with other AAU presidents, we carried advocacy messages to Capitol Hill asking our federal officials to keep student aid and research funding as national priorities.

The federal government remains the university’s largest financial partner. Students and faculty together relied upon more than $350 million in federal student aid and federal research funding in FY2014.

That’s why I was so disappointed that Congress approved last week a budget resolution that continues the spending caps enacted by the Budget Control Act.

The federal budget process is really just beginning. Our partners at AAU and APLU remain hopeful that we’ll see a budget deal later in the year that lifts the spending caps that will result in a less Draconian federal budget environment. And we are doing our best to contribute to the advocacy effort.

We are also concerned about some of the research authorizations pending in Congress. In particular, the AmericaCOMPETES Act—the bill cuts NSF behavioral, economics, and social science research by 40 percent and Geosciences research by 8 percent. The NASA reauthorization also cuts earth sciences where much climate change research is supported. This politicization of science is deeply concerning.

At the state level, the state’s quarterly financial forecast will be released tomorrow. I hope and expect it will allow the state to increase funding to the UO. I authored an opinion piece in the Statesman Journal today asking for lawmakers to make higher education funding a priority.

I’ve have met with legislators several times and we continue to advocate, with our other higher education partners, for the state to restore funding to pre-recession levels.  Specifically, we are advocating for an additional $85 million dollars above the co-chairs 2015 budget.

This funding level would allow us to expand student aid and graduation assistance grants and advance our tenure-track hiring initiatives, among other things.

These financial realities require us to depend all the more on our donors and philanthropy.

One final note, I want to congratulate Professor Dan Tichenor for winning a 2015 Carnegie Fellowship, he is just one of the many faculty members who have earned awards or been recognized for their work this spring. I am very proud of our faculty.

I’ll take a few questions now.