President addresses UO Senate – and perfection

University of Oregon President Michael Gottfredson's first remarks to the UO Senate focused on governance – from the faculty collaboration that he sees as essential for a properly-run campus to the proposed institutional governing boards that he considers an effective response to declining state support for higher education.

The president addressed the state of the UO during his Oct. 11 Senate appearance by defining his view of a public research university. He also introduced himself to the UO's governing body by deadpanning his responsibility for an ideal start to the school year.

(Full text of president's remarks)

"Since I've been here the weather has been perfect – not just good, actually, but perfect," he said. "We've recruited a distinguished group of students and we haven't lost a football game.

"Somebody admonished me to not take credit for things that I don't have any responsibility for, and I'm weighing that," Gottfredson said. "They also said, 'Be careful taking credit for things that might change, because then people would hold you accountable.'

"That is good advice. So I'm not responsible for the weather, I want to make that clear. I think (the weather) is likely to change. The other things, I think we're safe to say are probably going to proceed along."

Gottfredson recognized the UO's distinguished faculty and students, dedicated staff and loyal supporters throughout the state and around the world. Then he told the Senate that his ideas about governance – both the day-to-day academic functions on campus and the UO's bigger-picture relationship with the state – are rooted in the concept of a public research university.

"This is one of the nation's premier public research universities," he said. "Every word of that is meaningful to me, and I'm sure it's meaningful to you.

"We value certain things as faculty, as students and staff here. We value discovery and creativity. We admire and reward accomplishment, scholarship and research in creative activities, where peer review is our standard in terms of how we come to judgments.

"As a research university, we also value freedom of inquiry, freedom of expression. We value academic freedom. We value freedom of speech. We value these nearly above all else."

Gottfredson also pointed out the importance of community – "for collegiality, for civility in our interactions" – and emphasized his commitment to meaningful collaboration and active faculty participation in the UO's shared governance model.

"As a public university, we must value – we do value – access for citizens of the state," he said. "Our test for access is (academic) preparation. It's not financial status or stature. That's embedded in our DNA, and so to is the idea of quality. Access without quality is a hollow promise."

The president told the Senate he is "very encouraged" by the work of the Oregon Legislature's special committee on university governance, which has drafted a bill outlining institutional governing boards for the UO and Portland State University. The bill is expected to be introduced during the legislature's 2013 session.

"I'm very optimistic about the process," Gottfredson said. "I think the likelihood of a new set of governance relationships that enhance the public interest is very high."