President's December remarks to University Senate

Faculty Senate, Dec. 5, 2012

Thank you, President Kyr, senate members and all who were able to be here today as finals week winds down and our campus empties for winter break. This is an appropriate time for us to spend a couple minutes reflecting on where we are as an institution and where we may be going from here.

Ad Hoc Committee Regarding Review of Senior Academic Administrators

First, as a quick follow-up to an item from the last senate meeting, President Kyr will be reporting on the steps we have taken since to develop a more systematic review process for all senior academic administrators, vice presidents through deans. President Kyr and I have been working together on this and I want you to know I like the direction in which it is headed. Faculty involvement in the review of academic leadership is something I support and have supported at other institutions where I have served. I will provide to the committee a summary of current practices as well as some suggestions for enhancing faculty participation in those reviews.

Faculty Union

As reported last week by the provost, the University of Oregon's labor contract bargaining team met with the bargaining team of the new faculty union to establish ground rules for negotiating a first contract. We have the same objectives – to provide for comprehensive faculty compensation and an outstanding work environment. The next bargaining sessions are scheduled for Thursday and Friday, Dec. 13 and 14, in Room 122 at the Knight Library. The Thursday session is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the Friday session is scheduled for 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. These sessions are open for all to attend and we are all very confident it will continue to progress well.

Faculty Bragging Points

I would also like to recognize some faculty members who have been honored by various organizations in the past month. Biology Professor Bruce Bowerman has been elected by his peers as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for 2012.

Chemistry Professor Geri Richmond has been appointed by President Obama to the National Science Board – the governing board for the National Science Foundation.

Congratulations to these faculty members and to all of you who pursue academic and research excellence here at the UO.

Governor's Budget

Last weekend, Governor Kitzhaber announced his proposed budget for the coming biennium. That budget and other matters that will come before the 2013 Oregon Legislature will significantly affect the University of Oregon and the paths we may be taking to achieve our academic goals and fulfill our mission as a major public research university.

The governor's new approach to budgeting depends on the legislature adopting significant PERS and sentencing guideline reforms, which will produce the savings necessary to pay for other state services. Governor Kitzhaber calls it a “kids- and education-first" budget. 

It proposes bringing together a rapidly changing higher education landscape under a new Department of Post-Secondary Education. That department will centralize policy for the state’s 17 community colleges, seven public universities and OHSU. The governor suggests reducing the chancellor’s budget by 8.4 percent and redirecting that money to the new department. It also shifts funding for higher education into a Public University Support Fund.

The governor's budget does not include a list of capital construction projects that he will prioritize for legislative consideration. Instead, project funding will be determined in a process that involves the Oregon Education Investment Board. The OUS institutions and community colleges have requested G-bond funding for a total of $400 million in new projects, and the governor's budget sets aside $244 million for that purpose.

The University of Oregon is seeking G-bond financing for the expansion of Straub and Earl halls, to renovate Chapman Hall and to expand the science library.

For self-funded or campus-paid debt – F-bonds – the governor's budget allows another $269 million in projects on OUS campuses. UO projects in that category include expansion of the Student Recreation Center and upgrades in university housing. We are hopeful it will also include an EMU project.

A notable element of the governor's budget is the 20 percent increase it recommends for the Oregon Opportunity Grant program. This may open the program to additional students, or it may increase benefits to those students who already qualify for the grants – the details are not yet clear.

The governor’s budget is an effort to stabilize funding sources for key priorities, but obviously there is much work to be done before and during the legislative session.

Institutional Board

The legislative session is expected to include action on another significant issue for the University of Oregon – authorization for institutional governing boards at the UO and Portland State University. We have been very active in pursuit of this public board, consistent with our mission as one of the nation's premier public research universities.

A special legislative committee on university governance met through the summer, and in October recommended to the governor and the full legislature that institutional boards should be created for the two campuses. The 2013 Legislature is expected to approve a board for the UO that will have full or partial authority to set tuition rates, issue revenue bonds, hire or fire the university president and have enabling legal entity status.

Our priorities at the UO – to enable continued academic excellence and accessibility – include a clear path to long-term financial sustainability and having day-to-day oversight by a governing board that is knowledgeable about the UO and is focused on fulfilling our public mission.

With the establishment of a public institutional board, the people of Oregon will not lose their long-term, generous investment in existing UO facilities. Our facilities will continue to be dedicated to the university’s public mission in perpetuity. The state will retain ownership of existing UO facilities, and new facilities acquired under a UO board will be owned by the university – which will remain a public entity, dedicated to serving the interests of all Oregonians. 

Weexpect that our institutional board will provide an important vehicle for increasing philanthropy for resident scholarships and support programs such as PathWay Oregon for lower-income families, the Solari Scholarships for middle income Oregon students, and the Summit and Apex scholarships for high-achieving Oregonians.

Despite declines in state funding over the past 20 years, the UO has operated at approximately the same cost per student, adjusted for inflation. Under an institutional board with the necessary statutory authorities, UO will be better able to make strategic investments in facilities and technology, serving more students in the most efficient way possible.

Put very simply, any discussion of our institutional status has to focus on how we are paying for what we do, and how we may be able to afford our broader goals. And that topic must center on affordability – we must assure that academically qualified Oregon students are never priced out of the educational opportunities they deserve.

Thank you.