Senate address, January 14, 2015

January 15, 2015

Interim President Coltrane delivered the following prepared remarks to the University Senate:

I have a number of updates to provide related to our policies work, efforts to address sexual assault, hiring, and the strategic plan.

Addressing Sexual Assault

I’ll begin with the urgent issue of sexual assault on campus. I am moving forward with proposed initiatives and will be working with campus to create a comprehensive plan to continue to address this issue. I want to again thank the Senate Task Force to Address Sexual Violence and Survivor Support for their report and recommendations.

I’d like to briefly provide an update on the university’s commitment to creating a safe and respectful campus from sexual misconduct and violence; what we have done; and our next steps.

Last academic term, I received three excellent reports containing dozens of recommendations about how to make improvements to our current practices to address prevention, response, and reporting of sexual assault.

These reports included the President’s Review Panel report, the Student Life university-wide gap analysis of prevention efforts, and the Senate Task Force to Address Sexual Violence and Survivor Support report.  All of these assessments have been made public and are posted on the President’s office website.

Since late summer, we have been implementing many of the programs and policies changes recommended in these reports, as well as others from the White House, Department of Education, and the 2013 Grove’s report.

Here are a few of the recent policy actions I or other university units have made:

  • I’ve authorized two campus climate surveys to be conducted as soon as April. I have appointed a Campus Climate Survey Advisory Committee to help oversee and provide counsel on administering these surveys, including senate representatives.
  • The University of Oregon and the City of Eugene agreed to a memorandum of understanding about how Eugene Police and the university will share information about reports of sexual offenses to ensure timely reporting and investigation of sexual assault offenses.
  • The university made changes to restrictive policies that now allow our Ombudsperson to operate with appropriate standards of confidentiality, neutrality, and independence.
  • We provided 90 thousand dollars this academic term to support prevention and education staffing that is addition to several new staffing positions added to Student Life towards addressing sexual assault in the prior year.
  • We are offering several self-defense classes on campus this term.
  • We have made several permanent and temporary changes to the student code of conduct designed to protect students.
  • We have been providing messaging to all faculty and graduate teaching fellows regarding Title IX responsibilities and resources.

My office is now in the process of reviewing all three reports, looking for additional overlap and alignment so that we can continue to prioritize our efforts. We are also looking for ways to coordinate and perhaps centralize some of the oversight and administration of these services related to addressing sexual assault, which was suggested in both the senate task force and review panel recommendations.

As I said last fall, our comprehensive plan to address sexual assault on campus requires our community to continue to work together, and to seek additional campus community input.

Therefore we are in the process of scheduling two community information forums in which we will review our progress to date and receive feedback on how to focus our efforts.

This input will help us focus our resources and efforts to provide the best support and have the greatest impact on students. Again, my goal, as we continue to review policies and make improvements, is to have our comprehensive plan in place by academic year’s end.  Addressing sexual misconduct and violence will remain a top priority for me and I am counting on the entire campus community to continue to relentlessly work together — this cannot be a reactive short term response, but rather a sustained effort.

Policies Review

As you know, we are working with the senate and board of trustees to create a process that ensures that all UO policies — existing, inherited, and developed in the future — are organized and managed efficiently and effectively.

Since December, my staff has been leading a collaborative process with key senate representatives, the board secretary, and with Trustee Susan Gary to draft a revised version of the Policy on University Policies. I am very pleased to report that we have been meeting, exchanging draft language, and making some real progress. We hope to have a version ready for review and comment before the board’s March meeting.

Thank you to Trustee Susan Gary, Doug Park, Angela Wilhelms, Rob Kyr, John Bonine, Scott Pratt, Ron Bramhall, and Michael Dreiling for their time and expertise on this effort.

As this policy is finalized, we are also moving ahead with the formation of our Policy Advisory Council.  The PAC membership is now confirmed and consists of President Kyr and 13 additional members representing students, faculty, and staff.  We will announce the membership and inaugural meeting dates as soon as they are scheduled. Our goal is to meet in early February to begin educating PAC members on the current policy universe and proposed work plan. Meetings are open to the public and all are welcome. Policy development and review will begin in earnest in March once the board adopts the new Policy on University Policies.

The senate is addressing this policy work today, with two motions related to policies on faculty and student records. I appreciate the senate and Professor Bonine’s work in support of this important initiative. We sincerely appreciate this significant move forward.  

Any policy repeal recommendations approved by this body will be reviewed by the PAC to ensure our commitment to a consultative process and by General Counsel for any legal concerns.

These steps will be completed within the 60 days outlined in the UO constitution. I look forward to our continued collaborative work on UO policies.

General Counsel Search

I’m pleased to announce we have officially launched our search for a new General Counsel for the University of Oregon — a critical administrative position for the university. The search will remain open until February 6, so please encourage excellent candidate to apply.

Thank you to Rob Kyr and others who provided nominations for our search committee for this position. We have an excellent group of people representing faculty, staff, and with great expertise in higher education law.

The search will also include opportunity for participation and input from faculty and campus community members to meet the finalists. We will share those opportunities when the information is available.

Doug Park is doing an incredible job as interim counsel. The General Counsel’s office has added three additional attorneys this academic year, in addition to the relatively recent hire of Sam Hill.

Hill is a Tulane University Law grad who worked most recently with the U.S. Department of Education, office of civil rights, and was an assistant general counsel at Oregon State University.

The three new hires include:

Melissa Matella, a UO law graduate who graduated with honors and Order of the Coif. She has worked in the private and public sector and has expertise in construction, labor and employment, and contracts law.

Bryan Dearinger, who graduated Order of the Coif from Drake University Law School, has expertise in constitutional law, employment issues, and private and public records. He most recently worked as in the U.S. Department of Justice civil division.

Craig Ashford, another UO Law grad who also graduated Order of the Coif, and whose professional experience includes working in the office of the chief counsel for the IRS and city attorney for Park City. His expertise includes tax law and litigation.

Strategic Planning Process

Finally, on behalf of Provost Bronet, and I’m pleased to report our strategic planning process is moving along very well. As Frances announced in December, the steering committee has been named and will be holding their first meeting tomorrow.

As you may remember, more than 50 people representing all segment of the campus community are taking part in this important strategic planning process that will shape the university’s future endeavors. They are serving on four task force workgroups.

These workgroups will hold campus engagement forums this term. This information will be posted on the provost’s website.

You will see that the Provost’s site now has a dedicated section for strategic planning. This is where you can turn for information, updates, and to provide feedback.

Thank you, Frances, Rob, and the others who are working on this critical planning process.