Five Years of Institutional Governance

President Michael H. Schill presented a report entited Five Years of Institutional Governance to the UO Board of Trustees at their full board meeting on December 10, 2019.

December 10, 2019


This report chronicles the successes and challenges of the University of Oregon during its first five years of governance under the UO Board of Trustees. In this new era of independent governance, the university has made extraordinary improvements in its academic profile by many measures of educational and research quality. The UO remains on an upward trajectory in supporting its ambitions of enhancing academic and research excellence, student access and success, student experience, and equity and inclusion, even as it grapples with constrained finances and increasing expenses. 

Under the leadership of a new board dedicated to and focused on the UO, the president, administrators, faculty, and staff recommitted to the institution’s academic and research mission by investing in initiatives to improve student success and the UO’s profile and impact as a premier national research university. The UO’s secure membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), and designation as Carnegie R1 Research Intensive Doctoral institution reflect the quintessential expression of its values as one of this nation’s premier national research universities.

While more work yet remains, improvements that have taken place in collaboration with the faculty, staff, University Senate, multiple employee groups, and students in the last five years include: 

Academic and Research Excellence

  • Established the $1 billion Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact (Knight Campus) in 2016 through the generous cornerstone gift of $500 million from Penny and Phil Knight. Received support from the state of Oregon in the amount of $70 million toward construction of the first building. To date, the Knight Campus has hired leadership, four faculty members, and staff; is nearing completion of the first new building; initiated planning for coordinated graduate programs with Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University; and received more than $20 million in additional philanthropic gifts for research and educational programs. 
  • Completed cluster initiative hiring, building upon existing strengths in areas such as volcanology and energy and sustainable materials, and adding new areas such as obesity prevention and health promotion.
  • Launched new research initiatives within the schools and colleges in cutting edge areas such as new media and culture, health and the built environment, and the media center for science and technology.
  • Increased the size of the tenure-related faculty by 72 net new positions. As faculty are hired into the Knight Campus over the next few years, the UO will exceed goals to increase by at least 80 the size of the tenure-related faculty.
  • Boosted total research and development expenditures almost 20 percent since 2015 as reported in the National Science Foundation Higher Education Research and Development Survey for FY17. In the first quarter of FY19, the UO booked $106 million in total sponsored awards, the best single quarter ever. 
  • Improved focus on quality instruction in the classroom and made efforts to ensure clearer criteria for instructors and new, more inclusive review processes for our faculty. Established new core education learning outcomes to courses.
  • Invested in and improved operational support for graduate education, including enhancing awards to doctoral students and creating greater emphasis on metrics to drive financial support. Approximately 200 additional graduate research lines will become available once the Presidential Initiative in Data Science and the Knight Campus get underway. 
  • Invested more than $60 million renovating approximately 75,000 square feet of laboratory and related research space. Planning, design, or construction is underway for an additional 200,000 square feet of laboratory and related research space.

Student Access and Success

  • Increased institutional and philanthropic support for the PathwayOregon scholarship and advising program, increasing by 43 percent in 2018 the number of Federal Pell Grant–eligible Oregon residents who pay no tuition or fees.
  • Improved four-year graduation rates by more than 10 points to 60.7 percent and six-year rates to 74.5 percent.
  • Launched an online education initiative focusing on student success and timely graduation.
  • Opened Willie and Donald Tykeson Hall staffed by 23 new advisors and six career coaches, and revamped the approach to student success career and academic advising.
  • Invested in additional pipeline programs to recruit underrepresented and first-generation students.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

  • Created Diversity Action Plans (DAP) for each unit, and implemented implicit bias training and active recruitment search processes to achieve diversity, equity, and inclusion goals and priorities.
  • Realized an increase in the racial and ethnic diversity of the incoming domestic freshman class, improving from 27 percent in 2014 to 34 percent in 2019.
  • Increased the percentage of faculty of color, and launched process for conducting a climate survey.
  • Established a new multicultural requirement for the undergraduate core curriculum
  • Built and staffed the new Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center, a hub for social, academic, and cultural engagement.
  • Launched an African American Workshop and Lecture Series (in third year), held a yearlong Freedom of Expression series, and created additional programming and communication to highlight the contributions and experiences of underrepresented communities.
  • Created new academic residential communities (ARC) with focuses on indigenous, Black, and Latinx studies.

Student Experience

  • Reduced student-teacher ratios to 17:1 with a median class size of 20. 
  • Enriched student-experience opportunities with the opening of the renovated student union, new recreation center, expanded health center, and new and renovated residence halls.
  • Expanded University of Oregon Portland offerings, added space, invested in student services and enhanced safety.
  • Reorganized the Title IX, Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity offices into an integrated Office of Investigations and Civil Rights Compliance; appointed Title IX coordinators; hired additional Title IX investigators; improved sexual violence and harassment employee reporting responsibilities and policies; and according to the AAU Campus Climate survey, students reported fewer incidents of student sexual violence and increased confidence in response.

Governance, Leadership, and Finance

  • Successfully implemented new governance system by migrating and creating new polices and administrative rules, establishing a treasury function and internal audit office. Set up shared services and took over responsibilities of retirement plan for all seven state public universities.
  • Hired a new leadership team, including President Michael H. Schill, Provost Patrick Phillips, four new vice presidents, and eight new deans. 
  • Enhanced the university’s administrative and financial infrastructure by investing in automated platforms for transactional and analytic purposes, improving standardized public financial reports, implementing an institutional hiring process for all tenure-related hires, and refining the institutional budget process to better align resources with the university’s strategic vision.
  • Increased efforts to define and clarify rules and policies for academic departments and faculty (e.g., clarifying professional responsibilities, tenure criteria, and internal governance), developed university policies to replace Oregon University System (OUS) policies and modernized the employment relationship with officers of administration (OA).
  • Successfully implemented first collective bargaining agreement with United Academics, the union representing faculty.
  • Grew the endowment 27 percent in four years, closing in on a $1 billion milestone. 
  • Launched the public phase of a $2 billion dollar capital campaign and met the goal. Increased the goal to $3 billion with the vast majority of funds to be utilized for faculty research and student success. As of November 1, the UO has raised $2.19 billion towards the new campaign goal.

The UO has made extraordinary progress over the first five years of independent board governance. The university’s academic and research program has grown and flourished, its mission to educate the next generation and launch them onto careers is more focused and successful, and it is has increasingly committed itself to a community that is diverse and inclusive. 

One thing hasn’t changed over the past five years—the persistent and complex budget challenges facing the UO. The university’s state support places it next to last among AAU public universities, which means the institution is more dependent on tuition revenue than many peer institutions. While its domestic enrollment growth is robust, that growth has not completely offset substantial international enrollment declines. Finally, mandated cost increases, particularly for health care and unfunded pension liabilities have been rapid and steep. To sustain the university’s transformation and its affordable tuition, it will need to constrain costs and work hard to increase its support from the Oregon Legislature and other sources.

Full Report - Five Years of Institutional Governance

Slide show accompanying Board of Trustees meeting presentation


From the perspective of the University of Oregon, the first five years of institutional governing boards has been a period of extraordinary progress. The university has made major strides in building the faculty, enhancing research, increasing student success, promoting diversity and inclusion, growing external resources, and reorganizing administrative structures.

A central aspiration of the move to a more autonomous board was that it would bring the stability and confidence needed to reach for and achieve historic levels of philanthropy. And it has. This, together with a new capacity for independent bonding authority, have created new financial opportunities that have rapidly translated into specific initiatives and improvements across the whole university. At the same time, factors largely external to the university have generated unyielding pressures on UO’s financial model, especially as manifested in increasing student tuition. These factors include pressures from the PERS retirement system and other benefit programs, a rapidly changing national landscape of opportunity and interest among international students, and a level of state support that has yet to return to pre-recession levels—much less account for steadily increasing base-level costs.

The UO is fortunate to have a board that is deeply and actively engaged in helping the university address these challenges. Indeed, none of the transformational outcomes experienced over the last five years would have occurred under the old OUS governance structure. University leadership is grateful for the wisdom of the governor and the legislature in setting the universities in the state free to serve the different needs of the citizens and regions of the state.

The University of Oregon remains deeply committed to its public purpose—giving a world-class education to the next generation of Oregonians and contributing to the economic growth of the state through workforce development and research innovation. For the UO to succeed, however, it needs the state and its citizens to keep their part of the bargain and provide greater support to the university. It is understood that this will only happen if the university can clearly and effectively articulate the types of accomplishments set forth in this report and the many ways they benefit current and future Oregonians living and working in every corner of the state. The UO’s president, provost, and entire leadership team is committed to doing that and continuing a legacy of creating meaningful impact to the state and society.