June 2024 Board of Trustees remarks by President Scholz

June 4, 2024

President Scholz delivered the following remarks to the UO Board of Trustees:

Good morning.

I want start by thanking outgoing ASUO President Chloe Webster and University Senate President Gerard Sandoval, who both just delivered their final board reports. I appreciated your support, wisdom, and advocacy, and the strong relationship I developed with both of you. I look forward to working with the ASUO President-elect Mariam Hassan, and incoming Senate President Alison Schmitke.


Last week the university held our investiture celebration.

I am grateful to the trustees, UO leaders, and the many members of the UO community who attended last week and supported this milestone for our institution. Those who know me know that I was initially not crazy about the idea of a celebration, but my colleagues helped me to understand that the celebration is a chance to define our aspirations, be together, and chart the future for our university.

It is unfortunate that a small group chose to disrupt the ceremony and keep interested students, faculty, staff, and guests from being able to attend and participate in the entire event. Instead, we had to finish the ceremony with a smaller live audience and livestream to others who were there in person. 

Fortunately, all other activities continued as scheduled and I remain incredibly grateful for the kind wishes and support I received, not just these last few days but over this entire year, from so many people. I am humbled, overwhelmed, and honored. I remain excited for our future and focused on the path ahead. I will speak more about strategic planning in a moment.

I also want to thank the many people who helped organize and prepare for the event and keep things running safely and smoothly. I would especially like to offer my thanks to Carlyn Schreck, who did a remarkable job planning the investiture.

Free speech and disruption

There is no doubt that we are amid a challenging period at the UO and across many institutions of higher education.

At the heart of our challenge is a distinction between free speech and disruptive behavior. I and our university community cherish free speech and open dialogue. It is the bedrock of academic inquiry and critical thinking, and necessary to foster an environment where diverse perspectives can flourish. 

However, it's crucial to differentiate between exercising free speech and engaging in actions that disrupt university activities and student experiences. When protesters shut down or delay (even public) events or classes, block access to and from buildings, prevent others from speaking, or deface property—this crosses a line from speech to behavior that violates codes, rules, and laws. We are also aware, from observation of other campus demonstrations, of the potential for outside groups to use university protests as opportunities for unlawful behavior. In addition, we recognize that this period has been especially painful for some of our Jewish students, colleagues, and parents. 

In that light, and with the help of the University Senate and many in our community, I am grateful that the encampment ended without physical harm to anyone. But some of the encampment participants broke university rules. These rules exist for the safety and well-being of our entire community, and apply to all, regardless of any stance on any issue. These rules do not interfere with the exercise of free speech. Accordingly, we are taking disciplinary action and will soon issue several code violation letters related to those behaviors. As described in the agreement, the university views student cooperation and goodwill in reaching an encampment settlement as a mitigating factor in adjudicating student conduct violations. 

I hoped—and expected—the agreement that the university reached would mark a shift in tactics, where dialogue on these and related issues would move to constructive spaces, such as with the Senate task force and through other means negotiated in the agreement. The disruptive actions Thursday make it clear that some individuals are not honoring the agreement. 

Several people, including members of this board, have expressed their concern to me about the potential that demonstrators may also disrupt our graduation celebrations or continue to disrupt other university activities like classes or finals. This concerns me as well.

So let me be clear: students and others who violate codes, rules, or laws through their actions—by disrupting events or the regular activities of the university, blocking exits, or engaging in vandalism—will face disciplinary and/or legal action. Our conduct office and university police department are actively investigating the events of last Thursday and will issue citations and take disciplinary action against those who broke the law or violated policies or the code of conduct.

The university will also be taking additional measures during commencement, working to protect the experiences of our graduating students and their families and guests. Graduation is a precious time at the UO and all universities—a time to celebrate the accomplishments of our students and their proud families. It represents the culmination of their efforts, and their next steps toward the lives they envision for themselves. It is particularly so this year, as many of our students did not get to experience high school graduation due to the pandemic. We will take every measure to safeguard this cherished celebration.

Strategic planning

During investiture, I spoke about the strategic planning process that we embarked upon at the start of this academic year, and the goals that have emerged. 

I’ll now provide a brief summary of our process:

  • In the fall, as I introduced myself to the campus community and alumni here and around the country, I shared my initial observations and potential priorities we might focus on and my team gathered input from faculty, staff, students, alumni, and other valued stakeholders through twenty-five live, facilitated input sessions and an online survey. Around 1,200 people chose to participate. 
  • In the winter, I worked with vice presidents and deans to revise the priorities into four goals, building on the input we received. We then launched four cross-functional goal teams. Incorporating the community’s input as well as best practice research and their own subject matter expertise, the teams were asked to propose a set of potential high-level strategies and measures for evaluating our progress toward each goal. The teams have done a great job. The proposed strategies are thoughtful and take into account the university’s current landscape—our strengths, challenges, and opportunities—in each area.
  • We are now working on proposed strategies to accomplish these goals.

As we onboard our new provost—who will be crucial to this work—and move from spring into summer and fall, we will work on two things: (1) aligning the good work happening across the university with the four goals and (2) developing a plan for how to implement the selected strategies. 

We will be asking the university community to take part in a survey over the next couple of weeks as we consider how to implement and fully actualize this plan. 

More importantly, I’d like to share a bit about each of the four goals:

We must remove barriers to student success.

  • We will set specific four- and six-year graduation rate goals and narrow graduation gaps across different student groups.
  • While a work in progress, this will be done, for example, by:
    • Addressing structural barriers that diminish the effectiveness of student services or that make it difficult to secure needed classes.
    • Enhance advising, organized around the concept of “Finish in Four.” 
    • And addressing financial barriers that inhibit timely graduation. 

We will be a leader among the nation’s public research universities in career preparation. 

  • We will set specific numerical goals for the percentage of recent graduates who have positive outcomes within six months of graduation.
  • While a work in progress, we will support post-graduation outcomes, for example, by:
    • Working with willing departments to embed career-related transferable skills into the learning outcomes of their respective majors and minors.
    • Developing “career communities” to provide industry-informed career guidance to students.
    • Leveraging the remarkable Ducks family to provide informational interviews, career guidance, internships, and job opportunities to our students.

We will create a campus of flourishing: well-being, growth, connection, resilience, and a sense of purpose.

  • We will develop specific numerical measures for students and staff/faculty flourishing and commit to specific goals and improvement in these measures.
  • While a work in progress, this will be done, for example, by: 
    • Expand, amplify and where necessary, develop core curricular and cocurricular student engagement experiences that enhance purpose, passion, and resilience throughout the student journey.
    • Similarly, we will coordinate employee development efforts for faculty and staff in ways that support flourishing. 
    • Finally, we will engage in a focused effort to improve operational systems and technology to reduce, when possible, in a cost-effective, efficient way, student and employee frustration.

Our fourth goal is grounded in our scholarship. We will continue to strive for excellence in everything we do. But we will have a special focus on scholarship and creative arts that accelerate societal impact, elevates the human experience, and develops innovative models for a changing world. At the investiture, I named four areas for focus and investment:

  • We will seek preeminence in environmental resilience: including and especially programs that provide novel and scalable approaches to help mitigate the effects of a changing climate; or that provide blueprints for human society to ethically adjust and adapt to a rapidly evolving world.
  • We will continue to build on strengths in mental health and well-being: including and especially programs focused on early detection, intervention, and support for mental and emotional health, and programs that add insight and scholarship to our understanding of the factors that strengthen individual and collective well-being.
  • We will seek to be leaders in the study of human performance and sport: leveraging our unique strengths in the study of human performance and the business and science of sport.
  • Finally, we will accelerate the impact of our science on society: including and especially scholarship that builds on our strengths in biological, materials, and applied sciences to accelerate the rate and scope of societal impact to Oregon and the nation.

I hope to be ready to present the university’s strategic plan in greater detail to the board during your September board meeting.


On the topic of leadership, I am very excited to welcome our new provost, Christopher Long, who will be on campus by the end of next week. He will take part in the campus-wide commencement event on June 17 and has already begun working with Karen Ford and other leaders to orient himself to the job.

I want to take a moment to thank Karen Ford, who has shown exemplary dedication to the University of Oregon, as an English professor and also in various administrative roles for the past thirty-two years. We have benefited from her incredible wisdom and grace since January when she agreed to serve as interim provost. Karen, your contributions have been invaluable, including your ability to navigate complex issues and foster real collaboration in support of both faculty and students. You have not only helped us through a transitional period but helped us to maintain a high standard for integrity. I am deeply appreciative of your partnership, strength, and your tireless work to ensure the continued success of our academic community.

Some other leadership notes:

As Karen mentioned in her remarks yesterday, Carol Stabile has been appointed to permanently lead Clark Honors College as dean. 

I expect to announce our new vice president for student life, our new chief auditor, and our business school dean soon. We’ve been busy!

With Roger Thompson’s departure at the end of this month to become president of St. Mary’s College of California, we have named Jim Brooks to serve as interim vice president. In Roger’s fourteen years, we have seen yearly record incoming classes. As his portfolio includes housing, health services, continuing ed, financial aid, admissions—including the student welcome center—Roger has positively affected nearly every aspect of the student experience. I’m grateful for his service and congratulate him on this new role.

And, as you know, a search is underway for a new board secretary as Tim Inman leaves to take a policy role with the Ford Family Foundation at the end of July. Tim joined the UO as chief of staff to the provost in 2019. He was appointed as university secretary to the UO Board of Trustees and advisor to the president in 2021 and assumed responsibility for government and community relations in 2023. He has been an integral member of the university’s leadership team, bringing creativity, wisdom, and political and strategic acumen to all the positions he has held at the university. He also did a fantastic job as I came on board, ensuring I was well-informed about the university’s organizational structures and operations in his leadership of the presidential transition team. He will be missed.

Congratulations Graduates

Finally, I would like to offer my congratulations to all our graduating students, and my thanks to all the members of our university community who supported our students along the way.

Thank you.