New task force will tackle long-term response to COVID-19

May 14, 2020

Dear University of Oregon community,

We all recognize the profound impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on both the University of Oregon and the national higher education landscape. The simple truth is that the coronavirus is an invisible disruptor that suddenly and harshly threatened what has been the UO’s foundation for nearly 150 years—the ability to fulfill our mission of excellent teaching, research, and service as a residential campus.

We know there will likely be drops in enrollment and state budget cuts that will create real financial challenges for the UO. It is too soon to know whether it will be a sharp but short-term hurdle that we must find a way to overcome or a systemic recalibration of the way the UO operates. Ultimately, the scope and duration of the financial and operational challenges posed by COVID-19 will be revealed in the coming weeks, months, and years.

To help the UO address the challenges, we are announcing the creation of the Joint UOSenate/Administration Task Force on Long-term Responses to COVID-19. This joint task force, which is advisory to the president, will review data on university operations and revenue projections, engage campus stakeholders, seek input and feedback, and use this information to analyze proposals, develop and consider strategies, and provide advice for long-term planning.

The 16-member task force is broadly representative of units across campus, including faculty, deans, classified staff, officers of administration, and a student. The group will begin meeting in June and be co-chaired by Elliot Berkman, Associate Professor of Psychology and Senate President-elect, and Sabrina Madison-Cannon, Dean of the School of Music and Dance. The full charge and membership of the task force are posted on the president's website.

What we cannot do is sit idly by and wait for budget cuts or other impacts to happen to us. Ensuring the UO is poised to meet these challenges means we must do all we can now to look around corners, anticipate problems, develop scenario-based solutions, and proactively seek innovation. One thing we all agree on is that the challenges posed by COVID-19 to the University of Oregon are not going to be solved by any one person or group of persons. We must leverage the collective wisdom, creativity, and intellectual horsepower of our entire campus. Our intention is that this joint task force is a step toward doing that.

Thank you.

Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law

Patrick Phillips
Provost and Senior Vice President

Elizabeth Skowron
Professor of Psychology and UO Senate President

Elliot Berkman
Associate Professor of Psychology and UO Senate President-elect