President's Report to UO Board of Trustees, March 2019

March 5, 2019

President Michael H. Schill delivered the following remarks at the UO Board of Trustees full board meeting in Eugene:

Good morning. Yesterday Jamie gave us a sobering review of the university’s budget situation. While it presents challenges for all of us, it is something that we will manage our way through without harming all of the progress we have achieved over the past four years. That to me is very important.

I will not re-cover all of the ground that Jamie covered, but bottom line, with a drop in enrollment, especially among international students, and an increase in costs such as PERS, salaries, benefits, and health insurance, we are facing, next year, a substantial gap in resources. Even if we were receive the additional $120 million we are seeking from the state legislature for all of Oregon’s public universities, we estimate that we will still experience a shortfall of $10 to 11 million dollars next year if we were to do nothing. That is unacceptable and it is now evident that we must act to reduce expenditures over the next two years.

Today, I am sending a memo to campus explaining the current situation and notifying them that Vice President Moffitt, Provost Jayanth Banavar, and I will spend the coming weeks seeking additional advice and input from campus constituencies about how to manage this situation.

As we reduce our expenditures we will make decisions based upon our values. Rather than simply cut evenly across the board, we will seek to protect, as much as possible, the programs and services that are vital to our core academic and research mission, and not erode our recent progress. In particular, I will propose that certain areas, particularly those having to do with affordability, access, student success, and safety, be spared. We also need to approach these reductions in a humane fashion, recognizing that 79% of our expenditures are labor-related.

As you know, we will set non-resident tuition in this meeting, and will set in-state tuition later this spring in the hope that we have a clearer picture of our finances.

Enrollment is a very important part of these conversations.

Late last week, Roger Thompson provided me with an update on our enrollment outlook for next year. As of March 1, interest in the UO is at a record high, with just under 27,000 applicants, a 12 percent increase over last year. He reports increases in applications from students in Oregon and double-digit percentage increases in applications from non-resident students from across the country. These increases have been particularly large in the areas we have invested additional recruiting resources such as Colorado, Arizona, Washington, Texas, and the upper Midwest. Our applicant pool is also stronger academically and more diverse than last year.

Applications are important but, of course, many of these students will have lots of choices. We need to convince these students to choose the UO by showing them all of the advantages we have to offer. We plan on hosting 40 separate events in Eugene and all over the nation and world. Indeed, Roger and I will be taking a road trip through Southern California in a couple weeks where we hope to meet lots of prospective students and their parents and loved ones.

In Salem, our team is working tirelessly to increase our state operating funds this session. The Legislature will consider a revenue package that could generate as much as $2 billion to fund public education. As Maria indicated, we are working with our students and labor unions to make the point that funding K-12 and undergraduate education is essential for the future of our students and for the state.

The co-chairs of the Joint Ways and Means committee are expected to release their proposed budget this week, and we will know more about whether our voices have been heard.

The UO’s priority bills are moving along well and gaining support. The bill to create a matching fund for the Sustainable City Year Program has already received a public hearing, and we expect hearings in the next few weeks on measures that would provide state support for UO programs including prison education, the Oregon Research Schools Network, and the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology.

The legislature has been focused on other broad safety issues that will have an impact on the University of Oregon, including bills related to preventing and responding to workplace harassment and sexual assault.

Last week, we were made aware that a bill would be introduced to disarm police departments on the UO’s and PSU’s campuses. We are working with legislators, UOPD, students, and others to address this measure and ensure we continue to have every tool in our toolbox to keep our campus and community safe.

The 116th Congress is also underway. With the new majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici has taken on an important role as the chair of the subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services. That committee has jurisdiction over issues related to civil rights, including Title IX. We look forward to working with her both to showcase our efforts to combat sexual harassment and to be part of the national effort to deal with this problem.

Related to Title IX, the UO joined with other Oregon institutions in late January in submitting comments on proposed changes to responding to campus sexual assault, and we will be launching our second sexual assault climate survey in April.

President Trump is expected to release his budget on March 11. UO is working with AAU and APLU to advance student aid and federal research priorities. Unless Congress comes to an agreement to lift budget caps, discretionary spending will be subject to sequestration or an across-the-board cut of up to 10 percent.

Also, I am pleased that Bob Guldberg has agreed to headline the annual UOAA Capitol Hill reception on May 1. He’ll deliver a talk and have a chance to engage with the Oregon Congressional delegation.

A few other important notes before I complete my remarks. I would like to thank Karen Ford for her work in conceptualizing a new fellowship program to support faculty in the arts and humanities in their research and creative projects. In funding this program, which will provide a dozen fellowships a year from the President’s Success Fund, I am hoping to bolster our wonderful humanities and arts faculty and their research. In an era where student enrollments are declining in these fields, we need to send the message that the UO will always be a comprehensive university that values the humanities, humanistic social sciences, and the arts.

Yesterday, you heard about our exciting plans for partnering with OHSU in a joint center for biomedical data sciences. This center will join both institutions in research to fight cancer. I just want to say how excited I am about this partnership. Along with our research seed grant program that has already funded 10 collaborative and discussions to establish new degree programs, we are progressing well with leveraging the strength of both our state’s premier academic institutions in service of the state, our students, and our community.

Finally, as you walk through campus you no doubt have seen the remnants of last week’s two snowstorms. I would like to take a moment to express my deep gratitude to the scores of people who worked during the storm that dumped a foot of snow on campus.

These men and women worked through extreme conditions, some for 30 plus hours straight, to ensure our students who live here were safe, warm, and fed; to clear trees and snow from walkways and roads; and to prepare our campus for reopening.

It was a heroic effort. They could have called in sick or said they couldn’t get in. But they didn’t. They did it because they take pride in doing their jobs well and they care about our students and the entire community. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude. I am proud to be their president.