April 25, 2019
Dear University of Oregon campus community,
In the weeks since Provost Jayanth Banavar announced his intention to step down on July 1, I have personally consulted with dozens of faculty members and administrators on how to proceed in the coming months. In addition, I have engaged in dialogue with groups such as the Faculty Advisory Council, Senate Executive Committee, Deans Council, and Academic Council. I am grateful for all of the advice I received.
We are at a critical time as it relates to our academic mission, a time that requires robust leadership from a provost. This fall, we will open Tykeson Hall and need to ensure that the resources put towards student success bear fruit. Similarly, the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact is set to open next year and much needs to be done to hire faculty, create new programs, and develop meaningful and effective connections to our schools and colleges. Similarly, our nascent data science program needs support from the provost, both to hire faculty members in departments across the campus and ensure cross-disciplinary collaboration. In addition, the provost and the vice president for research and innovation are working with dozens of faculty members to fashion a campuswide academic initiative on resiliency and the environment. We will also begin searching for two new deans this fall (College of Arts and Sciences and College of Design), and having a permanent provost likely will be highly relevant to candidates.
Sustained leadership from the provost will also be required to successfully negotiate bargaining agreements with the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation and United Academics this summer and in fall. Finally, despite the fact that the recently announced budget reductions for most academic units were modest, some schools/colleges and the museums will need help in adapting to them.
Virtually all of the people and stakeholder groups I spoke with were concerned that a long, drawn out search for the provost commencing next fall would impede or slow our progress in moving each of these initiatives forward. The challenge of seeing these efforts through to timely completion would be exacerbated if we hired someone from outside our university, since a national search could take more than a year and then a new leader would require six months or more to get up to speed.
A secondary observation expressed by some was that, over the past four years, we have repeatedly hired academic administrators from other universities, and that the time is ripe to grow and promote academic talent from within. Finally, some mentioned that the substantial cost of an external search for the provost, which could exceed $200,000, seems out of place when we are cutting budgets, raising tuition, and considering workforce reductions.
While I have generally favored external, national searches in the past for top academic and administrative positions, I am convinced that we do not have the luxury of time, and need to act swiftly. I have decided to commence an internal search for a provost immediately, with a goal of identifying a new provost from among our own ranks by the time Provost Banavar steps down. I have asked incoming Senate President and Professor of Psychology Elizabeth Skowron and Professor of Geography Alec Murphy to co-chair the search committee. The committee will be comprised of members who hold a tenure-related or career-faculty appointment (TTF or NTTF) at the UO, with the exception of one member who will be an officer of administration selected from the provost’s portfolio. Over the next few days, we will consult with Senate leaders to recruit two senators to the committee.
This will be a confidential search, though we will provide multiple opportunities for finalists to be interviewed by a variety of campus constituencies. I will ask the search committee to provide me with a report on each finalist’s strengths and weaknesses, and after reviewing feedback from the community, I hope to announce a decision in mid-June. If it turns out that we are unsuccessful in this effort, we will begin a national search in the fall.
I would very much like to encourage anyone who is interested to consider throwing their hat in the ring. We will launch a search website shortly, which will feature the job description and qualifications. A letter of interest and CV should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than midnight on Tuesday, May 14, 2019.
I would like to thank everyone for giving me the benefit of their wisdom on how we should proceed with the provost search. And, I offer a special thanks to Elizabeth and Alec for taking on this responsibility.
Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law