Updates from the University COVID-19 Task Force

The following message was sent from the University Task Force on Long-term Responses to COVID-19 to all faculty, staff, and GEs.

November 12, 2020

Dear University of Oregon community,

We are writing as the members of the University Task Force on Long-Term Responses to COVID-19 to update you on the activities and timeline of the task force.

University Senate leadership together with the UO president and provost formed the task force in late spring 2020 to advise the president on how UO should respond to the financial challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. The task force is charged with considering operational and structural changes that protect the university’s core mission to be a “comprehensive public research university committed to exceptional teaching, discovery, and service.” We are tasked with reviewing a range of data and proposals and in thinking creatively about ways to achieve this goal. We will consider proposals through the lens of our values and priorities as an institution, which include equity, inclusion, and excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service.

At the time the task force was created, there was considerable uncertainty about how the coronavirus pandemic would affect the university’s budget. Questions about enrollment and state support opened the possibility of exceptionally large shortfalls that might require substantial changes to the structure of the university. We are relieved to report that recent data on enrollment and state projections suggest that the shortfalls will be smaller than the most dire predictions. Nonetheless, we still face substantial shortfalls that need to be addressed. Also, considerable uncertainty remains about the budget regarding future cuts from the state and the long-term impact on enrollment from the pandemic and changes to course delivery. So, we will continue our work, focusing on the ways the university can sustain its mission during the pandemic and any changes it might bring, financial and otherwise.

Throughout the summer and into the fall, we have been learning about the history of major structural and budgetary changes at UO, educating ourselves about the university’s current budget and projected future scenarios, and discussing the values, principles, and priorities that should guide any recommendations that we will make to the president. We are still in the early stages of our work, which we expect will continue throughout this academic year and into the next. We will refine our values and priorities as we continue to gather input from campus stakeholders.

Going forward, during the fall and winter and into the spring, we will engage stakeholders across campus in discussions that will help illuminate how UO can emerge from the pandemic with the full capacity to serve its mission. Examples of the questions we are asking include:

  • What are the values, priorities, and principles that should guide decisions about UO’s future? How can we ensure that equity will be prioritized as part of all decisions?
  • How can UO become a stronger institution with respect to teaching, scholarship, and service with its current level or, very possibly, a reduced amount of resources?
  • Which academic areas that serve UO’s mission have the capacity for growth without additional investment in faculty/staff resources or infrastructure?
  • What are areas for strategic investments that will improve teaching, scholarship, and/or service to the state in ways that generate revenue or are revenue-neutral?
  • What are other feasible steps UO can take right now to better position itself to succeed in its teaching, scholarship, and service missions in the post-pandemic world?
  • What are ways UO could operate more efficiently while protecting its core academic mission of teaching, scholarship, and service?
  • Are there any degrees, programs, or departments that should be merged with others or ended as part of a reorganization—either because of quality or financial reasons?

With these questions in mind, we are planning on the following outreach:

  • Meetings with leaders of stakeholder groups, including but not limited to graduate and undergraduate students, represented and unrepresented faculty, officers of administration, and classified staff, to refine our understanding of the above questions and help us begin to answer them.
  • A survey of campus for individuals or groups to direct ideas to the task force. We might distribute subsequent surveys based on responses to the initial one.
  • A “suggestion box” that will be open continuously for additional ideas, suggestions, and comments.

Over the next several months, the task force will review the responses to our surveys and our conversations with stakeholder groups. Our work will conclude with a final report to the president in the 2021-2022 academic year that identifies the most promising ways for UO to serve its mission while remaining financially viable. We might also generate interim reports if we draw conclusions about specific areas of focus considered by the task force.

We close by acknowledging that this is a challenging time for many in our community. The pandemic and wildfires unleashed a series of cascading effects that have touched all our lives in myriad ways. The Black Lives Matter movement and the national reckoning on race must inform our work going forward. At a time like this, we—faculty, staff, OAs, and students—must help guide the university. We are grateful for your thoughtful engagement in this work and very much look forward to hearing your input.


Elliot Berkman
Task Force Co-Chair

Sabrina Madison-Cannon
Task Force Co-Chair

And the members of the task force.