UO Board of Trustees Meeting Remarks

June 8, 2018

President Michael Schill delivered his remarks during the University of Oregon Board of Trustees Meeting on June 8, 2018.

Welcome to the board, Marcia. You have been a great supporter of the UO for years and you bring to us incredibly valuable experience and expertise with respect to executive leadership and K-12 education.

I am closing my third year. It is amazing to think we have wrapped up another academic year. Three years have flown by.

Thank you, Amy, for your service to our students. We look forward to working with incoming ASUO President Maria Alejandra Gallegos-Chacon and her executive committee in the year ahead.

I am sorry Chris is not here for us to thank him for his service to the university as Senate President. Welcome back, Bill, for another tour of duty. And as of yesterday’s Senate meeting Professor Elizabeth Skowron will be joining the Senate leadership team next year as Vice President. Elizabeth, we will look forward to working with you.

As we prepare to send another graduating class into the world, I want to touch on some of the successes and challenges of the 2017-18 academic year. This year we made tremendous progress on each of our key initiatives of improving academic excellence, student success, and advancing the diversity and experience on campus.

We've covered or will cover many of these issues during this board meeting, so I will only touch the surface of most of them. Feel free to ask me questions.                                                                                        

Academic Excellence                                                         

The Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact has rocked our world and indeed the whole world. We have thus far raised close to $600 million in gifts and state support, with the most recent being a gift of $10 million coming from Lorry Lokey for faculty chairs and another $10 million, which we will announce soon for faculty research support.                                                                                                                               

The vision is philanthropy and state support of about a billion dollars. The support makes it possible, what goes on in the Knight Campus is what we do.                                                                                                                          

  • Bob Guldberg will join as director in July, and was here this week as we hosted our inaugural event in the Knight Campus Lecture Series.
  • Digging has begun on Franklin Boulevard for two new, state-of-the-art laboratories where the Knight Campus will be located.
  • Partnerships with OHSU have been created and we just launched a joint research program for eight UO/OHSU pairs of scholars. David Conover’s office has taken the lead on that. We have a small grants competition. I am very excited about the success so far.
  • Contacts and partnerships with entrepreneurs and corporations are being explored. This is part of what we told the state. Science in the service of humanities. Science is important. Period. But the Knight Campus is about getting that science out into the world to make our world a better place.
  • An advisory board is being formed.
  • Throughout the state and indeed, the nation, there is excitement and interest in what we are doing here.

We continued making more tenure- and tenure-track faculty hires this year. When all of the comings and goings are settled this year, we expect to have increased our TTF ranks by more than 60 individuals since we set our aspirations toward this goal of 80. This is a net increase which includes our retirement. This year’s hiring spanned all of the schools in the university although we have had some focus on priority areas such as Black studies and genomics. Next year, as you heard, Provost Banavar has approved a hiring plan, which will include focused hiring for the Presidential Data Science Initiative, the Knight Campus, the business school, and hiring in every part of the university.

We re-opened the beautifully renovated Chapman Hall, home to our honors college, as we continued to invest in modernizing our research and classroom infrastructure including those in Pacific and Klamath Halls. We have prioritized Eustis Hall in our next biennial capital request to the HECC. Yesterday we saw it ended up fairly high on the state list. Our laboratories are untouched for decades, and so we need to renovate them to serve our faculty and students.

I’ve talked to you in the past about our investments from the Presidential Fund for Excellence, which was made possible by an amazing anonymous gift. You have already heard about Data Science, SOJC’s new Media Center for Science and Technology, the College of Education’s Oregon Research Schools Network, and our matching program for up to nine new endowed faculty chairs—one for each college or school and one each for the three divisions in CAS. We have so far successfully matched three—Music and Dance, the natural sciences in CAS, and the Lundquist College of Business.

We have also invested in two really exciting academic programs in the College of Design—the Urbanism Next initiative that examines the impact of autonomous vehicles on cities and the Biology and Built Environment Center that studies the impact of building technologies on health and the environment. 

Access and Success

And as we discussed yesterday, we are using a portion of the anonymous gift to seed the extraordinary expansion of advising that will take place in Tykeson Hall. 

Related to student success, carrying loads and graduation rates continue to increase. Our most recent data indicates that we have a seven percent increase. We expect that to fluctuate in the next year or two. We expect even more dramatic progress as Tykeson Hall comes on line with an additional 20 advisors. 

We have also expanded PathwayOregon and increased our commitment to the state of Oregon by increasing our resident enrollment. What is remarkable about PathwayOregon is when we started this program we budgeted for 1,600 students. We are on track to enroll as many as 3,000 Pathway students; over one-quarter of all resident students. It is an $8 million dollar a year commitment to serve bright, lower income students in the state of Oregon who want and deserve all the benefits a college education will bring them.

Diversity and Student Experience

Equity and inclusion is vitally important at our university and its importance grows each year as our student body and our state becomes more diverse.

Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Yvette Alex-Assensoh will present on the IDEAL Framework and its implementation through Diversity Action Plans later today.

We have also made great progress over the past year in implementing our response to several of the demands of the Black Student Task Force including:

  • Implementing a new multicultural requirement.
  • Offering a second year of the African American Lecture Series–which by all accounts was another success.
  • Continuing our work on creating a Black Studies program.
  • And planning and fundraising for a Black Cultural Center, which now has architectural renderings. We expect to break ground in the fall as we continue to fundraise.

This year we opened our Native American academic residential community housed at the new Kalapuya Ilihi residence hall, which you saw at a previous meeting. We worked hard to advocate for the preservation of DACA and continue our work to ensure Latino students from across the state come to the UO and receive support and connections once on campus.

Like other universities throughout the nation we are challenged by the growth of diversity on campus, the desire for inclusion, and our commitment to freedom of speech. Although we thankfully escaped visits from controversial troublemakers like Milo Yiannopoulos and Richard Spencer, we experienced some protests and interruptions by students and incidents involving the posting of white supremacist propaganda on campus. 

Last summer I asked Deans Juan-Carlos Molleda and Marcilynn Burke to put together a set of events throughout the university on freedom of expression. These events took on even greater meaning after Charlottesville and the interruption of my State of the University speech in October. The lectures, roundtable discussions, art exhibits, and other events explored the tension between free expression and creating an inclusive campus. In all, we hosted more than a dozen events on a variety of thought-provoking topics.

I was impressed with the discourse, energized by our student’s insights, and frankly, I came away with some new thoughts and perspectives on our fundamental legal and ethical responsibilities when it comes to speech and expressions.


We have talked at length about our budget, so I will not revisit the topic, except to say that funding is and will remain our greatest challenge in the coming years.

We, like all universities in the nation, have increasing costs relating to wages and health benefits. But what is particularly damaging to Oregon public universities (and to the entire state) is the cost of PERS. As you remember, this year and next year we had to add to our recurring expenses $7 million to pay for PERS. For FY20 we expect to add $9 million more. That is $16 million per year; the equivalent of over 150 faculty members!

As you know we have entire teams working on this because we know that we cannot continue to deliver an excellent education without more money to cover the large increases. And our students and their families are counting on us to stretch every tuition dollar and to provide our students with an outstanding education and opportunity to participate in world-changing research.

That brings me to the two new topics I would like to briefly discuss:

Differential Tuition

At the last Board of Trustees meeting in March, you voted to allow to allow the university to charge differential tuition for the Lundquist School of Business. At that meeting I told you that I would bring to you a framework that would help guide the deans, provost, and ultimately me, in future proposals. After several months of discussion and consultation, I would like to present you with that framework. The framework includes consultation with the ASUO and the Senate Budget Committee, the latter with a particular focus on academic impacts that may result from a proposal.

While the Senate did pass a resolution last week to establish a task force on differential tuition, we have been told that they are likely to not do that because the Senate budget committee has a role per framework. I think that’s right—we do not need more university task forces that simply duplicate work; we need to collaborate and work together. 

The framework is focused on some core principles that center on the value to and impact on students, as well as an ancillary impact on the school and entire institution or other programs.

You have the full framework and I will review that briefly here. Any proposal to enact differential undergraduate tuition should:

  • Demonstrate the tangible value to students that warrants increased costs, such as the potential for greater earnings, improve student services, or accelerate time to completion.
  • Demonstrate how differential tuition would substantially increase the quality of the student experience.
  • Provide a plan for how the school/college will mitigate the impact of the proposal on students with the greatest financial need, especially to avoid “major shopping” where students may select majors based solely on affordability.
  • Focus on strategic investments or services that could not otherwise be provided without serious detriment to the school/college.  
  • Contain an analysis of market comparisons and information at comparator institutions.
  • Show that the proposal has been thoroughly vetted at the program or school/college level before submission to administration, with particular attention to student review and input.
  • Be made available to the Senate Budget Committee for review.

While this framework is not something you will vote on, I wanted to share with the board how we are thinking about these guidelines, and how we hope to move forward.

Honorary Degrees

Finally, after a decade-long hiatus, I am pleased that we have begun a process to again to bestow honorary degrees to outstanding individuals who have shown outstanding scholarship or artistic achievement in their lifetime, or performed extraordinary public service or contributions to society in their lifetime.

Later today we will discuss the two names forwarded for your consideration: businessman and philanthropist Lorry Lokey and artist Carrie Mae Weems, both of whom are Oregonians who have made significant contributions to society.

If you approve these individuals as honorary degree recipients later today and if they accept, we will move forward on details around a visit in which they can engage with the community. Our hope is that Mr. Lokey can attend commencement on the 18th given his proximity to Eugene and his plans to already be in the area, and that Ms. Weems might be available to visit in the fall when students and faculty are available to celebrate her artistic works.

I look forward talking more about both of them, but for now I will let us get back to the agenda.

Thank you.