Monday, June 30, 2014

Supreme Court: Partial Public Employees Can't Be Required To Contribute To Unions

Huffinton Post
June 30th, 2014

   WASHINGTON -- In a setback for organized labor that could have been much worse, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that certain government-funded employees cannot be required to pay fees to the public sector unions that represent them, a decision that could hurt some unions financially.
The 5-4 ruling in Harris v. Quinn, written by Justice Samuel Alito for the majority, was not the worst-case scenario that unions had feared. But it does deliver a blow to major unions that have organized Medicaid-funded home care workers and other workers who aren't "full-fledged public employees" in the majority's eyes.
   Such workers, the court ruled, cannot be compelled to pay "agency fees." Because unions have to represent all the employees in a particular bargaining unit, they commonly seek requirements in their contracts that all workers, whether union members or not, pay agency fees to help cover the administrative costs of bargaining. This avoids what unions commonly refer to as "freeloading" by non-union employees.

Friday, June 27, 2014

New life sciences building in South Waterfront hailed as game-changer for education

The Oregonian
June 26th, 2014

   Portland dignitaries hailed the new $300 million Collaborative Life Sciences Building that opened in the South Waterfront on Thursday as one that will dramatically change medical education and the neighborhood for the better.
   The building, funded by state taxpayers, wealthy donors and other contributions, will allow doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists and physician assistants to be trained together rather than in separate buildings by separate faculties.
   And it will add jobs and vitality to the new urban neighborhood emerging from the former industrial land south of the Marquam Bridge along the west bank of the Willamette River, said Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, who helped lay the planning and zoning groundwork for the area as a city commissioner in the 1990s.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Nearly 70 Colleges Team Up to Assess Student Learning

Inside Higher Ed
June 25th, 2014

   Nearly 70 institutions are collaborating to better assess learning outcomes as part of a new initiative called the Multi-State Collaborative to Advance Learning Outcomes Assessment. The colleges and universities are a mix of two- and four-year institutions.
   The initiative, funded in its initial planning year by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was announced Monday by the Association of Colleges and Universities and the State Higher Education Executive Officers association.
   ”The calls are mounting daily for higher education to be able to show what students can successfully do with their learning,” said Carol Geary Schneider, AAC&U president, in an announcement. “The Multi-State Collaborative is a very important step toward focusing assessment on the best evidence of all: the work students produce in the course of their college studies."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

'But Does It Count?'

The Chronicle of Higher Education
June 23rd, 2014

There’s no such thing as the ivory tower. Today, colleges and universities are not isolated enclaves, and they probably never were. Public engagement is, and always has been, an essential part of the mission of higher education. The trouble is: Lots of people inside and outside of academe just don’t believe that.
Here are three points to set the stakes:
  • First, academics of all sorts are already deeply engaged with the public in many different ways.
  • Second, many universities explicitly recognize public engagement as a category that may count toward hiring, tenure, or promotion.
  • Third, in the United States and in academe itself, the widespread perception is that most faculty members do not engage with the public—either because they don’t want to or because they know they won’t be rewarded for it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

First briefs filed in PERS Supreme Court case

Statesman Journal
June 24th, 2014

   Two bills passed by the Oregon Legislature last year violate both the United States and Oregon constitutions on several counts, according to the first two briefs filed in a case challenging Senate Bills 822 and 861 before the Oregon Supreme Court.
   The briefs together argue that the state violated contracts with retirees in the Public Employees Retirement System without sufficient legal justification. Given that the PERS fund had no fiscal crisis, it was illegal to breach those contracts to pay for other services, such as education, they argued.
   Both bills reduced the annual cost-of-living adjustment for PERS retirees; SB 822 also eliminated a state income tax "remedy" paid to retirees who don't live in Oregon.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Southern Oregon University interim president named

Register Guard
June 20th, 2014

   PORTLAND — The state Board of Higher Education on Friday appointed Roy Saigo as interim president of Southern Oregon University, the Ashland-based school that’s cutting academic programs because of budget woes.
   Saigo, 73, was president of St. Cloud State University in Minnesota from 2000-2007, and has more recently been a consultant. He’s being touted as a turnaround expert by Oregon University System officials. Besides implementing a retrenchment plan that reduces the scope of the university, Saigo will oversee SOU as it and the other six public universities gain independence from the Board of        Higher Education by establishing their own governing boards.
   Saigo replaces Mary Cullinan, who resigned to become president at Eastern Washington University.    In March, 63 percent of the Southern Oregon faculty voted that they were not confident in Cullinan’s leadership. The vote came weeks after faculty members accepted a labor contract that did not include cost-of-living raises.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Oregon State's high school teacher prep program one of best in West

The Oregonian
June 17th, 2014

   Oregon State University's master's degree program to prepare high school math and science teachers is one of the best secondary teacher prep programs in the West, a new study says.
   The study by the National Council on Teacher Quality ranked teacher preparation programs at more than 800 colleges and universities and found most of them lacking. A press release from the council carried the headline "Teacher prep in Oregon underwhelms."

PEBB Approves Rates for 2015 -- Holding Inflation to 0.7 Percent

The Lund Report
June 18th, 2014

   The Public Employees Benefit Board on Tuesday inked the set of health options for public employees and approved premium rates that will rise only 0.7 percent above 2014 premiums -- a second year in a row that premiums have risen less than 1 percent.
   The minuscule rate increase and wide menu of options -- which include two coordinated care organizations, Moda Health and Kaiser Permanente, in addition to two options from Providence -- come as a feather in the hat of Gov. John Kitzhaber as he seeks to transform the way healthcare is delivered in Oregon.
  "Our coordinated care organizations are delivering promising results to Oregon Health Plan members,” the Governor crowed in a statement. “We want to see the same kinds of health improvements in our state’s workforce and their families."

Another public university president in Oregon calls it quits: Southern Oregon president leaves for Washington job

The Oregonian 
June 16th, 2014

Another president of an Oregon public university has resigned to leave for greener pastures.
Southern Oregon University President Mary Cullinan announced Monday she is leaving June 30 to become president of Eastern Washington University.
Three months ago, Eastern Oregon University's president, Bob Davies, announced he had quit to take a college presidency in Kentucky.
That leaves the Oregon board of higher education searching for new presidents for three of the state's four regional and technical universities and for an interim chancellor to oversee all of them. Western Oregon University president Mark Weiss, who has led the Monmouth school for three years, has announced he will retire next June.
Jay Kenton, who served as vice chancellor for finance and administration of Oregon's seven public universities, has stepped in as interim president of Eastern.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Oregon Faculty Senate Passes Academic Freedom Resolution

Inside Higher Ed
April 14th, 2014

The University of Oregon's Faculty Senate says it has approved a statement on academic freedom that is one of the strongest in the country, The Oregonian reported. The resolution followed months of contentious negotiation of an academic freedom statement to be included in the faculty union's contract. The collective bargaining agreement eventually was signed this year, and included what faculty members have described as a compromise between the union and the university regarding academic freedom and free speech.