Thursday, July 31, 2014

Two Oregon unions stop collecting dues for some 'fair share' workers following high court's decision

The Oregonian
July 23rd, 2014

Two of Oregon's largest public employee unions have stopped collecting dues from thousands of home care workers who didn't belong to the union but had been required to help pay the costs of union representation.
Oregon branches of Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees both took the action following a decision last month by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The court ruled 5-4 that home-care workers in Illinois represented by SEIU could not be required to pay dues if they did not want to join the union.  The decision only covered a group of workers who aren't directly employed by government but are supported by public funds.

Oregon PERS Director Paul Cleary to retire in December

The Oregonian
July 30th, 2014

Paul Cleary, the executive director of Oregon's public pension system during a decade of tumultuous times, will retire effective Dec. 1.
Oregon's is a uniquely complicated retirement system and an administrative labyrinth born of years of legislative tweaks, political battles and legal decisions.  Cleary took over the PERS top job in 2004, in the wake of major, controversial and in the end, only partially successful reforms designed to head off a funding disaster. The system's funded status bounced back in the next few years, only to be hammered by the financial downturn in 2008, which precipitated another controversial and complex set of legislative reforms that are still awaiting a legal judgement by the Oregon Supreme Court.

How much does PERS matter to the Oregon economy?

The Statesman Journal
July 30th, 2014

Public pension benefits not only help keep retirees afloat but are a boon for the private-sector economy, according to a study released this month by the Public Employees Retirement System.
Retirees received $3.2 billion in benefits last year, mostly funded by investment earnings, not tax dollars.
That income contributed $3.8 billion in total value to the economy, the study found, through retirees spending their money locally. That money supported 34,712 jobs, worth $1.07 billion in wages.
Those numbers sound large but actually represent a fraction of the state's total economy.

PCC prof takes heroic imagination around globe

Portland Tribune
July 31st, 2014

Vivian McCann is convinced that nurses can be taught to stand up to authority figures who are cutting safety corners. She is certain that most of us can learn how to take heroic actions in everyday situations even while those around us do nothing.
McCann, a Portland Community College psychology professor, is a local trainer for the Heroic Imagination Project, an international effort whose purpose, according to its founder, is “seeding the earth with heroes.”
The origin of the Heroic Imagination Project is almost as fascinating as the work it does around the world. Phil Zimbardo was a Stanford University psychology professor in 1971 when he conducted what became known as the Stanford Prison Experiment. He divided his students into two groups. Half were instructed to play the roles of prison guards, the other half were to act as prisoners.
Six days in, Zimbardo thought his experiment was going wonderfully, according to McCann, who later co-authored a college psychology textbook with Zimbardo. He was crowing to one of his grad students about the wonderful research. Everybody seemed to have forgotten they were college students. The students playing guards had begun sadistically abusing the student prisoners, who had started acting defensive, depressed and helpless.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

$100M Gift for Oregon Health and Science U.

Inside Higher Ed
July 29th, 2014

Oregon Health and Science University on Monday announced an anonymous $100 million gift. The funds will support, among other things, the hiring 20 to 30 top scientists and their teams to improve methods to identify cancer at its earliest and most curable stages.

Monday, July 28, 2014

When a college contracts ‘adjunctivitis,’ it’s the students who lose

PBS NewsHour
July 25th, 2014

Soon, American college students will be returning to campus — or perhaps arriving at one for the first time. Students and their parents may not know, however, that they’re arriving on what a New York Times headline from February called “the new college campus.” Virtually gone are the days when a majority of professors were full-time and tenured (or at least tenure-eligible), which gave students a remarkable amount of stability, educational continuity and mentorship opportunities. Nowadays, such professors are the minority of college educators.
In their place are ever-increasing ranks of adjunct professors — some part-time, some full-time, all effectively impermanent. This true new faculty majority comprises almost 75 percent of professors at both private and public institutions. Adjuncts’ contingent, precarious situation is directly linked to the ever-rising cost of tuition that students and their parents will be paying off — perhaps for decades. To be an adjunct professor means several troubling things...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A More Nuanced Bill Gates

Inside Higher Ed
July 22nd, 2014

It is ironic, says Bill Gates, that academic institutions are so good at studying the world around them but not themselves.
Gates, the Microsoft founder whose Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has spent roughly a half billion dollars on higher education, made his case to college business officers Monday that colleges must hold themselves more accountable -- or someone else will bring them to account.
“The sooner you drive this the better it is than having it brought down from on high in a way that is not appropriate,” Gates told members of the National Association of College and University Business Officers during the group’s annual conference here, which is also home to "the foundation," as those here call it.
It will surprise few that Gates said more than a few things that would rile many a faculty member. He painted a future in which a small number of top-quality online courses in key disciplines replace home-grown lectures on many campuses (as leading textbooks have historically done), fretted about what faculty unions could do to interfere with changes in higher education, and said nonprofit colleges could learn something from for-profit colleges about providing support to students.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fate of PERS reform depends on outcome in governor's race

Statesman Journal
July 20th, 2014

There is possibly no issue more dear to state workers than the Public Employees Retirement System. It is often the primary source of income after retirement, and a constant source of political focus. It has been "reformed" countless times and now has three tiers, multiple configurations of benefits and an assortment of interest rates.
The most recent event in the life of PERS came in 2013 when Gov. John Kitzhaber asked the Oregon Legislature to reduce how much the system costs employers on the front end, as their contribution rates had increased dramatically to make up for losses to the PERS fund during the recession.
The Legislature did so by reducing the cost-of-living adjustment for retirees (present and future), thereby reducing the overall cost of the fund over time and the immediate contribution cost for employers.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Catherine Dyck appointed as acting chancellor of OUS

PSU Vangaurd
July 15th, 2014

A successor to current Oregon University System Chancellor Melody Rose was chosen during a meeting of the Board of Higher Education on July 11. Catherine Dyck, current vice chancellor of Finance & Administration for OUS, was appointed as acting chancellor and chief financial officer by a unanimous vote.
Dyck’s term, which will begin on Aug. 16, will follow the departure of Rose, who has been appointed as the new president of Marylhurst University.
Rose’s departure is one of a series of changes affecting OUS in the coming year. In 2013, the Oregon legislature passed Senate Bill 270, which allowed Portland State, Oregon State University and the University of Oregon to establish their own institutional governing boards, subsequently removing them from OUS on July 1. Southern Oregon University, Western Oregon University, Oregon Tech and Eastern Oregon University will follow suit and establish their own governing boards by July 1, 2015.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Oregon Education Association staff union files lawsuit against leadership

The Oregonian
July 11th, 2014

The union representing the Oregon Education Association's staff workers is suing the OEA for violating federal labor law.
The lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Portland, alleges the OEA failed to restore secretarial positions in five field offices after an arbitrator found the layoffs breached a collective bargaining agreement between the Professional Staff Organization — an internal union that represents OEA employees — and the association's leadership.
In short: The Oregon Education Association, one of the most powerful unions in Oregon, is fighting a smaller union made up of its own employees.
In January, arbitrator Richard L. Ahearn ordered the union to restore secretarial positions in five field offices, according to a copy of the decision filed with the lawsuit. The cuts breached a longstanding agreement with its staff union to keep one secretary for every field office worker, Ahearn wrote in the opinion.
OEA leaders, looking to save money, instead opted to close those offices entirely. The move would even the ratio, as the bargaining agreement specified, by eliminating other jobs.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Melody Rose named new president of Marylhurst University

The Vangaurd
July 8th, 2014

Starting this summer and culminating in the next, the Oregon University System is undergoing radical changes in how they govern the public universities in the state. One of the most dramatic changes to OUS will be the departure of Melody Rose, who has served as the interim chancellor since March 2013. Rose is leaving OUS to become the president of Marylhurst University" Marylhurst University.
“I look forward to joining Marylhurst University, and to work closely with students, faculty and staff in service to this community,” Rose said. “Marylhurst’s history of serving underserved students speaks to me as a first-generation college graduate, and I am delighted to build upon the university’s mission and vision in order to maintain and create pathways to higher education.”

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

University makes two important appointments as Board of Trustees becomes official

Daily Emerald
July 7th, 2014

As of last Tuesday, the University of Oregon is now officially in the hands of the Board of Trustees. Though the 15 board members have been meeting since January, last Tuesday marked their first official day at the helm.
In the week leading up to the official hand-off, the UO made two new appointments to work in connection with the board. Angela Wilhelms, a former lawyer and political aide, will be the official secretary for the trustees, taking over record keeping duties from the outgoing Randy Geller. Meanwhile, Doug Park will assume Geller’s post as the general counsel to the UO in the interim.
Wilhelms has 12 years of experience in public affairs. She earned her undergraduate degree from Santa Clara University in 2000. She earned her MBA and law degree from Willamette University by 2013 and interspersed between jobs in political campaigns. She has since worked as a lawyer in Portland.

Combat higher education costs with creativity: Guest opinion

The Oregonian
July 9th, 2014

The United States has one of the most expensive higher education systems in the world.  And it's broken.  Students take too long to finish college.  Only 40 percent graduate in four years.  Employers say college graduates are ill-prepared for the workplace.  Many students cannot afford college – total student debt has risen to $1.2 trillion.  Minorities and first generation college students face enormous obstacles in attending and graduating from college.  Our faculty and administrators are the highest paid educational employees in the world.  Student dropout rates are accelerating, but their college debt continues.  Finally, trend analysis suggests all these phenomena will continue.  Unless the system is fixed, the college bubble will burst!  What can be done?
The causes of this problem are many.  States want more and better performance from their universities. Yet they are unwilling to fund them, yielding a continuous, downward trend in state support.  For the first time in 2012, universities received more income from student tuition than from state support.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Northwestern University and College Athletes Players Association (CAPA), Case No. 13-RC-121359

AAUP National
July 2014

The AAUP filed an amicus brief with the National Labor Relations Board arguing that graduate assistants at private sector institutions should be considered employees with collective bargaining rights. The board invited amicus briefs in the Northwestern University football players’ case to address several important issues, including whether the board should modify or overrule its 2004 decision in Brown University, 342 NLRB 483 (2004), which found that graduate assistants were not employees and therefore did not have statutory rights to unionize. In its amicus brief, the AAUP argued that the board should overrule the test of employee status applied in Brown to graduate assistants, but did not take a position as to whether the unionization of college football players was appropriate.
This case arose when football players at Northwestern University sought to unionize. The university argued that the football players were not “employees” under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), and therefore did not have statutory rights to choose whether to be represented by a union. The Regional Director for the Board had to determine whether players were “employees” as defined by the NLRA. The board normally applies the common law definition under which a person who performs services for another under a contract of hire, subject to the other’s control or right of control, and in return for payment, is an employee. The regional director found that under this common law test, the football players were employees under the NLRA.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Overworked America: 12 Charts That Will Make Your Blood Boil

Mother Jones
July/August 2011

Want more rage? We've got 11 charts that show how the superrich spoil it for the rest of us.
In the past 20 years, the US economy has grown nearly 60 percent. This huge increase in productivity is partly due to automation, the internet, and other improvements in efficiency. But it's also the result of Americans working harder—often without a big boost to their bottom lines. Oh, and meanwhile, corporate profits are up 20 percent.

UO raises the bar on higher education

Register Gaurd
June 29th, 2014

Call it UO 2.0.
The University of Oregon hopes to improve its scholarly standing by hiring new faculty in academic “clusters,” to lift the university to pre-­eminence in specific narrow fields, mostly in the sciences.
The 2014 Cluster of Excellence Faculty Hiring initiative involves adding up to 40 new professors in 10 fields ranging from volcanology to obesity prevention to sports products — if the UO can attract the money for the hires.
The hiring would be outside the UO’s normal academic staffing process.
The plan is to “move the needle on those academic metrics that really count: publications, research grants, faculty awards, citations — just the prominence of what it is we’re doing as researchers,” UO Provost Scott Coltrane recently told the UO’s new Board of Trustees.
The UO has a precarious perch in the Association of American Universities, or AAU, the league of the nation’s top-ranked research universities. The university wants to steady its grip by improving academics.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Thousands of Oregon care workers could be affected by Supreme Court decision on union dues

The Oregonian
June 30th, 2014

A U.S. Supreme Court decision appears to give thousands of Oregon care workers the right to opt out of paying dues to two of the state's major public employee unions.
Monday's 5-4 ruling by the court in a case involving Illinois home-care workers could directly affect some 24,000 workers represented by Service Employees International Union in Oregon and another 1,500 represented by the Oregon chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
However, the court did not strike down laws -- including one in Oregon -- that requires public employees in union-represented jobs to either pay union dues or support the union through "fair share" fees.
Instead, the court's decision dealt with workers who aren't directly employed by government but are supported by public funds.