Friday, September 25, 2015

Jury Rules for Former U. of Oregon Police Officer in Whistle-Blower Case

 The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 25th, 2015

A federal jury has awarded $755,000 to a former public-safety officer at the University of Oregon after determining that his supervisors at the institution retaliated against him for blowing the whistle on mismanagement and a juvenile culture in the campus’s police department. The Oregonian reports that the jury found the university’s police chief, Carolyn McDermed, and a lieutenant, Brandon Lebrecht, had retaliated against James Cleavenger by firing him and seeking to defame him.
“This is a victory for every honest police officer,” Jason Kafoury, a lawyer representing Mr. Cleavenger, told the newspaper. “The jury today honored and enforced an officer’s right to speak freely on matters of public concern, regardless of whether their superiors approve.”

Portland State University joins massive study of cities' weather weaknesses

September 23rd, 2015

Several Portland State University researchers have joined an international effort to identify cities' vulnerability to climate change-related weather extremes, and find ways to fix them.
Portland will be one of nine cities in the U.S. and Latin America participating in the five-year project, known as the Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network. Researchers will use a $12 million National Science Foundation grant to pay for their work.
They'll mine data and produce models to identify cities' weaknesses and strengths. Then they'll work with public officials to assess the resilience of roads, buildings, bridges and the like to extreme weather.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Chronicle of Higher Education questions standing of UO research

Register Guard
September 18th, 2015

Oregon’s top public universities are touting their prowess in drawing research dollars to the state — even as an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education casts doubt on Oregon’s ability to play in the big leagues of national research universities.
Oregon State University reported raking in a record $308.9 million in research dollars during the last school year.
University of Oregon tallied $114.6 million last year, down from an all time high of $135.6 million in 2009 and $115.3 million in 2008.
The totals of the two public universities aren’t directly comparable because OSU has agriculture and engineering programs, which draw additional grant dollars over the UO’s mix of programs.
Still, the UO has been ringing alarm bells about the decline in its research capacity. This month those bells rang out nationally when the Chronicle published an extensive article entitled, “An Academic Reputation at Risk:

States with strong unions are states with safer workers

Keep Oregon Working
September 18th, 2015

In states with strong unions, the standard of living for all workers, not just union members, is raised. And those improved standards aren’t just limited to wages and benefits: States with strong unions also have safer workplaces.
Working in dangerous places can lead to injury, illness and even death. This is especially true when corporate profits are put above workers’ wellbeing. To foster safe workplaces, unions invest significant resources in safety trainings and encourage workers to negotiate for appropriate staffing levels and equipment.
Highly trained workers are not only safe from the potential dangers that their jobs might bring, but they’re also attractive to business owners. The New York Times points out that rather than take advantage of cheap labor costs, contractors see the benefits of employing trained and certified workers.
“It’s a business bottom-­line issue… (anti-worker laws) compromise my quality, my competitiveness. The unions are my partner. They’re almost like a screening agency.”
– Bill Kennedy, president of Rock Road Companies, WI
Most importantly, when workers can successfully advocate for safer working conditions, fewer people die on the job. Research has shown that workplace fatalities are significantly lower in states where more workers are unionized.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sponsor may drop 'right to work' union measure in Oregon after adverse legal ruling

September 15th, 2015

The sponsor of a proposed ballot measure aimed at making union dues voluntary for public employees may well drop the initiative after receiving a politically unpalatable ballot title.
Portland attorney Jill Gibson said she is leaning toward abandoning the proposal after the Oregon Supreme Court upheld a ballot description that will make the measure harder to sell to voters.
The measure, which is being closely watched by the state's unions, would end the state law requiring public employees represented by union contracts to pay dues regardless of whether they join. Instead, dues would be voluntary for non-members.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

An Academic Reputation at Risk

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 15th, 2015

The duck is always up in everybody’s face.
He shoves. He body-slams.
He demands to be noticed.
The University of Oregon’s mascot, a Donald Duck knockoff in yellow and green, is a pure distillation of the university’s iconic brand. This is a place, the duck assures us, of unapologetically splashy sports and irrepressible good times. The image sells remarkably well to undergraduates, whose numbers have increased by 25 percent in the past decade alone.
What has been more difficult, however, is for Oregon to remain competitive with the top-­tier research universities that it has for decades described as its peers. Save a few marquee programs, Oregon often fails now to measure up to higher education’s heavy hitters, which bring in more federal grants, produce more doctoral degrees, and boast higher graduation rates.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Seattle teachers strike enters 2nd day; negotiations planned

September 10th, 2015

Teacher Janine Magidman has lived and worked in Seattle for years, but she worries her newer colleagues will be priced out because their salaries haven't kept up with expenses as the tech boom makes the city increasingly unaffordable.
Magidman was one of thousands wearing red shirts and holding signs as Seattle teachers went on strike for the first time in 30 years. The walkout began Wednesday, on what was supposed to be the first day of school, and continued Thursday as the two sides remained split over teacher pay.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Portland teachers feel classroom environment is unsafe, according to union survey

September 1st, 2015

About 34 percent of Portland teachers who took a recent survey feel their school environment is unsafe, according to the Portland Association of Teachers union.
The union presented key survey results to the school board at its Tuesday night meeting. About 1,000 of the union's members responded to the survey, which was distributed online this spring.
Suzanne Cohen, union vice-president, said the survey was in light of an increase in reports of teacher injuries and organized by a union committee.
The survey's main conclusions were that the district was not effectively implementing new discipline practices and failing to provide adequate special education services, Cohen said.
Superintendent Carole Smith has named reducing exclusionary discipline, or the number of suspensions and expulsions, as one of the district's key priorities. The goal is reduce overall exclusionary discipline by 50 percent and disproportionate discipline by 50 percent by June 2016.