Thursday, November 10, 2016

Post Measure 97: Oregon university presidents seek 'minimum' increase of $100M for higher ed

From Oregonlive November 9, 2016
Measure 97's failure creates tough decisions for Oregon lawmakers next year, but the state's public university presidents say one choice should be clear: Keep funding higher education.
Oregon's seven public university presidents signed a joint letter Wednesday asking for a "minimum" of $100 million funding increase for higher education in the next biennium.
The failed tax on corporations wasn't expected to contribute to higher education, but it would have helped address a built-in budget shortfall of more than $1 billion. Despite the challenges, the presidents said, Oregon can still work to make its public universities affordable for residents.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

First Monday Musings: On Academic Freedom, Administrative Fairness, And Blackface

A thought-provoking Op Ed piece about the UO professor who wore blackface to an off-campus party

Published in "Above the Law" Nov 7, 2016

I had intended to write this month about bar passage rates and the steps we at Illinois took this year (that I hope contributed to our strong results relative to other good schools), but given the recent flap at the University of Oregon over a law faculty member’s wearing of a costume that included blackface at a private, off-campus Halloween party attended by students and faculty members, I think some reflections about “academic freedom” are in order. Although I am a law dean, I express here my own views, not those of my law school or university.

Friday, November 4, 2016

UO law professor investigated for wearing blackface at Halloween party

UPDATE: A group of 23 School of Law faculty members released a statement calling on their colleague to resign if the blackface incident is true.
A University of Oregon law professor wore a costume that included "blackface" at an off-campus Halloween party, prompting outcry from student groups and a decision to place the professor on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Phil and Penny Knight will give $500 million to University of Oregon for science complex

October 18, 2016 from OregonLive

The University of Oregon announced it received a $500 million commitment from Phil and Penny Knight to build a new science complex in Eugene, which it hopes will speed the translation of scientific discoveries into "real world impact."


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

M98 stirs questions behind closed doors

Portland Tribune Oct. 11, 2016 [Measure 98 is the Voc Ed initiative. Pat Burke is faculty in the PSU Graduate School of Education]

Measure 98 appears set for a smooth sail to victory on Election Day.
The statewide high school graduation measure has big-name multipartisan support through Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, Republican candidate for governor Dr. Bud Pierce, the Independent Party of Oregon and many others.
Backers also have amassed a war chest of $3.1 million provided mostly by the Portland-based national nonprofit Stand for Children.
That’s actually less than the yes campaign for its much more high-profile ballot neighbor, Measure 97. That may be surprising given that — unlike the controversial corporate tax measure — Measure 98 enjoys no organized opposition and has the support of 64 percent of respondents to a recent citizen poll.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Lewis & Clark College student stumbles across Bible from 1599

From The Oregonian/OregonLive 09/30/16
For probably half a century, a copy of one of the most historically significant Bibles ever published sat forgotten in the basement of Lewis & Clark College'sAubrey R. Watzek Library in Portland.
Then, on Tuesday, a curious history major opened a box, and the 1599 Geneva Bible – the Bible of Queen Elizabeth I, William Shakespeare and the Mayflower Pilgrims – came back into the light of day.
"It's quite rare," said Hannah Crummé, the library's head of special collections and college archivist. "It's not the only copy of this particular book ... but it is the only catalogued copy in the Northwest."

Monday, September 26, 2016

Oregon's largest universities see 'mediocre' graduation rates as a problem

Oregonian article by Andrew Theen
Thousands of college freshman start classes this month at Oregon's three largest public universities, and if history repeats itself, more than half will not have a degree in four years.
And by 2022, chances are, roughly one-third of this year's full-time freshman will still remain degreeless.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

U.S. News & World Report college rankings: How Oregon schools fared

U.S. News & World Report issued its 2015 college rankings Tuesday, and Oregon schools made a showing.
No Oregon campus made the top tier of best schools overall. The University of Oregon scored highest on that list among Oregon schools, earning a No. 106 ranking in a seven-way tie.


Monday, September 12, 2016

Oregon had close eye on ITT Tech before its demise

ITT Tech, the for-profit higher education giant that crumbled under federal regulation and oversight this week, was also under scrutiny from Oregon officials before its demise.
The state's Higher Education Coordinating Commission has some oversight powers, including the ability to approve applications allowing schools to continue awarding degrees every two years. ITT's degree approval had just expired Aug. 31.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Portland students' protest forces public talk about school bond, walkout planned

Portland teens forced school board members to publicly explain why they are delaying a bond to fix their crumbling, overcrowded high school by threatening a sit-in at Tuesday's board meeting.
The Lincoln High School students, who were about 30-strong at the meeting, want the board to put a $750 million construction bond on November's ballot. The deadline to place measures on that ballot is Thursday.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Portland Teachers Expose Lead in Schools

Labor Notes
By Samantha Winslow
August 2, 2016

The school superintendent in Portland, Oregon, has resigned amid a widening scandal, after news broke that the district waited months to tell the public that drinking water at two elementary schools had tested positive for lead.

Even school employees only learned about the elevated lead levels at Creston and Rose City Park when a local newspaper ran an exposé.

“What set all of us off initially was the cover-up,” said Belinda Reagan, president of the union that represents school clerical staff. “They lied about it. They knew. That’s a notorious manner of handling things in this district. They are not forthcoming.”

The first two schools were just the tip of the iceberg. “Now we are finding out, as they are testing more schools, that all of them have the issues,” Reagan said.

The four unions representing teachers, custodians, and clerical employees quickly united to put pressure on the district—and to find out how this problem went unfixed for so long. They’re demanding testing of all schools, safety protection for students and employees, and a role in the plan to make schools safe by the fall.


Periodic lead testing showed the presence of lead in Portland schools’ drinking water back in 2001. Between 2010 and 2012, the district found unsafe levels of lead in 47 schools.

Since then, parents and employees had assumed the district was following protocol—including installing and replacing water filters, and where needed, posting signs warning people not to drink the water. It turns out that wasn’t true.

The superintendent has claimed she was unaware of the problem. She fired two managers overseeing school maintenance.

But Portland Association of Teachers Vice President Elizabeth Thiel said it’s been a struggle just to find out who was really responsible for overseeing building safety. “It feels like a system that has been built in order to divert attention from problems, and to dead-end problems, instead of solving them,” she said.

Part of the problem, said outgoing PAT President Gwen Sullivan, is that over the years the district has cut back and outsourced its maintenance staff, getting rid of the workers who had “historic knowledge” of the buildings—while administration passed the buck on the ongoing problems.

“Nobody cared about the buildings,” Sullivan said. “Nobody took ownership.”

PAT leaders joined with the other school-employee unions—Service Employees (SEIU) Local 503, a council of trades unions, and the Portland Federation of School Professionals (AFT) Local 111—to make sure the problems don’t fall through the cracks again.

At the June school board meeting, the presidents of the four unions together announced their demands, including that the district pay the cost for any employee who chooses to be tested for lead poisoning, and that it share its plan to ensure schools are safe by the end of the summer.

One demand the unions quickly won was an independent investigation. Results were announced July 18, concluding that higher-ups had shown an “absence of diligent inquiry” on lead safety protocols.

The day the report came out, the superintendent announced her resignation.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Oregon's public university presidents hire key state staffer to run new 'council of presidents'

The Oregonian
By Andrew Theen
July 13, 2016

The presidents of Oregon's seven public universities hired an executive director this week for a new organization that will lobby for their interests at the Legislature and respond to public-policy issues.

Dana Richardson, deputy director of the state's Higher Education Coordinating Commission and a former legislative director for Senate President Peter Courtney, will start reporting to the presidents in September. Richardson will be the executive director of the Oregon Public Universities Council of Presidents.

According to a statement, Richardson "will work with the presidents and their leadership teams to advance their collective goals of serving the students and the citizens of the state of Oregon as high quality public universities."

Ben Cannon, Richardson's boss at the state coordinating commission, said losing his deputy is a big loss but a gain for the presidents' organization.

"We expect to work very closely with the presidents' council and with Dana," Cannon said.

Richardson was one of the chief architects of legislation that created the new structure of independent governing boards in Oregon. "She's been there every step of the way and involved at the core level of every change we have made," Courtney said in a 2014 press release.

The university presidents formed their own advocacy organization after the state's higher education board disbanded in 2015, eventually replaced by the coordinating commission and independent boards of trustees at each school. The presidents have been meeting for months, and penning advisory notices and feedback to the commission on policy ideas.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Oregon saw biggest percent increase in completed financial aid applications

The Oregonian
By Andrew Theen
June 2, 2016

Oregon had the largest increase in the nation in the percentage of high school seniors who completed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, a key indicator that more Oregonians are interested in going to college.

In 2016, Oregon saw an 8.8 percent increase from a year earlier in the number of students who completed the application. Oregon also leads the nation in the percent increase in submitted-but-incomplete applications, according to an analysis from the National College Access Network.

Despite those increases, Oregon still falls below the national average for the percent of high school seniors completing a FAFSA. According to Bellwether Education Partners' annual analysis, 39.6 percent of U.S. high school seniors finish their financial aid applications. Oregon's completion rate is 39.1 percent.

Students must fill out the complex application to determine eligibility for state and federal grants and loans.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Oregon's anemic higher education funding (OPINION)

The Oregonian
By Robert Berdahl
May 18, 2016

As one of the advocates for creating separate governing boards for Oregon's universities, I was pleased to note the apparent success The Oregonian/OregonLive reported about the initial operation of these boards. The article also noted that the Legislature had allocated a "record $665 million in general state support ... for the 2015-17 biennium."

While Oregonians may take some satisfaction in this "record" appropriation to higher education, it may also be useful to put that number into a comparative context. We might ask ourselves: What do other states with similar populations and state budgets spend on public higher education?

The answer is disquieting.

The "Distribution of State General Fund Expenditures" compiled for the most recent year of available data, 2014, by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, provides a comparison of state expenditures.

In 2014, Oregon, with a population of 3.9 million, had total state expenditures of $7.9 billion; it spent $347 million on higher education, less than half of the $885 million it spent on corrections. Oregon ranked 26th in total expenditures, but it ranked 41st in expenditures for higher education and 18th in expenditures for corrections. None of the nine states spending less than Oregon on higher education had populations of more than 1.6 million, and the average population of the nine was only 1 million. Even North Dakota, with a population of about 740,000, spent more on higher education than Oregon. The 17 states that spent more on corrections are all large states, with average populations of about 13.4 million.