Thinking About CAS
With a College as big as ours, most days are filled with a churn of short-run issues that involve quick turnarounds. But one of the things that I enjoy and admire about our dean, Andrew Marcus, is his ability to always see the big picture and insist that we attend to that as well. For example, he often takes time to simply chat with people about how their lives are going when you know that he’s currently under a pile of difficult issues or decisions. And he always keeps the long-run direction of the College and University part of our conversation even in our busiest periods.
It’s not surprising then that the new political administration has had our attention from day one. It brings new and uncertain directions that intersect with other risks that we ignore at our peril. These risks and uncertainties range from ones of personal safety to how we manage discourse in our society to major changes in policy and government funding.
As Andrew outlined in his blog post last week, we find these new challenges serious enough that we are undertaking scenario planning sessions led by Andre LeDuc, Chief Resilience Officer Associate Vice President of Safety and Risk Services, which will include our Wise Heads (department head advisors to the Dean). As we go forward, we certainly want to hear from many other voices in our College as well.
One significant set of risks are connected to our funding streams, and this demands our attention because our available financial resources clearly impact our ability to provide a quality education to our students and to maintain the forward momentum of our research agendas. I’ll take the opportunity in this blog post to highlight some of the main funding risks that have our greatest attention.
Proposed Federal Budget Cuts
One of the unpredictable factors that creates risk is the FY18 federal budget. As Andrew Marcus shared in a recent email to department heads and managers, the “skinny budget” proposed by the Trump administration cuts at the heart of many things we value, especially our research and scholarship activities in many parts of the College.
Betsy Boyd, Associate Vice President for Federal Affairs, describes the budget as “skinny” in both its brevity and also in the deep cuts it proposes to important programs, including:
- $5.8B cut to the National Institutes of Health
- $4B reduction of the Pell grant “surplus”
- 5% reduction of the Department of Education budget
- Reductions in Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy science programs
- Elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts
Oddly, there is no mention of the $7B National Science Foundation budget, which perhaps is excluded from cuts. David Conover, Vice President for Research and Innovation provides his initial assessment of the proposed budget here.
The Trump administration’s budget proposal represents only the first step in what will be a very long and probably highly contentious process, which will eventually result in a final budget. If realized, these cuts could have a profound impact on external funding for CAS departments and also work study opportunities for our students.
Tuition Revenue At Risk
Another issue that has great potential to create financial instability is the Trump administration’s restrictions on immigration and visas.
As with the federal budget, this is a topic that is far from settled, but we could experience short-term fallout even as policies evolve and court challenges are mounted. Many CAS departments have already taken on extra work to assist international scholars with their work visa status.
These new immigration policies could also have a deleterious local impact on UO tuition income, which is the university’s primary source of revenue. The fear is that new visa and immigration restrictions—not just the current reality of these rules but also the threat of additional exclusions and enforcements—will put us at risk of losing international students. This year, international enrollment reached nearly 13% of the total student body, or a total of 3,000 students. A substantial decline in our international students would not only affect this important source of diversity on our campus, but could also threaten tuition revenues.
It is too early to tell to what extent these restrictions—or perceived concerns about restrictions—will make international students unwilling or unable to risk applying (or returning) to a U.S university. While students must place a deposit with us by May 1 to declare their acceptance of admission, we won’t really know the final numbers until Fall term begins.
$1.8 Billion State Budget Deficit
Tuition revenue uncertainty is inextricably tied to another issue of ongoing concern: the state budget. Oregon’s decades-long state disinvestment in higher education is the reason we have had to balance the UO budget on the backs of students and their parents.
In the 1970s, state funding comprised 35% of our budget, but that percentage has plummeted over the decades (beginning in the 1990s, with Measure 5) and is now down into the single digits. And yet despite the much lower level of funding, these state dollars are still important to us: an additional decrease of just one percentage point would lead to a revenue cut of well over $5M.
The State of Oregon is facing a $1.8B deficit in the coming biennium (2017-19), and lawmakers are scrambling to devise a plan that will avoid devastating cuts to K-12, health care, social services, and more. The Governor’s budget for higher education recommends $667.3 million in operating funds for all seven public university campuses in Oregon, which would mean a modest cut to UO’s annual state allocation.
The UO has joined with the other six public universities in the state to urge the state legislature to increase this amount by $100 million in order to preserve financial aid and student services. But the prospects for this are not promising.
These are the major risks that we see from a financial perspective. While we will continue to advocate for higher education and the UO in these various external arenas, it is important that we develop a set of principles and systems that allow us to optimally respond to changes ahead. But there is also a key anchor for our responses to whatever we face – our shared goals and mission as a vibrant public research university.
As always, we welcome your comments via email, or through our Suggestion Box.
Dean of Faculty and Operations
On the evening of Presidential election, I immediately began to wonder, “What will I tell the College tomorrow?” The next morning, in front of all the CAS department heads and program directors, I proclaimed my new militancy in upholding the values and standards that define a university to me: an unfettered search for knowledge, inclusivity, and intellectual integrity and honesty—a relatively mild way of reaffirming my commitment to what I hold dear in the face of strong national headwinds. But words like that, while important statements of affirmation, do not provide a pathway for action or administrative leadership.
Since that time, I have often thought about the national climate, the challenges it poses to public higher education, and how we might plan for the future. Yet I often became stuck in my thinking because there is so much uncertainty regarding potential changes. What will change? How will it change? Who will be affected? The list of unknowns is long.
I realized, however, that my concerns fit into three broad categories: a) financial solvency and stability; b) protecting and supporting faculty, staff, and students; and c) anticipating and addressing campus and civil unrest. In the Trump era, it is not hard to imagine challenges for higher education in any of these areas.
Financial concerns include reduced PELL funding for students, loss of international student tuition, and cuts to research agency budgets. Concerns about supporting our community members range from helping people targeted by hate crimes to providing clear guidance about international travel. And campus unrest ranges from dealing with debate in the classroom that spirals out of control to large campus protests.
Organizing my concerns, however, still did not provide a mechanism for planning in this time of uncertainty. I therefore met with the Wise Heads (a six-member group made up of CAS heads nominated by their fellow heads as advisors to the dean) and CAS dean’s office leadership to ask if it would be useful to engage in “scenario planning.” I proposed that Andre Le Duc, Chief Resilience Officer and Associate Vice President of Safety and Risk Services, and his staff could lead us through this process. The Wise Heads and leadership responded with a unanimous, “Yes.”
As a result, and starting this spring, our CAS deans, the Wise Heads, and a variety of consultants will embark on a series of discussions about how we might respond to a range of events. I want to be clear; we will be outlining general processes for responding. We will not be developing detailed plans for an infinite range of specific events that we cannot even predict. To use Andre’s words, we want the planning sessions to guide us “toward solving problems and using existing systems, networks and partnerships.”
According to Andre, “the sessions will allow CAS leadership to discuss potential vulnerabilities and its capacity to address those vulnerabilities. The discussions will focus on ‘what if’ scenarios and decision-making processes—exploring ways to recognize and evolve in response to the complex system within which we operate and to seek out new opportunities even in times of crisis.”
For example, if we see a major increase in verbal or online attacks on researchers, we want to know the range of responses available to us, who should be contacted within the institution, and how to prioritize actions given a limited number of personnel and time constraints. Although my thinking along these lines has been prompted by concerns regarding the national climate, some of the scenarios we work with might be equally valuable in helping us deal with other potential risks, ranging from flu epidemics to a Cascadia quake.
In the weeks and months ahead, we will be reporting to you through the blog about the results of our scenario discussions, which is one of the ways we think about CAS. The next blog post will be from Bruce Blonigen, who will discuss the uncertainty around future finances—uncertainty that derives from statewide, national, and international actions, and not from any decision internal to the university. Later posts will address other topics. As always, I will welcome faculty and staff input on those posts and the topics we discuss.
The scenarios we consider will all reflect challenging situations, but I want to assure you that we will also be continuing—as always—to think about the many positive possibilities on the horizon. This week, for example, we are undertaking the inspiring task of evaluating the many superior proposals from faculty and departments for tenure-track faculty hires. Next week we will launch into evaluating the numerous proposals we have received for innovative online classes. And following that, we will be working with advising staff across the College to talk about ways to improve student success within our majors.
Even in this challenging time, staff and faculty creativity—and the good that comes from it—are at an all-time high. At the same time, I want you to know that we are concerned about the national climate and its impacts on higher education—and are seeking ways to act on behalf of the College when and if specific challenges arise.
Tykeson Dean of Arts and Sciences
On campuses around the United States, the weeks following the election and leading up to the inauguration have been tense and anxiety-ridden. The post-election news cycle featured incidents of disparagement against Mexican Americans, women of all races, Muslims, African Americans, undocumented people, people with disabilities, and allies of those being targeted.
In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported an increase in hate crimes over this period: In the two months since the election, the SPLC recorded 315 anti-immigrant incidents, 221 anti-black incidents, 112 anti-Muslim incidents, and 109 anti-LGBT incidents.
Our own campus has experienced its share of tensions. During the week before the election, the College of Arts and Sciences deans and staff had been meeting with students, faculty, and staff in response to the blackface incident on Halloween. The election results, just days after, further motivated us to reflect on our roles as members of the UO community and our collective responsibility to be alert about situations in which individuals or groups were being harassed because of their race, gender, sexualities, or citizen status, or because they were speaking one of the many diverse languages our students, faculty, and staff speak on campus.
How, we collectively wondered, could we encourage all members of our community to be alert and to intervene, whether they were personally affected or not?
With these questions in mind, we asked members of our campus community to speak to CAS department heads and office managers about how to be responsible and responsive in situations where behaviors may call for bystander intervention.
From that forum, which took place January 11, we would like to share the following tips with you, based on ideas offered by Matthew Carmichael, UO Police Chief; Kerry Frazee, Sexual Violence Prevention and Response; Jocelyn Hollander, Professor of Sociology; Lynn Stephen, Professor of Anthropology; and Sandy Weintraub, Student Conduct.
Silence equals consent. Don’t be silent when you see bias or nonviolent hateful behaviors. Our students, colleagues, and staff members are looking to us for appropriate responses.
Be direct. If you witness bias or hateful behaviors, tell the person exhibiting this behavior, “This is not acceptable.” Ask people who are targets of these behaviors, “Are you okay?” But even while being direct, always avoid escalation; be calm.
That said, pick your battles. Don’t engage with people who are there only to provoke. There are people coming to campus with the explicit intent of fomenting violence. Also, the channel of communication is important: for instance, don’t respond to dramatic, hateful statements via email.
Distraction/redirection as a tactic. Try to distract those involved. Say something irrelevant to change the subject. Outside the classroom, a faculty member might say to someone exhibiting inappropriate behavior, “Were you in a class I taught?” Inside the classroom, you can pause and redirect by saying, “Thank you for that comment. We need to move on.” As can happen at demonstrations, there are sometimes people who come to classes to disrupt.
Set expectations. Explain, via your syllabus, that situations of bias can have an effect on students’ ability to participate in their own education and to feel safe and comfortable. Refer back to this if and when students express their opinions in an inappropriate manner.
Delegate, be safe. If you don’t feel you’re the right person to intervene in a given situation, you can enlist the help of others (see resource list below). Contact UOPD at any time of day or night if you feel unsafe, even if the situation has not escalated to the level of unlawfulness.
Be supportive of staff. Staff also experience intense situations because students sometimes don’t respect them as much as professors. Be aware of interactions taking place in your front office.
Out of our comfort zone. Know that intervention requires intention and discomfort for the sake of helping someone else. Be present — look up instead of down.
- CAHOOTS is a great resource for people experiencing a mental health crisis; they are available 24/7. Their phone number is the Eugene non-emergency number: 541-682-5111.
- When GEs (GTFs) experience an intense situation with disruptive speech or behavior, it can be especially tricky if they are new to teaching. Departments should make sure that GEs know how to navigate these conflicts. Student Life is happy to come and conduct trainings for GEs, staff, and faculty.
- If you ever feel unsafe, get help.
- Call the UOPD non-emergency number, 6-2919
- Send people to Student Life. 6-3216. Student Life staff are trained social workers and good at de-escalating. If needed, they will come to your classroom. Their front desk staff are trained to get someone there immediately or schedule a follow-up conversation.
- You can also call Student Life just to have a conversation. They can refer students to services and resources, and help faculty and GEs strategize. Sandy Weintraub’s direct number is 6-1141.
- The UO website respect.uoregon.edu has resources and information about “whom to call,” as well as a form to report incidents concerning hate and bias. There is also a phone line (6-5555) people can call 24/7. The line will be staffed by the UOPD, who will fill out the report form and send it to Dean of Students’ office. People can also report anonymously and be directed to confidential resources.
We need to be able to support all members of our diverse community in the months and years ahead – to make sure that our campuses and classrooms are places where we are inclusively and effectively carrying out the vital work of education and democracy: exchanging and testing ideas, conducting research, and promoting the forms of collaboration and innovation that emerge when people work together respectfully and responsibly.
As always, we invite your comments via email to your associate dean or through our Suggestion Box.
Interim Divisional Dean for Social Sciences
As we begin winter term and consider the potential impact of the Presidential transition, we are also turning attention to important work on our campus that helps ensure a welcoming, equitable, and informed community for all of us.
Even before the election last November engendered incidents of bigotry on campus and in the local community, President Schill announced that he was asking deans and vice presidents to pick up the pace of the diversity planning process, giving us 90 days to report on our annual plans. Indeed, our college diversity plans have never seemed more necessary, and we approach this endeavor in CAS with a new sense of urgency.
All plans will align with the IDEAL framework, a document that provides guidance in pursuing goals related to its five pillars: Inclusion, Diversity, Evaluation, Achievement, and Leadership. The IDEAL framework first calls for evaluating existing efforts, and this is where we started our work in fall 2015.
As many of you know because you helped us, we asked all units to submit an inventory of their work in diversity, equity, and inclusion. This inventory resulted in a 100-page report that contained a great deal of information pertaining to faculty and students and another 30-page report on the contributions of staff and officers of administration.
These inventories documented nearly a hundred different activities across the college—ranging from pipeline programs to strategies for improving climate to curricular innovations. The vast range of programs and practices described by our departments and programs has given us a glimpse of the diversity, equity, and inclusion work already under way in the college—but the inventory also makes clear that we are not:
- supporting and coordinating these efforts adequately across the college,
- learning enough from each other,
- assuring that everyone is participating, and
- measuring whether laudable goals are being achieved.
For these reasons, we believe it is time for our college to have a more coordinated diversity plan instead of the diffuse approach of the past. As a college, we need to outline CAS priorities, coordinate and focus all of our efforts, set goals, support those goals, and identify how we will measure our successes and failures and learn from them.
At the same time, we want to preserve the rich diversity of ideas that come from the local units and honor the tradition of local governance that characterizes our campus. How do we do this?
We believe that a top priority for CAS must be the establishment of diversity or community committees in each unit; this seems to us to be an especially effective way for units to learn about department atmosphere, discover differences, identify shared values and goals, and then do the work that makes good on the committee conversations. To take one impressive example, the Committee for an Inclusive Community in the Department of Psychology maintains a website that features resources regarding diversity and inclusion for faculty, staff, and students; provides opportunities for the department to discuss and integrate DEI values into research, teaching, and mentorship; collaborates with other units on campus; has subcommittees on Assessment, Communication, Events, Pedagogy, Procedures, and Graduate Student Recruitment; publishes an annual climate survey, which guides future goals; and leads a “Dialogue” on the annual report.
The Dean’s Office will be asking all units to establish a vital diversity or community committee as a first step toward raising awareness, sharing ideas and information, and focusing unit efforts productively. Most important, these committees will be a place where a respectful, supportive, and welcoming community can shape itself around shared work, reasoned dialogue, and thoughtful listening in order to set specific goals and find reliable means of evaluating the efforts to realize those goals.
Psychology is not alone in having a long-established and effective community committee, and we will be scheduling opportunities to hear from units and colleagues who have already established successful practices and plans. The Dean’s Office has just created a webpage where CAS units can begin to learn about each other’s work (and we invite departments and programs to alert us to their published stories that might be highlighted on the CAS diversity webpage). We also welcome your suggestions about how to establish and structure community/diversity committees and how to assure that they are really effective.
We all recognize the need to balance service duties with the many other demands of our jobs—whether we are students, staff, faculty, or administrators. How can a community or diversity committee sustain our work and support our mission rather than feel like more work? How can it be integral to achieving our goals? Can you help us think of the best ways to create these committees? Can we help you as you establish yours by offering guidelines or arranging a panel of diversity committee members from across CAS?
We invite you to write to your associate dean or submit your thoughts through the suggestion box, and we’re eager to hear your ideas for creating and sustaining effective community/diversity committees.
Divisional Dean for Humanities
On Wednesday, the day after the election, I cancelled my meetings and walked the campus. I visited departments, the student union and the libraries, and spent time at the American English Institute (AEI).I encountered tremendous fear and anxiety in our community. I heard it from students who voted for Trump and are scared for their safety on campus, and from people of color who will not come to campus after dark because they, too, are fearful for their safety. Some students of color (including students who come from Oregon) have been told “it’s time to go back where you came from.”
This climate of fearfulness is tragic and complex, but as I visited with people across the campus, I tried to communicate a very simple message for everyone I met: “All of the leadership at the University of Oregon wants you be safe, feel safe and—much more than that—feel deeply welcomed and valued here.”
For example, when I was at AEI, I spoke to a group of about 150 faculty and international students, who had heard Donald Trump say many hateful things—about people from different countries, from different religions, about disabled people, about women— during the course of the campaign. I assured them that the leadership at UO does not support these statements. I emphasized that we welcome people of all backgrounds to the University of Oregon.
All of us on this campus, and especially those who are in positions of authority, need to find ways to deliver this message—and to give it real force. Administrators need to reach everyone in our university community, faculty need to reach out to their students, supervisors to their staff, advisors to their advisees, all of us to each other. We need to knit our community together in a web of mutual support.
We need to find ways to make this support active and visible. Even if we have been staunch allies of diversity and inclusivity in the past, we can’t expect others to know that. Silence may be viewed as support of hateful speech or as apathy. We might understandably feel cautious about assuming what others are thinking and feeling or intruding on their privacy even if we do know their state of mind. But we must not let fear of seeming patronizing interfere with our duty to nurture our community. Let’s err on the side of reaching out, to being respectful if our gesture of solidarity isn’t needed or welcome, to being warm and supportive if it is.
We must be explicit in stating our support for individuals in our UO community, regardless of their politics, race, religion or other elements of identity. It is at the very heart of our mission as a public institution of higher learning to provide a haven where people can be themselves, express themselves, and learn from one another in that process. As a university, our diversity is our strength.
But in a campus with 30,000 people, how do we reach everyone with a message of inclusion?
In the days ahead, I will use this blog to share ways we are reaching out. My hope is that you will see practices that fit your setting. I have already heard from a number of individuals and departments about steps they are taking:
- Wear a safety pin. Associate Dean for Natural Sciences Hal Sadofsky suggests we replicate the post-Brexit practice of wearing a safety pin to indicate that we are safe haven for all individuals. A safety pin indicates that people of any identity can sit next to you, chat with you or turn to you for help. Hal outlines the roots of this practice and the rationale for it in his blog post. This is my favorite idea of all listed here, because it can immediately indicate support without ever saying a single word. Imagine what it would mean to someone who is deeply concerned for their safety to be in a room, surrounded by people wearing safety pins.
- Share messaging about inclusivity. For example, UO Communications just posted a video on the university Facebook page entitled “Dear Ducks, you belong here.”
- Meet people in their space. Many in leadership plan to go to residence halls to share meals with students and discuss current events and the basic principles of the university.
- Offer office hours to talk about concerns. I acknowledge that we are all overbooked, but this is a moment when adding extra meeting time can make a world of difference.
- Host departmental gatherings. Philosophy and Environmental Studies have already scheduled departmental gatherings this week to share concerns and build community.
- Engage in informal walkabouts and visits. Walking through the college was enlightening for me and, I hope, helpful for others. We see beyond the confines of our daily routine and can reach more people in the process.
- Have department leadership attend classes. I hope faculty will share our message of inclusivity with students, but it can also mean a great deal if a department head or associate head makes a special visit to class to make this point, as is being done in Geography.
There are also many campus resources available for those in stress, such as the Employee Assistance Program. The University will be sending out information about these resources; please be sure the messages are widely available to your staff, students, and faculty.
Please continue to reach out to me with insights and suggestions for navigating this turbulent time, either directly via email or through our Suggestion Box.
Tykeson Dean of Arts and Sciences
I’m not someone who normally embraces symbols, but I want all our faculty, staff and students to feel safe and to feel they belong here, and I feel a need to communicate that. This is even more important at this moment. There is a lot we all try to do already to make this campus safe. But there is more work to do—and also work to do to help people feel safe, which is not quite the same thing.
This past summer the electorate of the United Kingdom chose to exit the European Union. That campaign, like the presidential campaign that just ended, featured nativism, white nationalism, and rhetoric that denigrated and dehumanized huge sectors of the population. The immediate post-election period included countless incidents of hate speech, threat, harassment, and sometimes violence aimed at immigrants and people of color. Those who wished to stand up and be counted as proponents of inclusion (regardless of their feelings about Brexit) chose to identify themselves by wearing a safety pin—code for wanting people to be safe.
Wearing the safety pin showed that you were a safe person to sit next to on a bus, walk next to on a street, and to have a conversation with. Wearing the safety pin showed that you were opposed to racism and wanted all members of your community to feel they belonged and to feel safe. It seems strange to have to identify oneself as explicitly opposed to racism and sexism, but perhaps this moment requires it. The events of the past weeks, coupled with the language of the presidential campaign, don’t send a message of safety and belonging. It feels vital to signal that we stand with the members of our community from other nations, people of color, immigrants, and everyone else who may feel targeted.
I’ve now heard stories (mostly second hand, some first hand) from people who feel frightened, and others who feel unwelcome. I try to imagine, for example, being a first-year undergraduate from overseas who may believe that half of the “white” faces on campus want them deported, or being an African American faculty member on a campus that has experienced two incidents of blackface in less than two weeks.
I will be wearing a safety pin on my clothing today. It is a tiny gesture and can’t change the behavior of bullies or those determined to harass others. But if widely adopted and understood, it could help people who feel isolated know that they belong. It is a way to express alliance with the forces of tolerance and inclusivity. As I wrote above, I’m not someone who usually chooses symbolism, but I feel the need for a symbolic gesture in the aftermath of the election and of incidents intended to make some of us feel uncomfortable and unsafe.
If this idea resonates with you, please follow suit! I’ve brought 400 pins, available in the CAS Dean’s office (114 Friendly) if you wish to pick one up. Andrew has ordered another 2,500 that we hope will be available sometime Monday.
Divisional Dean for Natural Sciences
I woke up on this post-election morning to a new world, one I never expected to see. As I thought about communicating with the college, I worried that the message I’ve been planning to post—about the blackface incident and my responsibility as dean—might be the wrong focus on this day.
But the more I thought about it, the more I came to think that this is exactly the time for this communication. I want everyone in our university community to know that the College and the UO want to be a safe harbor for individuals and their creativity, a place that welcomes and embraces all, regardless of gender, sexuality, race, political creed—or however we differ from each other.
I woke up this morning with each and every one of you on my mind. In this time, in this moment, I am even more inspired to work with, help, support, and cherish all the light you bring to this world and to our university.
Tykeson Dean of Arts and Sciences
The past week has been hard. The blackface incident, even experienced from afar as I traveled, was illuminating in a very painful way, bringing focused attention to a seething, underlying set of issues in our campus and in society at large.
Over the past week, I have wondered: What is the role of a dean in responding to an incident like this? I know my obligation is more than that of one individual; I also need to step forward on behalf of the college. But how?
There are many things I—and anyone—can do. Like others, I can express outrage and support for those who feel attacked. Thankfully, many of our campus leaders have already done this, making clear that this incident is utterly unacceptable (see President Schill’s post on this topic, which completely captures my sentiments and intents). Or I can address the many reasons why wearing blackface is so wrong—but again, others have already done this with more historical insight than I can provide (for example, see Professor Matthew Dennis’ post).
Rather than repeat what others have done, I want to do what others cannot do on behalf of the dean’s office, or for me: State the basic principles and actions I personally will follow—principles and actions that I hope will help lead to a better day. Those principles are:
Listen and learn. During the past week I immersed myself in the public commentary, open letters, and campus-wide messaging that the blackface incident generated. I also heard from you personally, or heard your voices through messages conveyed by my associate deans. And finally, I have taken private time to reflect and listen to my heart, to work at understanding the experiences and perspectives of others.
As I heard the pain, anger and anguish—and, in some cases, criticism of me and my office—I strove not to be defensive. Instead, I sought to listen, understand, and adjust my actions and those of the dean’s office to respond to the individual and college-wide needs that you expressed.
As I listened, I came to realize that the open letter Professor Michael Hames-Garcia sent to President Schill was particularly instrumental in affecting my thinking, in helping me learn. In referring to the practice of white people wearing blackface, Professor Hames-Garcia stated, “It’s impossible to understand why black people are so angered by its use unless one knows what it is that black people see when they see white people in blackface.” This simple statement shifted my focus, caused me to reexamine the event from a different perspective. It brought to life for me how frightful the blackface caricature is, not just for African Americans, but for all who experience systemic discrimination.
Reveal and respond. The blackface incident revealed something I think we all know already, that different individuals on this campus have radically different experiences. These lived experiences, these truths, need to be revealed by the people living them, but often those individuals feel they cannot share those experiences safely. As dean, my job is to make it safe and easy for everyone in CAS to communicate their perspectives and concerns to me, and to respond productively to what I hear—particularly as it pertains to improving our work climate and our hiring practices.
Other truths take the form of cumulative metrics. Such reports are stripped of personality, but are still impactful. Two years ago I produced an Elements of Diversity in the College of Arts and Sciences poster as part of Yvette Alex Assensoh’s 2014 Showcase Oregon event. This data analysis again reveals what we already know—that different pockets in our college experience diversity, or lack of diversity, in very different ways. In other words, there are many areas where we have a long way yet to go in terms of equitable representation.
In the future, I commit to working with Institutional Research and the Office of Equity and Inclusion to update these data on a more regular basis and to provide them to all departments within CAS. Just as we have a publically posted Budget/FTE/SCH Dashboard and a Graduate Program Dashboard for the entire college and each unit, so we will have a Diversity Dashboard. Let’s be open about the makeup of who we are , and who we should become.
Less talk, more action. Unless acted upon, the above principles are just words. What our college community deserves is sustained, focused action. To that end and well prior to the blackface event, Senior Associate Dean Karen Ford began writing a blog post on Thinking about Diversity. We intend to post this in the near future.
Karen’s posting will outline the strategies that we have launched and plan to launch from the CAS dean’s office. Activities we have already supported include: launching an African American Studies cluster of excellence; recruiting and hiring top-level faculty from underrepresented populations through the Target of Opportunity process; mandating implicit bias training for search committees; supporting an ethnic literature postdoctoral program in English; and more. But this is only a start; many challenges remain for us to overcome. All of us in the dean’s office look forward to working with you on these challenges.
The blackface incident has been hurtful, but it has—with your help—forced me to think about the urgency of diversity issues in a deeper, more personal way. The pain and anger I have heard have deepened my commitment to diversifying our college; to improving the climate for our underrepresented faculty, staff and students; and to learning more from all of you in the days and years ahead as we work to make our public university one that is truly a university for all.
As always, please share your suggestions with me via the Suggestion Box, or e-mail me directly.
A few years ago, CAS launched what we ambitiously called a “General Education Renaissance,” soliciting proposals for exciting new courses, innovative revamps of existing courses and thematic course clusters through which instructors could collaborate with one another.
In many ways the effort was a huge success. Scores of faculty turned out in July-August 2013 for “SummerNars” to bat around ideas and share their larger aspirations for the General Education curriculum. Colleagues from all three CAS divisions made fast friends over a common passion.
Their efforts yielded over a dozen funded proposals, six in the 2014-16 cycle and seven more for 2015-17, involving perhaps 50 faculty and many, many hundreds of students. Together these experiments along with the companion efforts of UO’s pioneering Science Literacy Program, showcase the huge range of intellectual and pedagogical creativity found among the CAS faculty.
Yet our original aspiration for the General Education Renaissance—to give more coherence and “oomph” to the curriculum—remains unfulfilled. Gen Ed at UO still features over 800 different courses, a number that grows every term, spread over a confusing array of categories designed more than two decades ago. Today, few can even recall the educational principles that first spawned this vast, dispersed enterprise.
Meanwhile, faculty and students are clamoring for a twenty-first century overhaul, a curriculum featuring interdisciplinary problem-solving, active and experiential learning, new teaching technologies, co-curricular enhancements and more. But leadership turnover, financial constraints and bureaucratic inertia have all conspired to prevent us from holding a larger conversation on what to do about all this.
Only Incremental Improvements
Now, we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves. Even at Harvard—which in the 1940s invented General Education as we know it—recent reform efforts have seen mixed success. Research universities don’t turn on a dime. Often, after years of heavy lifting by faculty committees, prodding by provosts and heated debates in academic senates, they merely refresh and reboot their existing panoply of courses and distribute them into new buckets. Amidst lots of fanfare, and real but only incremental improvements, the system stays basically the same.
In my view, it’s high time to take a different tack. First, let courses continue to proliferate; make it easier, in fact; innovation is what faculty love to do. Second, dramatically simplify our Gen Ed requirements, abolish rules and remove barriers that no longer make academic sense. For example, we could still require basic coursework in writing, quantitative reasoning and identity literacy in a multicultural world, but otherwise revert to a simple distribution requirement guaranteeing exposure to different forms of inquiry in the arts and sciences.
Third, retool advising to actively assist students in constructing intellectually meaningful pathways through this freshly cleared landscape, rather than checking off a list of degree requirements. Cater to the millennial generation’s hunger for guidance and structure, and counteract the tyranny of too much choice by organizing coursework into intelligible, flexible, customizable menus. Here are just a few ways we could do this:
- Design “metamajors” for incoming freshmen, grouping and advising students by broad interests (health, the environment, social justice, global policymaking, etc.) and/or personal inclinations (“I want to work with people,” “I like numbers,” “Get me outdoors!”) rather than channeling them into specific disciplinary majors they may not yet understand. Use the residence halls, too, to form metamajors into communities of academic interest.
- Follow up with sophomores and juniors by making lists of courses that confront “big problems,” like aging, water scarcity or the decline of political civility, and provide spaces and occasions for students to gather and discuss them.
- Encourage students to accumulate as many credentials as they wish—whether majors, minors, or certificates—and create smaller, transcriptible “badges” or endorsements in every domain of inquiry.
- Especially for humanities majors, identify a few skills courses—e.g. in coding, basic business, data presentation, or career-search preparation—that complement disciplinary academic learning and set students up for meaningful employment after graduation.
- Experiment with the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+), a real-world problem-solving exercise that helps students integrate learning across academic fields, and use it as a tool to help students identify their own interests, aptitudes and learning gaps.
- Partner with the Career Center and Student Life to help undergraduates flesh out a portfolio of accomplishments situating their academic coursework amidst the broader capacities they develop in their jobs and extracurricular activities.
Gateway and Guidebook
Put simply, advising reform, even more so than curricular reform, is the key to re-enlivening the arts and sciences curriculum for the millennial generation. That’s my takeaway from the General Education Renaissance. Our faculty are already teaching at the cutting edge, and truth be told, they do not need to be bribed to innovate more. Where we do need to invest resources is in making our offerings more transparent and navigable, forming linkages from academic study to career preparation and helping students to piece together plans of study that are more than the sum of their parts. Advising is the single most uncoordinated function in our entire College, and yet the gateway and the guidebook to all the riches we have to offer.
In future posts, my colleagues and I will describe how the Tykeson College & Careers building—a home for CAS slated to open in 2019, for which planning is well underway—will literally concretize a new vision for advising in the College. That vision will promote two of President Schill’s top priorities—improve degree completion and enhance the undergraduate experience. And it will show students how a liberal education provides the basis for a fulfilling career and lifelong good citizenship. In addition to classrooms, meeting spaces and programs in math and writing composition, the Tykeson building will house a new CAS Advising Center, the UO Career Center and programs in publicly engaged learning, from nonprofit internships to disability studies.
Merging academic advising and career counseling is an unprecedented attempt to overturn the bogus narrative that the liberal arts are unmarketable. This once-in-a-generation opportunity not only invites us to reimagine advising, but demands it. How, exactly, will we pull it off? That’s very much an open question, one we’ll be wrestling with this year and next. In that spirit, I very much welcome your suggestions, feedback and ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ian F. McNeely
Professor of History
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education
Thinking About…The Knight Gift
Wow. What a moment to think about the future of our college.
By now you’ve heard the announcement of the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact. This is a tremendous opportunity for the university, representing the largest private gift on record—ever—to a public flagship institution. I am heartened that this philanthropy is 100 percent dedicated to academics. This is an amazing moment to be part of this university. I feel privileged to be here, at this institution, in this college, at this moment.
As President Michael Schill told us, this gift is focused on a specific new program—a “campus within a campus” dedicated to accelerating the rate at which basic science is translated into practical applications. I am (of course!) excited about the many ways this gift will support science in service of the public good, a goal at the very core of our mission. At the same time, the Knights’ astonishing gift will allow the university to improve campus infrastructure via the construction of new facilities and to acquire and upgrade scientific equipment. It will also help us grow our tenure-track faculty in areas that are experiencing strong student demand and add to our community of staff, undergraduates, graduate students and post-docs, bringing in hundreds of new and diverse people who will contribute perspectives that enrich us all.
This is a gift focused on science—and the sciences are a significant part of the College of Arts and Sciences, to be sure—but I want to share with you my excitement about what this gift will do for all of our college, our individual departments and each of us. By way of addressing this, I ask you to consider the question: “What does it mean to accelerate scientific impact?”
For me, as dean of a college dedicated to the liberal arts, it is absolutely clear that “impact” involves far more than converting electrons into semiconductors. From a research and teaching perspective, translating basic science to serve the public good requires active engagement from every part of our college. What, for example, are the ethical ramifications of inserting microbes in utero to prevent the development of diabetes, and do these ramifications suggest different approaches to diabetes prevention? How might the creation of materials that enable households to harvest sustainable energy disrupt economies and local cultures—and what can we do to address those disruptions? Does the creation of techniques for rapid monitoring of pollutants in soils indicate that new laws and policies should be developed with regard to acceptable levels of pollution?
All of these examples reflect actual science already taking place on this campus. And each also reflects how the humanities and social sciences can play an integral role in shaping application of scientific discovery. But I don’t see them in a supporting role. In fact, many of our humanists, social scientists and scientists are pursuing important research questions that rely on collaboration with partners from outside their disciplines to explore their own inquiries fully and in new ways. For example…
We already have a robust environmental humanities program—arguably the most robust in the world—that deeply engages scientists in questions about human response to environmental change and solutions. We have economists working with brain scientists to understand compassionate behavior better. Our cultural, literary, historical and geographical scholars are inviting scientists to consider issues of disability in new ways. The gift will only expand these transdisciplinary opportunities as we engage more broadly and deeply in conceptualizing applications and implications of big data, life sciences, and material sciences for our society.
I want to be clear—I do not believe that humanities and social sciences are only of value when they collaborate with the sciences, or vice versa. Our scholars who are doing fundamental research on the origins of Islam, the intricacies of international trade or the recording of gravity waves are engaged in inquiries that are central to our mission as a flagship liberal arts institution. What the new campus offers is a radical opportunity to expand our vision, find new collaborators, build new facilities and place ourselves at the cutting edge of transdisciplinary work.
I also want to emphasize that the impact of this gift extends far beyond the immediate opportunities for faculty and students to expand their research.
A gift of this magnitude will buoy many elements of the university. The excitement around our translational work will enhance recruitment of undergraduate and graduate students, help attract and retain diverse, top faculty across the entire institution and inspire philanthropy. It will enable us to support excellence in all its forms across all segments of the college. And it will contribute to our reputation as a world-class university. This is a moment when the rising tide lifts all the ships.
I am proud of what our university has done to this point and how our past contributions and present ambitions have prompted an act of amazing generosity by the Knights. With this gift, they have expressed deep faith in our ability as faculty and staff to bring to life a vision that sets us apart as a research university serving the public mission. I feel a profound obligation to live up to that act of faith.
The impact of the Knights’ gift will be realized over many years and decades. But the nature of that impact will depend on what we do in the immediate months and years ahead. This is a pivotal moment for each of us to be “thinking about CAS”—to consider the implications of this gift for the future of our university. I invite you to join me in envisioning how this exceptional gift will help us achieve our collective aspirations. We will have many opportunities to carry on that conversation; I look forward to it.
For the moment, however, I simply want to offer my profound thanks to the Knights. What a moment to be in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oregon! This is a moment when we all can—and should— dream big.
W. Andrew Marcus
Tykeson Dean of Arts and Sciences
The College of Arts and Sciences deans are excited to welcome 22 new tenure-track faculty members this year, in fields ranging from religious studies to anthropology to physics. We have been very fortunate to recruit such an outstanding group of scholars and teachers, and look forward to the many great things they will accomplish individually and as part of the larger CAS community. Read their profiles here and please join us in welcoming them.
Thinking happens in the head, but it is the heart and soul of the academy.
We are collectively consumed by thought — impending lectures, abstract analyses, the complexity of writing, the nuances of a performance. We embrace our identity as creatures of the mind, even when accused of ivory tower abstraction. And why not? We create knowledge, we share knowledge and we harness knowledge in the service of society.
In our university community, thinking is the coin of the realm and we often parse it out very carefully. We seek to have a tight command of material before unveiling it. It is our willingness to delay — to think critically about our thinking — that defines us as academics.
Yet this cautiousness sometimes gets in the way.
As I begin my first full academic year as permanent dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, I am aware that I often want to be in command of the facts and outcomes before sharing my thinking with colleagues. This is probably a good thing overall; a dean espousing ideas-of-the-moment could be a recipe for disaster. But my desire to send the perfect memo can also inhibit conversation. My actions — and those of others in the dean’s office — can come across as edicts rather than the result of a deep thought process that has involved many perspectives.
It is for this reason that I am launching this blog, Thinking about CAS. The blog will: (1) provide timely information about the state of the college; (2) share our ongoing thoughts about the college’s operations, goals and future and (3) provide a better sense of what motivates us as administrators and academics. In short, it will reveal our thinking.
Right now, this blog is not set up for open commentary because we lack the capacity to moderate feedback — as is true of all of us, our lives are already overly full of memos, e-mails, deadlines and meetings. But the blog offers a suggestion box for you to submit topics and short responses (see upper right corner of this webpage). And the posts you’ll see here from me and others in the dean’s office will, we hope, prompt longer e-mails or other communications from you directly to me and/or others about how to sustain the work we do and improve our lives and our university.
Our main objective is to share the reasoning that all of us in the dean’s office engage in as we do our daily work, and so some entries will dive into the nuts and bolts of the college — e.g., a presentation of college-wide data on unit-level activity or a discussion of metrics for departmental grad programs. Other entries may offer thoughts about issues we are encountering — e.g., how to support open classroom dialogue about a presidential contest so rancorous that discussions may leave students alienated and confused. Some entries will speculate about possible directions for the college — e.g., how do we make pursuit of excellence a collaborative process? And others will offer simple narratives about topics such as the surreal world of a dean’s football weekend.
All of us in the dean’s office will make an effort to keep the blog personal and thought provoking. It will not take the place of formal policy announcements or e-mail announcements, but we hope it will initiate meaningful conversations and reflections.
In a college that comprises approximately 2,000 faculty members, officers of administration and staff, it can be difficult to stay connected and maintain a sense of belonging. Yet we all share a common purpose in being here: pursuit of knowledge, education and service to the public good. In the spirit of fostering a deeper sense of community among us, I’m excited to begin this year with a commitment to open communication.
Welcome to Thinking about CAS. I look forward to our conversations in this coming year.
W. Andrew Marcus
Tykeson Dean of Arts and Sciences