New leadership and the pursuit of excellence

President Schill’s May 12 email “New leadership and the pursuit of excellence” lays out a new vision for the roles of various bodies in university governance. While it is refreshing to see President Schill share his ideas with the campus community, a few of the issues he raised are being viewed with some concern by faculty.

Diversity in Leadership? Leadership in Diversity?

Immediately after lauding our slate of five new–mostly white–men in leadership roles, President Schill admits that both he and Provost Coltrane “recognize that we need to work much more effectively in the future to hire women and underrepresented minorities for these important leadership posts” (our emphasis). Despite this proclamation, however, the May 12 email celebrates that the positions were offered to the “first choices,” a fairly homogeneous group of candidates not at all representative of the diversity that should inform our selections. Diversifying our leadership is a matter of present urgency, not a future project. The administration needs to model the commitment to diversity they expect departments to show in their hiring, and pursue it energetically now.

Senatorial Prerogatives

As President Schill congratulates various offices and institutions for providing leadership during the years immediately before his hire, he simultaneously admonishes the Senate for overstepping its bounds. Citing the Constitution, Schill says that the Senate should restrict itself to the consideration of “academic matters as commonly understood.” While the power of the Senate and the academic committee system is concentrated around academic matters, the constitution also stipulates that “…the University Senate express its views on University issues through appropriate Legislation, Policy Proposals and Resolutions” and that “Resolutions shall be unrestricted in scope.” The Senate’s purview is wide-ranging and must retain autonomy from the central administration. Rather than implying overreach by the Senate, perhaps President Schill could clarify the instances where he or other administrators think the Senate exceeded its constitutional role. Robust shared governance necessarily includes the Senate’s right to consider any matter pertinent to the campus community, though input from Johnson Hall is always welcomed.
While the phrase “academic matters as commonly understood” attempts to define the scope of Senate legislation and policy proposals, it also provides an opportunity for faculty to seize the initiative on academic matters. “Commonly understood” means “as understood by the university community”, and not just top administration. It is the obligation of the faculty to lead on all academic issues, and there are pressing curricular, budgetary, and academic policy matters requiring attention in the Senate. The Senate need not hesitate in challenging Johnson Hall’s current unilateral control over budgeting decisions, particularly those that affect faculty hiring and determine what programs remain solvent and which courses can be taught.

The Senate and United Academics

The Senate and United Academics share a common goal, indeed the same goal as President Schill with respect to academic excellence at the University of Oregon. As our relatively new union works with a new president and the Senate adapts to new university leadership structures handed down from the state, all parties are trying to clarify and claim ground on what falls under their purview. We respect President Schill’s attempt to stake ground for the administration, but we do not take it as a fait accompli. United Academics is in favor of a cooperative system of shared governance whereby the university is led by the president and the faculty.


United Academics Executive Council


Posted in University Senate.