UO President Karl Scholz sent the following message to the campus community on Oct. 20:
Since my arrival at the University of Oregon in July, I have spent many hours listening and learning about the culture and campus climate for our faculty, staff, and students. I have also reviewed the results of the IDEAL Climate Survey of UO Employees as well as the working group and unit-level action plans and recommendations.
Colleagues across campus have done an enormous amount of work, and I am grateful for the time and energy that so many have provided. What has struck me thus far is the love that so many of you have for the UO as well as your desire and commitment to make this university a better place for all. While it is important to acknowledge that there is variability in people’s experiences and data do not tell the whole story, today, I am writing to share my preliminary impressions and some immediate next steps to improve our campus climate.
The IDEAL Climate Survey highlighted many examples of inclusive excellence, examples we can build from and expand upon. I was pleased to learn that many employees feel that their supervisor or someone at work cares about them as a person, that someone at work encourages their development, and that their colleagues are committed to doing quality work. We should be proud of and celebrate the positive aspects of our campus culture.
At the same time, there are other ways in which we are falling short. The challenges are not unique to the University of Oregon, but we must continue to try to do better. For example, too few UO employees reported feeling that they are treated with respect, that they know what is expected of them at work, and that they have equitable access to resources and opportunities. These challenges are especially acute among minoritized members of our community, including colleagues with disabilities.
It is my aspiration that everyone at the UO—regardless of their roles, backgrounds, lived experiences, identities, or abilities—should know that they belong here and can flourish. But this intention or expectation does not just happen by decree or mandate. It requires changes, perhaps change in hearts and minds, but also changes in systems. I am hoping all members of the campus community will join me in pursuing the necessary changes.
It is a top priority that we embrace individual well-being and belonging, and that each member of the UO community feels they matter. I have been pleased to learn that deans, institute directors, chairs, unit heads, and diversity committee leads are engaged in addressing the issues—discussing results and action planning—identifying areas of focus, attending workshops, and implementing new actions. On October 31, 2023, our deans, vice presidents, vice provosts, and members of their leadership teams will convene to learn from one another, with the goal of sharing their insights with colleagues in their units.
It is clear we also need university-level action. Four university-wide working groups addressing specific issues have provided their findings and recommendations, which I have also reviewed. Important work has already taken place, and there is more to do.
Based on what I have learned, we will implement the following recommendations:
- Improve the complaint reporting process in ways that redress discrimination, foster equity, and build institutional trust; and enhance the institutional response to complaints about experiences that do not violate university policy or break the law, but that impact individuals’ ability to feel they belong and can thrive.
- Support ongoing development and understanding of employment engagement programs and resources, such as training, consultation, and professional development, that promote a healthy workplace and our employees’ connection to, and enthusiasm about, their contributions to our mission.
- Embrace a culture of regular feedback by conducting additional employee climate and culture surveys at regular intervals of every three to five years so that we can measure our progress. I am setting a tentative timeframe of winter 2026 for our next campus-wide survey.
- Address the equity challenges in faculty service highlighted by the survey. The Office of the Provost, working with and at the request of the University Senate, has been developing a faculty dashboard for recognizing faculty service and other contributions.
- I will host a university-wide forum at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 16, in the McArthur Court building to share my thoughts and hear more from you about the climate survey and our future. We will only make progress by coming together, listening to one another, and working together.
- The above work will require additional resources. Augmenting this investment, we will create an IDEAL Campus Climate Matching Grants program with an initial investment of $350,000 in this fiscal year. Under this program, which will be led and administered by the Office of the Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, campus units can apply for matching funding to develop innovative and sustainable ways to enhance the climate and culture in their individual units and/or to scale up promising practices at the university level. These could include small-scale pulse surveys to assess the impact of action plans, tool and resource development, innovative programming, etc. Details about the Campus Climate Matching Grants program will be available in the coming weeks.
These are difficult times across the nation and the world. War, hate, racism, and violence fill our TV screens and smart phones. Universities are not immune or isolated from these events, but historically universities like the UO can be the standard bearers for free speech and civil discourse, for preparation and opportunity, for building equitable communities of care across difference, and for exploration and discovery, especially in difficult times.
Thank you for all that you have already done, are doing now, and will do in the future, to make the University of Oregon a place where everyone belongs and can flourish, and where we continue to make a positive impact in our community, across the state of Oregon, and the world.