President Schill outlines his top priorities in message to faculty and staff

UO President Michael Schill welcomes faculty and staff back to campus
UO President Michael Schill

UO President Michael Schill outlined his top priorities for the university in a message sent to all faculty, staff and graduate students on a day when a new class of freshmen began their life as Ducks.

Schill said he wants to concentrate on boosting tenure-related faculty and research, improve access and affordability and offer students a rich academic experience both inside and outside the classroom. He said he wants to join with all members of the campus community to enhance the UO's reputation as a world-class university.

The message was sent on Move-In Day, when the president helped welcome thousands of new students to campus. The full text of the message follows:

Dear colleagues,

I am very excited about beginning my first academic year as your president. Over the past two months I have been overwhelmed by the warmth that many of you have shown me. Thank you! I have also been extraordinarily impressed by the desire among virtually everyone I have met for quick and decisive actions to propel our university forward. I believe the time is right to do this. We have a new governance structure, an extraordinary Board of Trustees, and are making good progress with our wildly ambitious $2 billion fundraising campaign. In this note, I would like to share with you my preliminary thoughts about how I can join with you to build our university.

The University of Oregon is an excellent educational and research institution, full of deeply passionate and dedicated faculty, students, and staff. Yet, in my view, it can become so much better. I would like to focus my efforts (and your’s) on building our fundamentals. More specifically, I would like to begin immediately to work on the following three objectives:

  1. Building our tenure-related faculty and promoting academic research.
  2. Ensuring affordability and access for our students.
  3. Delivering a rich, excellent educational experience for our students.

Our university has significant strengths in each and every college, school, and department. Nevertheless, with a few exceptions, we lack sufficient eminence and intensity. Too few of our programs are recognized as national leaders. Certainly part of this is that we have too few tenured, tenure-track, and research faculty. Our non-tenure track faculty colleagues are, and will continue to be, important and valued members of our community, but we are simply out of balance. Therefore, I am committed to growing the tenure-related faculty by between 80 and 100 scholars over the next five years, and investing in the staff and infrastructure to support those hires.

With the support of the campus, Provost Coltrane and I have already begun to make progress in this effort. We have authorized the hiring of new faculty through our cluster hiring initiative and are working with deans and departments throughout the university to identify opportunities for appointments outside the clusters that will enhance our teaching and research excellence as well as our diversity. Finally, we are consulting with faculty members in the sciences to identify a set of philanthropic investments that will ensure that we recapture our place among the great universities of this nation in discovery and invention.

Affordability and access are important parts of our mission as Oregon’s flagship public university. As a first generation college graduate myself, I feel in my bones the importance of our role as an engine of economic opportunity for the citizens of our state. As we make investments in the quality of our university we will strive to keep tuition increases moderate and to continue growing philanthropic donations for scholarships. But equally importantly, we need to take steps to reduce the cost of education by increasing the proportion of our students who graduate in four years. A four year graduation rate of 49 percent and a six year rate of 69 percent are utterly unacceptable. Simply put, a small increase in tuition, while challenging for many students, pales in comparison to the added cost of taking an additional year or more to graduate. I am looking forward to working with the provost and all of the vice presidents and deans to increase our four year graduation rate through enhanced academic advising and curricular reform.

My third objective is to enhance the experience of our students while they are with us. Increasing the richness and intensity of our academic program is part of the story. Actions like expanding the size of the Clark Honors College, getting students to write and participate in research, and ensuring that students who are not thriving do not fall between the cracks are part of this set of initiatives. But part of the education a great residential university provides to its students takes place outside of the classroom. Whether on the athletic fields, in the dining halls, or in co-curricular activities, our students learn important lessons about leadership and what it means to be citizens in an increasingly diverse global environment. We must work hard to make sure both our academic and our non-academic programs are excellent and work in tandem to produce the next generation of leaders for the state, nation, and world.

As members of our staff and graduate teaching fellows, you are critical to providing support to our institution as we reach for excellence in the university’s educational and research mission and accomplish these three objectives.

As I promised at the outset, I want to keep things clear and to the point. If we can get these fundamentals right we will succeed in growing and enhancing UO’s reputation as world-class university. But we can only achieve these objectives if we work together in an atmosphere of civility and partnership. I invite you to join me in this endeavor. I cannot succeed without the support of our entire campus. And even more importantly, our university cannot succeed without you.

Warm regards,

Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law