The Board of Trustees of the University of Oregon took up a lengthy agenda of academic, financial and facilities-related items at its May quarterly meeting.
At what could be the board’s last regular meeting conducted virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, President Michael H. Schill updated the trustees on the UO’s plans to return to mostly in-person operations for fall term.
Fall planning efforts are ongoing and dynamic, Schill said, as the UO navigates rapidly shifting public health guidance and plans the implementation of its vaccine requirement.
Schill added that the UO is cautiously optimistic about fall enrollment, following the May decision day for high school seniors, although some uncertainty remains across U.S. higher education about whether student commitments will be more fluid coming out the pandemic.
“We are seeing a positive trend in students interested in attending the UO and our deposits are up substantially,” Schill said. “All of the signs point to us meeting the targets we set out in our long-term financial plan.”
Provost and Senior Vice President Patrick Phillips, meanwhile, highlighted the UO’s newly announced Institutional Hiring Plan, which authorizes searches for 34 tenure-track faculty members for the upcoming academic year. The positions to be filled span a variety of fields across UO schools and colleges and will address academic needs and institutional priorities, especially around diversity and interdisciplinary collaborations.
The trustees approved a proposal to name a new residence hall for DeNorval Unthank, Jr., the first African-American to graduate from the UO’s School of Architecture and Allied Arts, now the College of Design, and who was an associate professor at the university from 1965 to 1980.
In 2017, the board named a wing of the Hamilton Complex after Unthank, following a robust committee recommendation process. With Hamilton set to be decommissioned in a couple of years, Schill recommended transferring the name to the new building, which is set to open this fall, to continue honoring Unthank and his legacy.
“I’ve spoken to the family and they’re thrilled because this is really going to be a marquee building on campus,” Schill told the trustees. “I’m excited that we are going to commemorate Unthank’ s life as a UO student, scholar, architect, teacher and mentor.”
The board approved a temporary operating expenditure authorization for the UO’s fiscal year 2022 and will receive a final proposal in September after more information about enrollment and state appropriations is known. Board members authorized the issuance of bonds worth up to $120 million, primarily for the final phases of UO’s Housing Transformation Project.
The board also discussed the UO’s online education initiative. Carol Gering, associate vice provost for UO Online, told the board that the 2020 pivot to remote instruction because of the pandemic accelerated the development of online courses at the UO, particularly for undergraduates. It also increased student and faculty comfort levels with online class delivery, she said.
Added Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Janet Woodruff-Borden: “We’re at an interesting juncture now which is: ‘How do we strategically manage the assets that we’ve now created? What is the role of online in the institution? How much online should we be developing?’”
Woodruff-Borden and Gering said the next steps will involve comprehensive discussions with individual academic units about potential needs for students within their curriculum for additional online offerings.
The trustees also received an update about strategies and plans for UO Portland, including the university’s efforts to recruit students and generate philanthropic support from the state’s largest metropolitan area.
Jane Gordon, vice provost for UO Portland, highlighted a range of efforts that UO Portland faculty, students and academic courses have made to bolster connections with the city and its employers and communities.
“We need to be in Portland,” Gordon added. “The feedback that we receive as we engage with various Portland businesses, industries and communities demonstrates that, for our university to be relevant to the state and support our students’ goals as they launch into life, the engagement in Portland in critical.”
In other business, the board:
- Approved proposals for three new academic programs, undergraduate degrees in Native American and Indigenous studies and a doctoral program in Spanish.
- Approved an extension of the UO’s relationship with external auditor, Moss Adams, following a public procurement process, and reviewed the quarterly internal audit report from Chief Auditor Leah Ladley.
- Authorized the university to enter into agreements with Oregon22 LLC, the local organizing committee for the World Athletics Championships to be held on the UO campus in July 2022. The goal of the agreements is to articulate payment structures for services provided, facility use details, liability and safety measures, and other key aspects.
- Received an update about the Office of Investigations and Civil Rights Compliance from Nicole Commissiong, who became associate vice president and director of the office last fall.
- Approved updates designed to clarify some sections of the UO Student Conduct Code presented by Katy Larkin, director of student conduct and community standards.
At the meeting’s conclusion, the trustees thanked seven departing board members for their service, including five trustees who were part of the board’s inaugural group in 2013.
The seven new trustees who will replace them on the board were confirmed by the Oregon Senate earlier this month.
“You should feel proud of what we’ve done,” board Chair Chuck Lillis told the departing trustees. “Your support for Oregon having a really superior public university is such a critical thing and I think we’ve all done everything we can do to keep that super-objective in mind.”
Schill also thanked the trustees for their “huge commitment to the university and the state,” while adding he was delighted to soon welcome an “exciting group” of incoming trustees.
“You are each important members of our university of Oregon family,” Schill told the departing trustees, “and I anticipate keeping each of you close and engaged.”
Upcoming: Jimmy Murray, the nonfaculty staff member on the board, is holding virtual office hours with classified staff Wednesday, May 26, from noon to 1 p.m., and with officers of administration staff Thursday, May 27, from noon to 1 p.m.
Faculty trustee, Laura Lee McIntyre, will hold a virtual office hour for faculty colleagues Friday, May 28, from noon to 1 p.m.
Individuals interested in attending one of these office hours should RSVP via email to email@example.com to obtain their login information. Members of the campus community should feel free to email the board at the same address at any time.