UO President Michael Schill discusses tuition, faculty cuts in Q&A session
University of Oregon President Michael Schill took questions about tuition increases and faculty cuts at today’s campus conversation — and he didn’t try to deny that more are likely.
Schill spoke for around 30 minutes in the Ford Alumni Center, detailing his goals for the next year and beyond. The focus of his work since coming to the university almost a year ago has centered on his main objective: bolstering research.
“UO will take its place among the nation’s preeminent research institutions,” Schill said.
He reiterated many of the same objectives he presented to the Board of Trustees at their meeting in March: to hire between 80 and 100 new tenure-track faculty, to build a stronger UO presence in Portland and to expand the Robert D. Clark Honors College. Schill also said that, in support of making UO a stronger research university, new research facilities will be built and the university’s computing power will be enhanced through the IT department.
Schill also said the university is nearing the halfway point for their fundraising goal of $2 billion.
The president addressed tuition increases when talking about the accessibility of a college education.
“Tuition will go up. Our costs will go up,” he said. “But to the extent we can, we will keep those increases low, or at least reasonable.”
During the time set aside for questions, one student representative suggested that Schill’s talk of increasing affordability and access to minorities conflicts with increasing tuition costs.
“Do you have an alternative?” Schill asked the student. He expressed frustration over people asking for spending cuts rather than tuition increases but not providing alternatives. He said the blame lies with legislation and the state’s budget cuts, not with university administration.
In his plan to make tuition affordable, Schill wants to increase the university’s graduation rate by 10 percent, encouraging students to graduate within four years. He also endorsed the controversial freshman live-in requirement, something he believes will increase student engagement.
Faculty cuts were also discussed during the questions forum.
Gina Psaki, a professor of Italian Language and Literature, asked about the recent faculty realignment, which laid off many teachers in the humanities departments. “Winter term was the most demoralizing term in 27 years of teaching,” she said. “Will these cuts happen again and again and again?”
Schill’s response was that he refuses to compromise his vision of making UO the best it can be, even if it means more cuts in the future.
“We will always be looking at where we spend our money. I can’t tell you we will never look at how we allocate faculty resources,” he said.
On the budget and infrastructure side, administration has asked most departments to decrease spending by three percent. Schill encouraged people to see athletics not as a resource draining machine, but as a model for efficient spending.
“Instead of being envious of athletics, saying ‘they get all the resources,’ we want to model ourselves on them as an efficient allocation of resources,” Schill said.
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