Michael Schill’s new research-based budget strategy may lead to cuts

UO President Michael Schill announced a new plan focusing on development of research programs on campus. Some programs will lose funding and faculty.

University of Oregon President Michael Schill announced in early January that the university will move forward with a plan to funnel more of the budget into research and tenure-track faculty.

The new budget plan is designed to rearrange faculty and funds from several departments that have become unbalanced. The plan is a step in Schill’s goal to make UO a world-class comprehensive research institution.

Provost Scott Coltrane will lead the academic side of the plan. A primary goal, Coltrane said, is in reallocating faculty resources. Several departments have rapidly increased their non-tenure track faculty, while student enrollment in those programs has gone down. Coltrane aims to decrease those gaps.

“The demands from students, in terms of credit hours that they’re taking, have gotten more and more out of line with the number of people we have teaching in those areas,” Tobin Klinger, UO spokesman said.

“Our student demand in the sciences has gone up, whereas our student demand in the humanities has gone down,” Coltrane said. Because of this, a focus of the plan is the College of Arts and Sciences.

Since 2012, CAS enrollment has been steadily decreasing. At the same time, the number of non-tenure track faculty in CAS has risen 89 percent since 2007. This has created a large gap between students and faculty.

“We’re trying to realign, so we have the faculty in the right place, where the students want to take classes,” Coltrane said.

Realignment means cutting faculty in some areas while increasing it in others. Some departments, particularly sciences, which have seen a marked increase in enrollment, will benefit from more faculty. “We currently have 40 different faculty searches ongoing as we seek to grow our tenure-related faculty by 80 to 100 scholars over the next four years,” Schill said in his announcement on Jan. 6.

Other programs will lose people. “I will not sugar coat this message,” Schill said. “Not all departments or schools will be net winners.”

On Jan. 22, interim Tykeson Dean of Arts and Sciences W. Andrew Marcus announced the first step of the CAS staffing changes. Five job positions will be eliminated from the CAS dean’s office, including the Associate Dean for Finance and Administration. The changes will go into effect when the positions’ contracts expire.

With Schill’s announcement focusing on research, some less research-oriented programs have worried that they will see budget cuts. According to Coltrane, this is a misconception.

“Research is a kind of code word for scholarly production, but if you’re a dancer, or an oboist, it’s performance,” Coltrane said. “The kind of university that we are needs people who are distinguished in those ways.” Music school professors on the tenure track, for example, are evaluated by their performances and recordings.

The university isn’t equating grant funding with success, Coltrane said. “Some faculty work collaboratively and do grants; some faculty work alone and do grants,” he said. “Some faculty don’t get grants, there just aren’t grants, so they just write their books and do their research. We like them all.”

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