University of Oregon senate president Bill Harbaugh is applying for provost and says he'll do the job for half of the salary. (Photo courtesy of Bill Harbaugh)

He calls himself the “half-price provost” because he’s willing to do the job for half the $500,000 a year salary.

Bill Harbaugh, university senate president and economics professor, made his application for university provost a public one, posting his “campaign” details and action plan for the university to his blog UO Matters.

He said he hopes to keep UO affordable for students, improve teaching on campus and start taxing the athletics department.

The provost is an appointed position in charge of academic matters at the university, including determining what research the university does and influencing the budget.

Last April, Provost Jayanth Banavar announced he would be stepping down as provost at the end of the academic year and taking a role as a physics professor at UO.

The university started an internal search for a tenured member of the faculty to fill Banavar’s role in late April.

Harbaugh said he made his application public and in the form of a campaign because he wants to spread his message to others and make the process of applying more transparent.

“We know for certain that the future is uncertain. Given that, I think UO needs to give its students the broadest possible education to prepare for whatever is coming,” Harbaugh said. “I think that means more science, more history, more humanities, more social science and better teaching.”

For the past two years, Harbaugh has been working to redesign course evaluations to better assess teaching and mitigate biased responses. He also has served on the university senate executive branch for the four years as president and vice president.  

Harbaugh said one of his goals is to make UO affordable by keeping tuition from rising. He said this could be achieved through lobbying and asking the state for more money.

“[Legislators] don’t really know what we do here, they don’t really understand how it’s good for our students to get the kind of education we can give,” Harbaugh said. “I think we need to convince them that we’re doing a good job spending the state’s money.”

Last Monday, 80 students and faculty from UO lobbied for increased state funding in Salem to keep in state tuition from increasing over five percent.

Another action item on Harbaugh’s list is de-emphasizing and taxing the athletic department so they can support the university. He said taxing coach salaries rather than subsidizing them could create revenue to support the university’s academic, cultural and extension missions.

The provost does not have control over athletics, so the ultimate decision would be up to UO President Michael Schill.

Brian McWhorter, professor of music, wrote Harbaugh a letter of recommendation for his application, acknowledging that Harbaugh’s candidacy for provost has people “turning their heads” because he’s known as a “troublemaker” on campus through his UO Matters blog.

“He has a reputation amongst us. He even has a reputation nationwide,” the letter reads. “His reputation has come about because he has unapologetically fought for transparency on this campus.”

Harbaugh also said he feels the process for hiring the new provost should be public.

The university keeps application materials for the position private and does not disclose who is running, says UO Spokesperson Zack Barnett.

Harbaugh said he will publish his letters of recommendation and application to his blog UO Matters and encourages other applicants to do the same.

“I’ve been here for 25 years,” Harbaugh said. “I think I’ve shown I’m willing to do controversial, creative things that will benefit the university.”

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