University of Oregon President Michael Schill delivered his state of the university address at the City Club of Eugene on Friday and touched on topics from academic research and teaching to funding higher education in the state.
“We need to help the rest of the people in the state of Oregon to understand how vital great research universities are to all of our future,” Schill said.
Schill’s remarks touched on his goal of improving access to the UO for all students and the success of the PathwayOregon scholarship program, which saw its largest class this year.
“We want the University of Oregon to be the school of choice for the state’s best and brightest. We want the University of Oregon to be the school of choice for everyone who is the first in their family to go to college.”
Schill did not shy away from the issues that the UO is facing, most notably the ever present challenge of securing funding from the state to keep tuition costs from drastically increasing.
“Oregon has a problem and we all know it. It has a problem in funding K-12 education and undergraduate education, and that funding has implications for our students.”
Daniel Paulsen, a sophomore political science major who attended the address, said that Schill recognizes the struggles students have with tuition increases.
“It was very good to hear that he’s on the same page as students and that he wants tuition to stay low and under five percent increase,” Paulsen said. “He was on the same page as students that the state budget doesn’t look good for public universities. For me, that was soothing to hear that Schill was on our side as well.”
While it’s just two weeks into 2019, Schill was looking to 2020 and the opening of the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact.
“The Knight Campus allows us to dream big about our academic future and reinvent the way we think about applying scientific discovery to solve big problems,”
Schill said that when the Knight Campus opens, it will bring 750 high-paying jobs and that more federal money will come for research.
“This will translate to an estimated $80 million a year in economic activity that will be spun off from the Knight Campus,” Schill said. “And that’s before we think about the companies, the innovations, the technologies and cures that come from the Knight Campus and the work that will be done there.”
Schill called the Knight Campus “recession proof,” and said that the project is “fully funded by the generous support of Phil and Penny Knight.” Schill elaborated on the meaning of recession proof by saying that if the economy slowed down, the project would still be completed because of the Knight’s funding. However, only the first half of the project is fully funded by the Knight’s contribution and Schill said that the second half of the project will be funded by donors.
Schill took questions after the address, but City Club policy only let City Club members ask questions.
“City Club invited him. There’s nothing to do with who could ask questions, it’s a City Club issue,” said Kyle Henley, the UO’s communications vice president.
One City Club member asked Schil about the Hayward Field renovation and the university’s practice of leasing land to private developers who build a facility and then give the land back to the university as a gift.
“When I think about Hayward Field, the opinions that matter the most to me on Hayward Field, are the opinions of the track team and the coaches of the track team,” Schill said. “The people who will actually be using Hayward Field, and they’re over the moon with excitement.”
Michael Magee, the president of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation, said that he wanted to ask Schill about his “recession proof” remark, but was told only City Club members could ask questions. Magee said a City Club member offered to ask the question, which he said he was grateful for.
“But for something that's called the state of the university address, one would hope that members of the university are able to speak and ask questions to the president about what’s going at the university,” Magee said. “Both as a grad student and as president of the graduate employee union, it would seem that this would be an opportunity where someone like me could ask questions.”
Schill said that if students wish to bring up their concerns and questions, they can schedule a meeting with him.
“People can always schedule meetings with me and talk to me about their questions,” he said. “I’m always in front of people; I’m pretty accessible.”