Jayanth Banavar, University of Oregon Provost, held a town hall May 22 in the Gerlinger Lounge. The town hall had no determined topic and was open to all UO faculty, staff, students and community members.
Around 25 people showed up to Banavar’s town hall on Tuesday where topics ranged from experiential learning costs, class size in upper division courses, advising for students, resources for emergency hiring, after hours emergency systems, challenges for UO next year and non-tenure track faculty workloads.
UO departments represented by faculty or staff at the town hall included human physiology, journalism and biology. Many parents of students also attended the meeting.
Banavar’s answers to most questions was that the university currently lacks the resources to solve problems; however, he said there are likely things to do in the meantime to relieve some of the pressure.
For example, The School of Journalism and Communications is built on a system of experiential learning, which means that students are taught in classrooms as well as with real-life projects to gain experience with real people in the community.
“How do we deal with the cost of experiential learning,” asked Lisa Heyamoto, a senior instructor at the SOJC, prompting a larger conversation about a lack of resources.
The university doesn’t want a situation where a rich student receives a better education than those with less money, Banavar explained. “All problems are because of a shortage of resources.”
When a parent asked about any additional focus the university is putting on student advising opportunities, Banavar said that although the goal is to keep students needs at a high priority, a lack of resources keeps the university from improving student advising.
Anni Elling, Human Physiology Department Manager, portrayed a downward spiral and said that a smaller faculty and lack of resources led the department to more organically lead students to success, which means a lot more sacrifice from everyone, therefore straining those faculty members who are left.
Elling asked, “With the institutional hiring plan, will there be opportunity to do emergency hiring if necessary?” The hiring plan Elling referenced is the university’s approach to which departments will be given resources for more faculty.
Banavar referred Elling to the College of Arts & Sciences, the college that her department is under, and said the faculty there will hear Elling’s requests and help her out.
The human physiology department should have a detailed plan of their needs and wants, Banavar said, and if it’s a true emergency as far as hiring goes, bring it to the department head.
This was the first time that Banavar had heard of the human physiology department being strained, he said. Department problems should be brought to more people’s attentions, Banavar said. “The whole point of the Provost’s office is to help other people.”
When asked what some challenges for the university would be in the coming school year, Banavar said that a year-to-year challenge is not knowing the student enrollment numbers and lower numbers can cause problems as far as resources go.
A non-tenure track faculty (NTTF) member brought up a conversation about the NTTF’s workload, and changes to how they’re paid. He said that as an observation, a lot the NTTF’s job doesn’t fall into teaching in the classroom.
According to the faculty member, there’s a movement toward instructors only being paid for their time in class and office hours, and not for all the extra time they spend helping students. He worries that all the other things instructors do for students will disappear if there is no compensation.
Banavar answered that there should be fairness and people need to be treated properly, yet, again, this problem arises due to a lack of resources.
“When a student comes to us and needs our help, of course we’re going to say yes … even if it’s outside of class or office hours,” the faculty member said.
Casey Crowley contributed reporting to this article.