Editor’s note on the afternoon of Nov. 18: A previous version of this article titled “Schill addresses UO senate with state of the university” that appeared online and in print incorrectly said that UO President Michael Schill gave his annual State of the University address to the senate. Schill’s remarks to the senate were an update on the state of the university given at every senate meeting he attends, and not his annual state of the university address. This story has been updated to reflect that fact.
University of Oregon President Michael Schill gave an update to the university senate on the state of the UO last Wednesday where he touched on the budget deficit, UO’s commitment to Dreamers despite a Supreme Court challenge, the Knight Campus and new majors.
Schill started his remarks to the senate on a more somber note, discussing the Supreme Court challenge to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. With the recent challenges, Schill said he wanted to restate his commitment to “Dreamers” at UO. The case being heard in the Supreme Court will decide whether Trump’s attempts to end the program started under former President Barack Obama’s administration are constitutional.
“We could be in June without the program,” Schill said. “What things we will be doing is continuing to work with the AAU (Association of American Universities), APLU (Association of Public and Land-grant Universities) and other university entities to close our own Dreamer rule to make sure that we do whatever we can do to protect our students who are Dreamers and in particular, our students who are recipients of DACA.”
The somber mood was retained throughout much of remarks with discussions of budget deficits and low financial reserves. At one point, Schill said some blame lies with UO’s trend to unionize.
“One of the things that produced our fragility is that we, unlike virtually all of our peer schools, tend to heavily unionize, in the faculty as well as in the staff,” Schill said. “It just means we lack some of the flexibility, some of the tools, some of the levers that other universities have. Maybe it's worth it to have that, that's a decision that the faculty made, but it does create that situation.”
Schill made these comments just days after graduate employees negotiated a deal with the administration, ending a month-long stalemate and threats of striking.
Related: “GTFF ratifies new contract in vote”
The UO budget situation is still looking bleak, with low state funding compared to most other states, according to Schill. Some of the $11.6 million in cuts from last year still need to be made and additional cuts are being forecasted for this year to help balance out the budget. These cuts could keep happening up until early in the next academic year. In a meeting with other universities in Oregon, Schill found that UO’s financial reserves are much lower in comparison. He said this is because UO spent a lot of money in the past years to accelerate growth, but it has left the school working on a deficit.
The deficit also continues to grow because of a loss of more than 1,000 international students, which Schill said equals a $33-million loss in revenue over the last few years. He said that is part of the reason UO has its largest incoming class ever, to make up some of this loss in funds.
There was some lighter news that Schill was able to bring to the senate. After consulting with other provosts around the state, UO Provost Patrick Phillips and Schill said that the university is behind Oregon’s other universities for a number of new majors being introduced. Schill said that in order to stay competitive nationally, UO needs to start introducing majors that students are interested in. Later in the meeting, the senate approved a bachelor’s in neuroscience program. Planned for the next meeting on Dec. 11 is the approval of a bachelor’s in data science and Schill said to look out for a new bachelor’s in bioengineering in the coming terms.
Schill also announced a new monetary gift, the amount of which is currently unknown. He said that $10 million of the dollars donated will be used to kick off a biomedical data science center that will bring together professors from 10 different programs across UO to collaborate on research.