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University of Oregon President Plans Faculty Shakeup

EUGENE, Ore. ― University of Oregon President Michael Schill ― entering his ninth month as president ― is getting to the painful nub of his organizational shakeup.

Some tenured faculty are carrying skimpy teaching loads compared with others, Schill wrote in a recent memo addressed to the campus community.

Some departments hire more non-tenure track faculty to teach courses even as their student enrollment has declined, he wrote.

“We must do better, and we will do better,” wrote Schill, later adding, “To do anything less would consign our great university to mediocrity.”

Schill proposes shifting resources, including hiring as many as 100 new tenure-track faculty over five years in some disciplines ― but also letting go of non-tenured faculty in disciplines that are losing favor with students or no longer rank as highly in the university’s priorities.

Michael Dreiling, president of the UO’s faculty union, United Academics, said the university hasn’t pinpointed how many contracts it will not renew, but said he expects it to be more than 12 and fewer than 100.

Schill is scheduled to address the issue at daylong meetings of the UO Board of Trustees on Thursday and Friday at the Ford Alumni Center.

The 337 faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences will be the first to undergo the proposed “strategic realignment of resources.”

In the college’s humanities division, for example, the non-tenured faculty rolls grew 80 percent over eight years while student credit hours shrank 8 percent, according to data prepared by interim Dean W. Andrew Marcus.

The humanities include the subjects of cinema studies, classics, comparative literature, English, folklore, German, Scandinavian and East Asian languages, philosophy and others.

The humanities division employs 129 tenured and tenure-track faculty, 145 non-tenured faculty, and 59 adjunct or visiting faculty.

Undergraduate majors in humanities number 1,561, but humanities departments provide basic undergraduate courses for schools and colleges across the campus.

Marcus pledged to give timely notice to all non-tenured faculty and the “small number” of staff who will not be employed in the coming school year.

The United Academics contract requires the university to notify by May 1 any faculty member whose contract will not be renewed for the coming school year.

“We’ve worked to make sure the processes are transparent and accountable,” Dreiling said.

But Schill said there’s no sugarcoating the decisions.

“This is not business as usual,” he wrote. “Not all departments or schools will be net winners. Some members of our campus community may encounter hardship as we become better stewards of our resources.”

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