UA President’s Remarks at New Faculty Orientation

Welcome to the University of Oregon!

When I arrived at the University of Oregon in 2009 I didn’t know what a Provost was. I had never been in a departmental meeting. I didn’t know that service was part of the job, or even what service entailed. I didn’t understand the concept of shared governance, or why a university has or needs a Senate. 

I say this, not to highlight my ignorance, but because I wish I had a place where I could ask questions. I still have questions about how the university runs, and how to be successful as an academic, but now we have a community, a member-run union, where we can ask these questions.

I did not grow up in a union household, nor even a union-friendly state. When UO was in the process of unionizing I heard all sorts of false stories about how unions stand for mediocrity, and how a faculty union would lead to division across campus. I did my research and learned about the value of faculty unions. I learned that faculty unions help protect the profession, lead to higher salaries, provide legally-recognized mechanisms for resolving grievances and ensure that faculty voices are heeded at the university, with the state legislature and in Washington DC. Thankfully none of the predictions of mediocrity nor divisiveness were realized—indeed our faculty union is universally seen as a force for excellence at UO by providing clear expectations, bargaining for fair wages and establishing mechanisms by which faculty and administration can discuss potentially divisive issues in collegial settings. 

United Academics leadership meets frequently with the administration on issues of mutual interest. We push back against administrative overreach when necessary, but most of our conversations are on topics of mutual concern—issues where both the faculty and the administration have shared interest. 

This year we will be bargaining a new contract. Our goal is to ensure faculty have a voice on campus, have stability in their contracts, are fairly paid for their labor, and policies guiding promotion, tenure and reviews are equitably managed. 

We invite you to join United Academics. The dues are 1.1% of gross salary, and go to enforcing our contract, paying our knowledgeable staff, and to our state and national affiliates which protect faculty interests in Salem and Washington DC. Our power to secure wins for faculty is proportional to our membership.

I’d like to close, by talking about our students. As a public, R1 university our mission is to support Oregon by providing quality education and research to improve the lives of others. We do this well, though there are challenges to be navigated in the upcoming years. Like many institutions, our tuition is increasing at a rate which far outpaces inflation. Our students are taking on massive amounts of debt for their education, and many have to work to support themselves and their families while going to school. There is a “demographic cliff” on the horizon—a dip in the birthrate from the mid 2000s—which means fewer students and more universities scrambling for their tuition dollars. None of this is particular to Oregon, but it is here where we have the power to enact change. United Academics works in coalition with other campus and state-wide organizations (including ASUO, OSA, GTFF, SEIU and others) to ensure that the education we provide is not only world-class, but is also affordable, and open to all Oregonians. 

We invite you to join us as we work hard to improve the lives of our students, and indeed all Oregonians by promoting and defending quality public higher education in Oregon.