President Schill’s Response to US17/18-02 Resolution to Support the UO Student Collective

Dear Senate President Chris Sinclair and Vice President Bill Harbaugh,

Attached, please find a letter from President Schill regarding Senate Resolution US17/18-02. Please distribute this letter to the members of the University of Oregon Senate.

Sincerely,

Office of the President

6 thoughts on “President Schill’s Response to US17/18-02 Resolution to Support the UO Student Collective”

  1. Senate leadership shared the following to the Senate in response to President Schill’s letter:

    Dear Senators and other members of the Senate:

    President Schill has sent the attached response to the resolution that narrowly passed last Wednesday. As the President notes, it is his right to not act in accordance with a resolution and he has 60 days to explain his reasons for inaction. We read his letter as a partial, quick response. We would like to raise several issues with it.

    In his letter he says

    “… The university’s Freedom of Inquiry and Free Speech policy, affirmed by the Senate on May 26, quoted in the resolution, states in part, “The University supports free speech with vigor, including the right of presenters to offer opinion, the right of the audience to hear what is presented, and the right of protesters to engage with speakers in order to challenge ideas, so long as the protest does not disrupt or stifle the free exchange of ideas. It is the responsibility of speakers, listeners and all members community to respect others and to promote a culture of mutual inquiry throughout the University community.” (Emphasis added).

    Senate Resolution US17/18-02, directly contradicts this university policy by stating:

    “2.1 BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the UO Senate supports the rights of students to peacefully protest during university events, even disruptively, so long as those protests do not prevent speakers from being heard and the audience from hearing what they have to say. …”,

    I cannot accept this Senate resolution because of these contradictions and because of the danger that it may encourage students to act in a manner that would put them in the same situation as who are currently petitioning the Senate. …”

    We do not see a contradiction here. Both the policy and the resolution say that protests that stifle the free exchange of ideas are not acceptable. The language in 2.1 is clear: “… even disruptively, so long as those protests do not prevent speakers from being heard and the audience from hearing what they have to say.”

    President Schill goes on to say that “As some members of the body noted, they were voting on a resolution that they had seen less than one hour before. If the Senate wishes to show its support for student protest, then I encourage it to take the time to re-work its resolution so that it is consistent with the principles of our university.

    Some notes on timing of events are in order.

    1) In a meeting before Thanksgiving with Dean of Students Kris Winters and Vice President of Student Life Kevin Marbury we asked that the Student Conduct Office postpone any proceedings for the affected students until winter quarter. This would allow students time to consider the options presented to them and allow the Senate the opportunity to craft an appropriate response. They refused. This lead to a situation where, in order to make a timely statement as a body we were required to act.

    2) The resolution was originally given to the Senate (and shared with the administration) two weeks before the meeting at which it was approved, giving plenty of time to read and consider it. Twelve days after this, and less than 48 hours before the Senate meeting, President Schil and Provost Banavar sent the Senate and the students a detailed response to that draft. The students then revised the resolution in response to this letter, during the night and next day.

    3) In order to vote on the resolution, the rules of the Senate were suspended by a ⅔ vote, and the debate on the merits took over 30 minutes (and three motions to extend debate). The debate was vigorous and thorough, and opportunities for clarifications/suggestions were presented to members of the administration.

    4) Without question, we would have preferred more time to facilitate a resolution that the UO Student Collective, the administration and the Senate all would have supported.

    Other Provisions of the Resolution.

    Since time is still a matter for students facing disciplinary action, we would ask that the President respond quickly regarding action on the provisions:

    2.2 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Senate recognizes that the students involved in the protest at the State of the University Address succeeded in bringing significant matters of academic concern and student well-being to the attention of the university community, and that we urge that this be taken into consideration when judging their discipline cases; and

    And

    2.4 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the UO Senate urges the administration to cease the Student Conduct disciplinary charges process and pledges to support student protesters during the disciplinary appeals process;

    It seems unreasonable to disqualify action on these provisions due to a perceived contradiction in another clause.

    We will work with the administration, with the Student Conduct Office and the Student Conduct and Community Standards Committee on the suggestions in the remaining clauses of the resolution.

    The Path Forward

    Though the current tensions on campus may lead to difficult or uncomfortable conversations, we should take some solace in the fact that these are exactly the conversations that our campus (and our country) need to have right now. It is exactly through such deliberations, with participation of representatives from all campus constituencies, where we decide on the principals of our university.

    In the end, “… the Senate [still] supports the conversations the administration has now initiated with the UO Student Collective and … the Senate will continue to provide a forum for all students.”

    As always, thanks for your service, and we welcome your thoughts and opinions on both this and President Schill’s response to the resolution.

    Chris Sinclair
    President, University of Oregon Senate

    Bill Harbaugh
    Vice President, University of Oregon Senate

  2. Comment from Senator Ko Thompson (Classified Staff):

    Dear President Schill, Provost Banavar, and members of the Senate

    Having been out of the country for the month of October, my thanks to Senate President Sinclair and the Senate for the forum of the Senate being an avenue to hear from students from the UO Student Collective.

    Here are my thoughts to share:

    My thanks to students of UO Student Collective for their passion, their commitment and spirit. Know that classified employees care that there is integrity and fairness in the Student Conduct process, that students are heard, respected and fairly treated in whatever process that is undertaken. I recall that John Bonine and Ombudsperson Bruce McAllister and Senate taskforces injecting themselves for what we today are proud of vis-à-vis sexual misconduct that seemed somewhat unfairly skewed prior to the Senate’s engagement in the processes.

    Our classified employee experiences are not far removed from our student experiences. When I sought a discussion on bias and cultural competency trainings, the response I received was, “Do you feel disrespected? Do you want a hug?” The ethno-centric lens pervades in our classified employee collective experiences calling for meaningful structural change. Respect for diversity, equity and inclusion – to be meaningful and real – for classified employees, remain as elusive. That voice to speak comes tethered with the fear of retaliation that is all, repeatedly, too real in classified employee experiences.

    MEANINGFUL STRUCTURAL CHANGE that students of the UO Student Collective today care deeply about weave the same common strain in many of past student actions that are loud, interruptive, intrusive, and inconveniently public.

    TODAY, at New Employee Orientations, we proudly append the Affirmation of Community Standards policy, adopted in 2000 http://policies.uoregon.edu/files/vpfa-policies/ch1affirmation.html Perhaps it would be good to dig into the Senate archives to be enlightened what the discussions were in the development of this policy, i.e to learn and understand the deliberations around this policy. Perhaps there are senate members who can share how this policy came about. I understand from alumni that this policy arose from a student protest in Johnson Hall. I gather that the issue was student outrage over racist language on a list-serve and the delayed, or lack thereof, of a response from administration compelled students to act, for meaningful change.

    TODAY we take pride in many of the diversity programs offered at the College of Education, notably the doctoral program un Critical and Socio-cultural Studies in Education, that comes to us with a meaningful point of pride of the accomplishment of its first graduate, Dr Carla McNelly https://education.uoregon.edu/news/madam-dr-president-coe-awards-first-doctorate-new-program. Carla served with us in the senate and together with Jane Brubaker, senate representatives for classified employees – that today the campus community values the safe space and services the Ombuds program provides. Lest it escapes memory, the ombuds program came about from the acceptance speech that Carla gave : https://senate.uoregon.edu/awards-2/uo-senate-classified-staff-leadership-award/ – in speaking to the values of our UO Senate Classified Staff Leadership Award.

    VALUING DIVERSITY AT THE COLLEGE OF EDUCATION– these points of pride that I highlight – the meaningful structural change at the College of Education – came about from student protests that I witnessed in 2005 when I began my graduate program, as reported in the Daily Emerald. Protesters rally against COE’s discriminatory acts https://www.dailyemerald.com/2005/05/05/protesters-rally-against-coes-discriminatory-acts/

    TODAY, Asian and Pacific Islander students and students of color value the efforts toward supporting their success here at the University of Oregon. But this meaningful change came about from the demands students of the UO Truth Coalition made in 2012. The UO Truth Coalition of students of color, together with international students, organized themselves. Sitting at the back of the room together with other Asian leaders in our community, we heard the anger, hurt and disappointment in the voices of students of color who were enraged with the restructure of the Office of Multicultural Academic Support (OMAS), to its current Center for Multicultural Academic Excesslence (CMAE) that was made absent student input. Their demands were to ensure that the university committed to their success for academic progress, access, student needs, and for an advocate for students through appropriate advising and referral services, pointing out that universities such as WOU and OSU had six and ten advisers respectively and they felt that as the flagship university, the University of Oregon should have at least as many advisers for students of color as our neighboring universities.

    In my twenty-three years of service processing applications, reading the personal statements of thousands of students who are excited to be here, this is who our students are and what they share:

    KNOW that in our student experiences, our students come already with a smorgasbord of diverse experiences: personal experiences of being harassed, bullied, profiled, of being discriminated; the awareness of white privilege, the importance of being an ally, of speaking for others who dare not speak having witnessing the inequality in treatment of others, the inequity of socio-economic status and taking to heart what this means for others who dare not voice. Know that our students value their experiences to countries around the world, their understanding about identity, heritage, cultures they are enriched with from the experiences in community service projects they engaged in high school. They embody the values of what it means to see themselves as citizens of the world – in passion, in spirit and in their commitment – prepared to learn, and to have uncomfortable honest conversations about biases, prejudices and discrimination in their experiences, and to be agents of change for a better society.

    THE STUDENT PROTESTS in 2001, in 2005, in 2012, in 2016 our student voices on Black Lives Matter, and today, in the voices of our students of UO Student Collective, is the déjà vu chorus of hurt, anger and pain in tone, of our student experience. Know that these are only the voices of students who have the courage to speak, speaking on behalf of many who dare not speak of the unwelcoming environment of their experience, or who would speak only in safe environments.

    In 2016, we introduced Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me” to our freshman class. How many in our Senate and in our campus community of scholars are prepared for the conversations the students are prepared to have, about the Black experience in America? What dialogue or conversations about the Muslim experience have you had? What dialogue or conversations about the Asian American experience have you had? And what dialogue or conversations have you had – to listen, understand and hear the experiences of native and immigrant families in our community, including the intersections of micro-aggressions in our student experiences of race, gender, ability in identity and culture?

    In our literature and in media we appeal and attract for diversity, with language of valuing a welcoming diverse community, valuing equity and inclusion; taking pride of our efforts in recruitment, in the incremental growth in numbers of the diversity of our student population. Our students take our message on diversity, equity and inclusion meaningfully to heart. Our students in our UO Student Collective and who they represent, are the same students we appeal and attract to come here, that which we take pride in their numbers. Universal in their demands – in the same vein as other students before them – is the university to demonstrate its commitment for the values and principles to be meaningful and real.

    I look forward to all our participation as a campus community, in deliberate, and substantive dialogue and conversations – that honest look in the mirror at ourselves – that will make the meaningful difference for the welcoming, healthy, safe, respectful, equitable and inclusive environments that embraces the rich diversity amongst us, that great place needs to be.

    Respectfully,
    Theodora Ko Thompson

  3. Comment from Senator Christopher Murray (COE):

    Chris, are you asking our opinion or telling us what the Senate thinks? What the Senate leadership thinks? As far as I’m concerned the president has a good point. The definition, or operationalization, of how disruptive protest does not stifle the freedom of expression requires a much more careful analysis and explanation. This is the problem with rushing through decisions Chris and this must be the original intent of the Senate bylaws requiring 21 -30 days of written notice. Why weren’t we given the resolution even 2 hours prior to the meeting so that all of us could do even a rushed read to inform our thinking, discussion, and suggestions? It very much reminds me of the current tactics being used in DC to force through tax reform. I will continue to have problems with non-transparent processes and procedures Chris.

    The next example. You have had a copy of my proposed amendments to the expedited review proposal for two weeks. Apparently, you have also developed your own amendments (based on your speech at the beginning of our last meeting) and the fact that the currently revised motion on the website does include your proposed amendments. However, the amendments that I gave you do not appear anywhere? Can you help me understand how the revisions that I sent are being ignored? Why are they not also included as an amendment on the website so that senators can carefully review both options?

    In a prior email I asked what processes are in place for the revision/amendment process? I am asking again. Who decides what gets included in the revision of a motion? Is your power absolute in allowing you to make all decisions about what recommendations get included or ignored? Are revisions/amendments vetted by the senate rules committee? Again Chris, if we are going to engage in thoughtful, informed decision-making it is critical that we share our amendments (i.e., that we are all transparent) and that we do so in a manner that provides all senators with the necessary time to think carefully about motions and amendments in advance.

    Christopher Murray

    1. Here are a few quick comments (apologies for the terseness):

      On the response to President Schill:

      1. The response to President Schill was signed by me and Vice President Harbaugh.
      2. The Senate voted to suspend the rules in accordance with the bylaws to facilitate the discussion and vote.
      3. I received the final resolution language at 2:16pm on 11/29. At that point I was walking from another meeting to the EMU to help set up the Senate meeting at 3.
      4. The original resolution language was presented at the 11/15 Senate meeting and changes were made by the author of the resolution in consultation with Bill and I and members of the UO Student Collective, in response to the letter from President Schill and Provost Banavar sent the day before the 11/29 meeting.

       

      On questions about procedure for expedited tenure and the crafting of other legislation:

      1. Until a motion is formally presented to the Senate (someone moves it and someone seconds) there are no formal amendments.
      2. Senators and others who want to their language included in the moved language should contact the individuals proposing the motion. (In this case Boris Botvinnik chair of the FPC and Scott Pratt EVP who will be operationalizing any legislation).
      3. Recent changes to the motion (my ‘amendments’) were meant to be responsive to your concerns and the concerns of others, and were crafted in consultation with the Provosts’ office.
      4. I have no power to dictate what is in the final language of a motion, unless the motion comes from me or a committee I chair.
      5. In many instances I do discuss motion language with the authors before it is presented to the Senate. Some of this is to ensure proper formatting/structure. Some of it is to relay salient information based on conversations I have been party to.
      6. Revisions are not currently vetted by the Senate rules committee, but in most cases Senate Exec discusses motions before they reach the Senate.

      I would very much like to have these conversations on the blog so that they are public. Some individuals have difficulty logging in and leaving comments. This is a known technical issue, but as it is difficult to reproduce, and since it involves software that is managed by an external vendor, I have not been able to determine the fix. Until I can figure out a solution, I can ask that comments that are shared by email to the entire Senate be posted as comments on the appropriate post on the Senate blog.

      As always, if you have additional comments/suggestions please reach out to me.

  4. Comment from Senator Elliot Berkman (CAS-NS):

    Quick process note here: Betina or Chris, is there any way we can get these documents posted on the senate blog (https://senate.uoregon.edu/) so we can have this and future conversations out in the open (and out of our inbox)?

    In general, I am in favor of setting a norm of having these important conversations in a semi-public forum such as the senate blog.

    1. Comment from Senator Pedro García-Caro (CAS-HUM):

      I second that, this openness is key to a responsible representation of our colleagues and trusting constituents.

      And thanks so much, dear Theodora, for your eloquent, frank, and thorough presentation of the historical events that have preceded our current debate. In stressful times like ours, the kind of institutional memory and keen humane perspective (i.e. the astonishingly lengthy track-record of sour student relations around here) that you bring to the table are essential to keep a cool, level-headed vision of the grievances and the tall order we have to deliver: improving the channels of communication with the many diverse voices in our student body. Quite frankly, our biggest donors and contributors are our students, they are also one of the central reasons we are all here, their interests and demands come first and should not be modeled around a crass customer/corporate relation, but around the image of an open study classroom for global citizens and key stakeholders for the advancement of human society.

Leave a Reply