UO Federal Affairs News

  • House passes $3 trillion coronavirus stimulus plan

    May 19, 2020 08:50 am On Friday, May 15, the US House of Representatives passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act), a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package, by a vote of 208-199 along mostly party lines, marking the start of an effort to pass a fourth emergency supplemental spending package in response to COVID-19. The bill includes $100 billion for education, with $27 billion allocated to public institutions of higher education through the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. Other allocations of these education funds include $1.4 billion to schools with “unmet needs” and up to $10,000 of student loan forgiveness per student loan borrower, which is applicable to all types of student loans. The bill would also enable DACA and international students to be eligible for all education funds, as well as retroactively make these students eligible for relief funds under the CARES Act, the third stimulus. An interactive dashboard created by the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities (APLU) Office of Data and Policy Analysis includes estimates of the amount of funds each eligible public university would receive under this bill as written. The University of Oregon would receive approximately $28 million of the $300 million distributed to Oregon institutions of higher education.  APLU released a statement on the passage of the HEROES Act saying that the bill addresses some of the acute challenges facing public research universities. “While short of APLU’s request, the funding would go a long way to support institutions essential to the public good. We appreciate the flexibility in the use of funds so institutions can adapt the federal support to the unique needs of their campus communities.”

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  • OR delegation supports more funding for research workforce

    May 7, 2020 10:44 am In a May 4, 2020 letter addressed to United States Senate leadership, Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) were joined by 31 other senators in urging Congress to provide additional support for the U.S. research workforce, which includes graduate students, postdocs, principal investigators, and technical support staff. The bipartisan letter requested a total of $26 billion dollars to be included in the fourth coronavirus stimulus package. “In the current environment, researchers face myriad problems. Many are unable to make progress on their grants. Researchers who receive federal-grant funding may continue to receive their salaries even though their research has stopped, but many need supplemental funding to support additional salary and lab supplies as they ramp up work again and for the completion of their initial grant work.” The $26 billion requested would be used to accomplish three goals: Cover supplements for research grants and contracts; Provide emergency relief to sustain research support personnel and base operating costs for core research facilities; and Fund additional graduate student and postdoc fellowships, traineeships, and research assistantships. The Senate letter comes on the heels of a similar April 29 letter to House leadership initiated by U.S. Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) and joined by 178 other members of the House, also requesting support for the U.S. research community. “Protecting the research workforce is critical to state and local economies as research universities, academic medical centers, independent research institutes, and national labs are major employers in all 50 states. In the long term, these researchers are essential to protecting our nation’s public health, national security, economic growth and international competitiveness. Preserving our scientific infrastructure and protecting our innovation pipeline will help ensure U.S. leadership in the world.” Both of Oregon’s senators signed the Senate letter. Oregon Representatives Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, and Suzanne Bonamici signed the House letter. Major associations of higher education, including the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities (APLU), the American Council on Education (ACE), and the Association of American Universities (AAU), previously recommended $26 billion to support major research agencies in a letter addressed to both House and Senate leadership on April 7. The UO Government and Community Relations blog covered that request to Congress here. Read an article covering the May 4 Senate letter here. Read an article covering the April 29 House letter here.

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  • UO biologist named to national academy

    First published in Around the O on April 24th, 2020. UO biologist Karen Guillemin, an internationally renowned pioneer who developed a zebrafish model to examine how animals coexist with their microbial residents and the role bacteria play in development and disease, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Guillemin was elected along with 275 other artists, scholars, scientists and leaders in the public, nonprofit and private sectors. She joins the ranks of 250 Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winners and a range of others recognized for their excellence and expertise. Those include actor Tom Hanks, former President Barack Obama, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and physicist David J. Pine of New York University. The list also includes her father, Victor William Guillemin, who was elected in 1983 in the area of mathematics and physical sciences, and her great-uncle Ernst Guillemin, who was a professor of engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Being elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is a wonderful honor,” said Guillemin, Philip H. Knight Chair and professor of biology. “It’s also very meaningful one to me because I grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, not far from the academy, and sometimes attended events there with my father, who was elected as a fellow when I was in high school.” Guillemin is a professor in the UO’s Department of Biology and the Institute of Molecular Biology. She established the interdisciplinary Microbial Ecology and Theory of Animals, an National Institutes of Health-funded Center of Excellence in Systems Biology, to better understand the bacteria and other microorganisms that reside in the animal gut and influence many biological functions. She has helped further the evolution of zebrafish research, which the UO pioneered as a model organism to ultimately better understand human biology and disease, by developing a special kind of sterile zebrafish that allows scientists to better determine the role those microbes play as animals grow. Guillemin, who was elected in the area of biological sciences, has published more than 85 scientific papers and made numerous groundbreaking discoveries in her field, including a novel bacterial protein called BefA , which she recently patented and which shows promise to someday become a component of a new treatment for Type-1 diabetes. "Karen Guillemin is renowned for developing zebrafish as a model organism to study the effects of microbes on animal development and health,” said UO President Michael H. Schill.  “In addition to leading the national agenda for research in this area, she leads teams of brilliant young scientists, including undergraduates, in the pursuit of potential therapeutics and cures for diseases caused by excessive inflammation. She represents everything that is innovative, collaborative and exceptional about the University of Oregon's scientific research enterprise, and we are delighted to see her receive this recognition so early in her career." The academy was founded in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock and others to honor exceptionally accomplished individuals engaged in advancing the public good. This year’s list of new members includes singer, songwriter and activist Joan Baez, immunologist Yasmine Belkaidis, lawyer and former Attorney General Eric Holder and independent filmmaker Richard Linklater. UO biologist Judith Eisen, a fellow zebrafish researcher who was inducted into the academy in 2018 for her pioneering work developing zebrafish as a model to study the nervous system, credited Guillemin for her discovery of the BefA bacterial protein, among many other accomplishments. She also pointed to the development of new tools from the Guillemin lab that have become an important community resource for the genetic manipulation of newly discovered host-associated bacterial species.

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  • Research studies COVID-19 impact on families

    First published in Around the O on April 22nd, 2020. As the coronavirus pandemic unfolds across the U.S., many families with young children are facing big challenges, and UO researchers are gearing up to help them. Buoyed by three recent grants totaling roughly $500,000 from the Heising-Simons Foundation, the JB and MK Pritzker Family Foundation and the Valhalla Charitable Foundation, researchers in UO’s Center for Translational Neuroscience are working to identify the most critical needs of this vulnerable population. The inspiration for the project grew out of a desire to help and the realization that there was a lack of scientific data to inform the federal government’s multi-trillion-dollar stimulus packages and other policies designed to help communities, said Philip Fisher, Philip H. Knight Chair and a professor in the Department of Psychology leading the project. For families with young children, the potential problems include concerns about health and well-being, changes in employment for parents, mental health challenges, and changes in child care, as well as interrelated challenges with overburdened safety net programs. “There is very limited actionable science-based, data-driven information to inform federal and state policy about the best ways to manage the situation in order to buffer children from long-term toxic stress effects,” Fisher said. “The situation is extremely fluid, with new information about the state of the pandemic and local, state, and policy decisions being made on a daily basis.” For Fisher, a child development expert who studies how stressful experiences in early childhood affect the architecture of the brain, the project was a natural fit. It also aligned with the Center for Translational Neuroscience’s mission of translating discoveries in basic neuroscience, psychology, and related disciplines into meaningful and useful information for practitioners, policy makers, and the general public. Dubbed the Rapid Assessment of Pandemic Impact on Development, or RAPID, the project draws upon the collective resources of faculty members, postdoctoral trainees, graduate students and professional staff with experience in recruitment, data collection and analysis, and generation of manuscripts.

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  • CARES Act Phase 4: Assocs make recommendations

    As Congress continues to address the need for financial relief related to the financial impacts of COVID-19, higher education associations have addressed congressional leadership with their recommendations for Phase 4 of the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The recommendations come on the heels of Phase 3 of the CARES Act, which allocated approximately $14 billion to higher education as part of the Education Stabilization Fund. On April 7, the Association of American Universities (AAU), Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities (APLU), Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and American Council on Education (ACE) sent a letter to House and Senate leadership outlining six areas of impact were identified where substantial personnel and research-related costs will be incurred or there will be a loss of support due to inactivity: Sustaining the research workforce until operations return to full speed. This includes support for graduate students, postdocs, early career researchers, principal investigators, and technical support research staff Additional COVID-19-related research costs, including but not limited to personnel, personal protective equipment (PPE), supplies, equipment, and additional analytic capabilities. Ramp-down and eventual ramp-up of costs to close and restart research activities. Inactivity of core research facilities and research and technical staff that support federally funded research by providing instrumentation, equipment, computation, analysis, and other research services. Compliance with federal regulations and audits. International graduate students and researchers visa status. Three additional recommendations were made to allocate additional funding to sustain the core of the research workforce and provide temporary regulatory and audit flexibility: Supplemental appropriations of $26 billion for the major research agencies, including: NIH, NSF, Department of Energy, Department of Defense Science & Technology programs, NASA, USDA, NOAA, NIST, and others. Urge or require that federal research agencies immediately implement uniform guidance and policies that provide flexibility for research institutions during this national health emergency to cover salaries, benefits, and tuition support for graduate students and research personnel engaged in federally sponsored research grants and contracts. OMB and the research agencies should be directed to provide temporary regulatory and audit flexibility during the pandemic period and for a year afterwards. Subsequent government audits conducted for this period also should allow for additional flexibility, particularly as it relates to the accounting of time and effort reporting given the extreme and unique situation.

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  • Dept of Ed releases CARES funds for student emergency grants

    On Thursday, April 9, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that more than $6 billion would be distributed immediately to colleges and universities to provide direct emergency cash grants to college students who have been disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. The funds, which are a part of the nearly $31 billion Congress allocated to education institutions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, are available to colleges and universities in the form of cash grants that will be distributed to students in order to cover costs such as course materials, food, housing, health care, and childcare. After certifying that it will distribute the funds in accordance with applicable law, each college or university will develop its own system to determine which students will receive the cash grants. The amount allocated to eligible schools is determined by a formula with the most influential factor being the number of full-time students who are Pell-eligible. Other factors include the total population of the school.  According to U.S. Department of Education formula allocations, the total amount allocated to the University of Oregon is $16,095,946, with $8,047,973 of that being the minimum allocation to be awarded for emergency financial aid grants to students. The $16 million allocated to the UO is part of the $116.4 million that Oregon public and private universities and community colleges will receive at large. The full methodology for calculating allocations can be found here.

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  • Data science to debut as the UO’s newest major this fall

    First published in Around the O on April 7th, 2020.It’s official: The University of Oregon is preparing the next generation of leaders in data science. With all reviews completed and final approvals in hand, the data science degree program will begin this fall. Developed by the Presidential Initiative in Data Science, the new undergraduate degree was granted final approval by the UO’s accrediting body, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, in February. “I am thrilled that the UO is launching a degree in data science,” said UO President Michael H. Schill. “This approval reflects awareness of the increasingly central role of data science in higher education and society, its impact for our state and national economies and its vital usefulness in helping to solve some of the greatest challenges now facing our world. Especially given the role date science is playing globally in tracking and responding to the COVID-19 health emergency, I am proud to note that the UO’s program will place a strong emphasis on building ethical frameworks for working with and learning from big data.” Data scientists are essential players in many industries, and data science is one of the fastest-growing segments of the economy. A January 2019 report from a top employment website showed open data science jobs in nearly every sector of the economy, with a 344 percent increase since 2013. The demand for data scientists is projected to continue growing at a rate of 29 percent per year. Starting salaries in the field average $115,000. In keeping with the UO’s foundations in science and the liberal arts, the data science degree program will focus on teaching not only quantitative and computational skills but also data science ethics and communication.

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  • UO campaign supports surge of students in financial crisis

    First published in Around the O on March 26th, 2020.The number of University of Oregon students in financial crisis is surging due to COVID-19 (coronavirus), as jobs on and off campus disappear in the wake of business closures and other restrictions meant to halt the spread of the disease. Starting this week, the UO is reaching out to alumni and friends with an easy way to help by making a contribution to the Students in Crisis Fund, which assists students facing unusual hardship due to circumstances beyond their control. Donations to the fund can be made through DuckFunder, a UO crowdfunding website. Requests from students in need to the Crisis Intervention and Sexual Violence Prevention Team typically number five or six per month. In March, there were 29 through March 23 — 26 of them related to COVID-19, many from self-supporting students who have lost jobs, are unable to pay rent and have already considered loans and other alternatives. As students transition to remote learning for spring term, needs continue to grow, according to the Office of the Dean of Students. “We know many of our students are facing serious challenges during this unprecedented crisis,” President Michael Schill said. “We also know that our UO family wants to help. We are doing everything in our power to protect our students’ health and well-being. At the same time, we are deeply committed to ensuring they can continue to pursue their education. This fund will help us support our students and respond to some of their urgent individual needs.” The fund, comprised entirely of private donations, was started two years ago by the Parents Leadership Council, a passionate group of Duck parents who serve as leaders, mentors and advisers while addressing challenges and opportunities related to student life. Through the fund, students have traveled home to grieve the loss of a loved one, relocated from unsafe housing and paid unexpected medical bills, among other concerns.

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  • The UO's Tim Duy talks coronavirus and the economy

    First published in Around the O on April 7th, 2020.National policymakers and journalists seek out the UO’s Tim Duy, a professor of practice in economics, on a daily basis for his expertise on monetary policy. He sat down for a quick — and virtual — Q&A on how COVID-19 is affecting the economy and what people can do to help. What is the most important thing to know about this crisis? This is a unique event, unprecedented. Until we can understand, control and minimize the virus, we are not going to be able to return to some of our normal activities very easily. What is the best thing people can do to help restore normalcy? We need everyone who can stay home to do so, because this helps protect essential workers who cannot do their jobs from home. It is everyone’s responsibility to help minimize the spread of this virus. Why have toilet paper, disinfectants, hand sanitizer, wet wipes and yeast gone missing? In the early phase of a panic like this, you get a scarcity of goods that people perceive as being in short supply, which actually creates the shortage. But we are not using that much more of these items than we would normally, so the surge in demand should be temporary. Give it a month, and stores should be restocking these products. Our real problem is how we restart the economy after the stay-at-home restrictions start to loosen. What about the lack of personal protective equipment for those on the front lines? Supply chains are designed for normal times, and the chains for things like N95 masks might be sufficient in normal times but suddenly appear thin and dispersed in a crisis. It would be challenging and expensive to set up a supply chain that could react instantly to a change of this magnitude. Instead, we need to prepare for this kind of event by having sufficient stockpiles to bridge the gap before supply chains can be brought up to speed. Apparently, we did not. What signs of recovery should we watch for? It will be like a dimmer switch, where you slowly raise the lights again. At some point, we will be told the crisis is past. but there will still be some restrictions until we, hopefully, get a vaccine. Trailheads will be reopened. Maybe restaurants can reopen, but they will have to space their tables farther apart. You’ll probably see situations where it is easier to maintain some kind of social distancing allowed to open first, but gyms may not be able to reopen as quickly and large public events will not be possible until we are confident we have the virus controlled.

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  • COVID-19 emergency spending bill provides funds for higher ed.

    On Friday, March 27, the House of Representatives passed and President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, an approximately $2 trillion emergency spending bill in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Senate first passed the legislation on Thursday, March 26. The third COVID-19 package includes $13.9 billion that will be available in a Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund for students and institutions of higher education. The nearly $14 billion for higher education is part of the $30.75 billion Education Stabilization Fund, which also has designated funding for local education agencies ($13.2 billion) and discretionary state governor spending to be used for higher education and/or K-12 ($2.95 billion). Of the $13.9 available in the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, 90 percent (just over $12.5 billion) will be available to all institutions of higher education based on the proportion of Pell and non-Pell full-time-equivalent students who were not enrolled exclusively in distance education prior to the coronavirus emergency. The emergency assistance is to be split between direct assistance to students and institutions. Students will be eligible for emergency grants that may be available through their institutions or traditional financial aid channels to meet unexpected and urgent needs related to the coronavirus, such as expenses related to food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care. Students who are currently participating in the Federal Work Study program can continue to receive work-study payments from their institution if they are unable to work due to workplace closures. Relief also exists for students who must drop out of school due to COVID-19. Students will have the portion of their student loan taken out for the semester (or equivalent) canceled. Further, students who received a Pell Grant or subsidized student loan for spring term will not have those types of financial aid counted toward their lifetime limits.

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