Latest news from the UO

  • Grant will bring online science lessons to elementary students

    First published in Around the O on July 6, 2020. UO researchers will develop and evaluate a web-based science curriculum for elementary school students to supplement their in-class science learning as part of a project financed by a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Project ESCOLAR, for Effective Scholastic Curriculum for Online Learning and Academic Results, will create and test online, multimedia lessons for grades three through five. The lessons will align with national standards for what upper elementary students are expected to know about science. “The goal of ESCOLAR is to deliver an online program that students can use to learn and apply science efficiently and effectively,” said Fatima Terrazas Arellanes, a research assistant professor in the UO College of Education. “Our units will be designed for the classroom and for remote learning, with students guided by teachers or parents.” Project ESCOLAR is guided by principal investigators Terrazas Arellanes and Alejandro Gallard of Southern Georgia University. Their team includes a research methodologist, science curriculum developers, a content editor, programmers, graphic designers and an external evaluator. The project builds on the research team’s previously successful online science curriculum for middle school students. The ESCOLAR approach offers students more than a digital textbook; it incorporates interactive tools and authentic science projects that have been shown to enhance and support student learning. “With the new funding, we will be able to adapt, evaluate and refine nine online science units to improve academic achievement of students studying science in upper elementary school, especially those who may struggle, such as English language learners or students with learning disabilities,” Terrazas Arellanes said.

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  • Bonamici and Select Committee announce comprehensive climate action plan

    After over a year of hearings, meetings, and briefings, the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on the Climate Crisis produced a comprehensive report on June 30, 2020: “Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America.” Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), the only committee member from the Pacific Northwest, highlighted the contributions of Oregonians to the Climate Action Plan on the House floor and during a press conference for the Select Committee.   Contributors from the University of Oregon who shared their expertise with the Select Committee include the Oregon Law Environmental Policy Practicum, Sustainable Cities Institute, and Tribal Climate Change Project. UO law students presented findings to committee staff in fall 2019. According to the report, the Select Committee’s climate action framework outlines ambitious and achievable policies to grow the economy and put Americans back to work in clean energy jobs, protect the health of Americans by reducing emissions and toxic pollutants, make communities more resilient so they can withstand the effects of climate change, and protect America’s lands, waters, ocean, and wildlife for the next generation. An independent analysis and modeling found that implementing the plan would: reduce net overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent below 2010 levels in 2030, and 88 percent below 2010 levels in 2050; provide nearly $8 trillion in cumulative climate and health benefits through 2050; and avoid 62,000 premature deaths annually by 2050. On Wednesday, July 8 from 2-3pm PT, Congresswoman Bonamici is hosting an Oregon Kick-Off for Climate Action Webinar to discuss and answer questions on the Climate Action Plan. The Congresswoman is being joined by Don Sampson from the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, Evelyn Shapiro from the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, and George Waldbusser from Oregon State University to discuss the imperative for climate action now.

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  • Recap: 2020 Oregon Legislature First Special Session

    In an effort to address the COVID-19 pandemic and statewide calls for police reform, Governor Kate Brown convened the Oregon Legislature for the 2020 First Special Session on Wednesday, June 24. The Capitol Building was closed to the public to allow for social distancing, almost all lawmakers wore masks, committee meetings were held virtually, and public testimony was received in written form and via phone in an attempt to prevent any potential transmission of the coronavirus. The Senate and House chamber sessions and all committee meetings from the special session can be viewed here. On Friday, June 26, the Legislature ended their three-day sprint having passed a total of 26 bills relating to police reform, COVID-19, and an assortment of issues left unaddressed after the previous session’s “walkout.” Police Reform: Measures relating to police reform invoked a consensus among lawmakers unlike any in recent memory, and of the six measures passed, four began with the declaration “Black Lives Matter.”   First, the Legislature established the Joint Committee on Transparent Policing and Use of Force Reform (HB 4201). The committee is tasked with examining policies that increase transparency and reduce the prevalence of injury or death in use of force, as well as determining the most appropriate policy for independent review of the use of deadly force. Senator James Manning Jr. (D-Eugene) and Representative Janelle Bynum (D-Portland) will co-chair the committee. Additionally, specific uses of force by law enforcement agencies–including chokeholds and tear gas–will face new limitations, falling short of the calls to ban these practices, but hailed by lawmakers as a step in the right direction. Effective immediately, chokeholds (HB 4203) may only be used by police if deadly force would have otherwise been justified, and the use of tear gas (HB 4208) in the state may be used only to disperse “riots,” as defined under Oregon law. Further, police officers witnessing misconduct by their fellow officers will now have a duty to intervene (HB 4205).   Oregon will also begin publishing a statewide online database of officer suspensions and revocations (HB 4207) to ensure allegations of misconduct are not shielded from the public. Finally, the Legislature passed a measure addressing the arbitration process (SB 1604), in an attempt to curb the likelihood of an arbitrator reducing or overturning discipline decisions by Oregon police agencies. COVID-19 pandemic: The Legislature passed a sweeping omnibus bill (HB 4212), allowing for virtual public meetings, authorizing the Chief Justice to extend certain statutory deadlines relating to court proceedings, prohibiting the garnishment of CARES Act funding in most situations, and requiring health care providers to collect race and ethnicity data relating to the coronavirus, among other provisions. The Legislature also extended the state’s eviction moratorium (HB 4213) and passed a companion measure establishing temporary limitations on foreclosures (HB 4204) to protect Oregonians from eviction and foreclosure through September 30, 2020. Other measures passed include an extension of an existing tax on landline phones to cellphone providers, allocating up to $5 million per year toward rural broadband services (SB 1603) and a forest management bill (SB 1602) restricting the use of aerial pesticides.  What’s next? Notably missing from the special session was legislation addressing the state’s $2.7 billion budget shortfall as a result of COVID-19. Governor Brown plans to convene a second special session later this summer in the hopes that Congress will take further action and provide states with additional federal support.   The 80th Oregon Legislative Assembly adjourned sine die on June 26, 2020.

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  • RISE Act to provide cost extensions introduced, DeFazio co-sponsors

    June 30, 2020 04:38 pm On June 24 a bi-partisan group of members of the House sponsored HR 7308, the Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act. The bill authorizes approximately $26 billion in emergency appropriations and would provide critical research relief to university researchers who have been impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The legislation, if enacted, would allow federal agencies to fund cost extensions to research grants, permitting graduate students, postdocs, principal investigators, technical support staff and other research personnel to continue to receive salary support while research activities have been slowed or halted. U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) was among the first ten members of the House to co-sponsor the bill. Other sponsors include Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Rep. Frank Lucas (R-O), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH). A drive is on to collect enough co-sponsors that the bill could be placed on the consent calendar. More than 250 higher education, research, industry groups and associations have endorsed the RISE Act, including the University of Oregon. In a letter to the Senate leadership, the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and the American Council on Education (ACE), wrote, “Scientists have been doing what they can to move projects forward remotely, but with many researchers unable to work in their labs and fields during the pandemic, emergency relief funds are urgently needed at the federal research agencies to extend the duration of research projects and ensure the objectives of these federal research investments that have already been made are met.” 

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  • Supreme Court blocks attempt to rescind DACA

    June 19, 2020 04:18 pm Our DREAMERS are here to stay. On Thursday, June 18 the United States Supreme Court held, in a 5-4 vote, that the executive order by the Administration to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was unlawful. This ruling allows, at least temporarily, the continuation of DACA. While it is possible the Trump Administration could more closely follow the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act, this effort would take time and most DACA recipients will likely remain protected into the next administration. DACA, initiated by President Obama in 2012, allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to have temporary permission to stay and obtain work permits and/or enroll in college. Approximately 216,000 DACA-eligible immigrants are currently enrolled in higher education across the country. The program only shields those people from deportation who were brought to the United States before 2007 when they were younger than age 16. UO President Michael H. Schill issued a statement expressing his gratitude to the Supreme Court for blocking efforts to shut down DACA, which has helped countless young immigrants in Oregon and across our nation. He noted that at a time when society is painfully grappling with disparities in access to opportunity caused by historic and systemic racism, we need programs like DACA now more than ever. The UO DREAMERS Work Group, comprised of faculty, staff and students dedicated to promoting an undocumented-friendly environment and improving the experiences of Dreamer students at the UO, issued a statement that said: “For months, students at the University of Oregon, like other DACA recipients across the state and the country, waited in limbo for the SCOTUS decision, which would determine their ability to continue and complete their educations and pursue their chosen careers….Today’s ruling impacts nearly 10,000 DACA recipients in the state of Oregon, among nearly ¾ of a million nationwide. For many UO students, the ruling provides temporary relief after a long period of anxiety and uncertainty.”  Oregon Governor Kate Brown lauded the decision as well, affirming that Oregon will always be a welcoming, safe place for all and that Oregon is a sanctuary state that prevents enforcement of federal immigration law.

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  • State Update: Revenue Forecast & Special Session

    June 19, 2020 12:40 pm Governor Kate Brown announced she will call the Oregon Legislature into a special session on Wednesday, June 24. Expected topics for the session will likely be limited to addressing impacts of COVID-19 on workers, employers, the economy, and families, as well as police accountability measures in response to the killing of George Floyd and numerous other Black Americans by police officers. At this time, it is expected that the Legislature will not re-balance the state’s budget in the wake of the pandemic. Instead, lawmakers will wait for a potential fourth federal stimulus package and convene later this summer to make necessary budgetary decisions. Please stay tuned to UO Advocates social media pages because we will need your advocacy to make sure higher education is protected from deep cuts that could have a negative impact on students for generations to come. The June 2020 Forecast: The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis released the June 2020 revenue forecast and economic outlook. The forecast represents the most probable outcome given available information to economists and helps policymakers craft necessary changes to the budget. The economy: The halt of economic activity due to the outbreak of COVID-19 made clear that Oregon is in recession and that recovery will take years. Economists do expect a bounce back in the second half of the year, so long as public health indicators related to the virus continue to allow for the easing of physical distancing measures and the re-opening of businesses. Really, full recovery won’t occur until there is a vaccine, there is a mutation in the virus that makes it less infectious, or herd immunity is achieved. Some good news: while this recession is extremely severe, it is expected to be shorter in duration than the Great Recession. What about the state’s revenue? Oregon has a more volatile revenue system than other states because it depends so much on personal and corporate income taxes. During economic downturns, income taxes might not fare as well in comparison to other revenue instruments. Taxes on lodging, gasoline, vehicle purchases, video lottery and marijuana sales are all much more substantial than they were during the last recession. While some taxes will fare better than others, all major revenue sources will face considerable downward pressure given the severity of the recession. General Fund and other major revenues have been reduced relative to the March forecast by $2.7 billion in the current biennium and $4.4 billion in the 2021-23 budget period. Fortunately, Oregon is better positioned than ever before to weather a revenue downturn. Automatic deposits into the Rainy Day Fund and Education Stability Fund have added up over the decade-long economic expansion, and stood at $1.6 billion in April. In addition to dedicated reserve funds, the General Fund had over one billion dollars in projected balances before the recession hit.

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  • Merkley, colleagues urge Senate leadership to include higher ed in next COVID relief bill

    June 15, 2020 11:05 am In a June 11 letter, US Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) led 30 US Senate colleagues in urging Senate leadership to include $47 billion in financial support for students and institutions of higher learning in the next COVID-19 emergency relief bill. The letter emphasized the substantial costs and losses already faced by institutions of higher education as enrollment declines and state cuts jeopardize the financial vitality of schools. To meet the needs of these schools and their students during this tumultuous time, the senators requested that significant additional emergency relief be provided by Congress, and that schools receive the flexibility they need to use the funding most effectively within their communities. The letter stated, “Congress responded in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to the emergency financial needs of students, colleges, and universities by providing $14 billion in support through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. However, students and institutions are experiencing vastly greater need.”   University of Oregon President Michael H. Schill and other university and community college leaders in Oregon praised Merkley’s ongoing leadership. “Senator Merkley continues to show enormous leadership in supporting students and higher education,” said Schill, “The last CARES bill provided direct financial relief to our students whose lives were disrupted by COVID-19 and to our universities that are suffering ruinous losses. We are incredibly proud and grateful to our senator for his strong and effective advocacy in working to ensure this virus doesn’t stop Oregonians from earning their degrees and achieving opportunity.”  Additional comments from Oregon university and community college presidents can be found here. The Senate is expected to start drafting the next relief package no sooner than after the July 4 recess. The US House of Representatives passed HEROES, its proposal for a fourth stimulus, earlier this month.

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  • DeFazio introduces transportation and infrastructure bill

    June 5, 2020 03:23 pm On June 3, Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, released text of the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act. The bill would allocate funds to infrastructure improvement and rebuilding that has been long overdue.  This bill is a key component of the Moving Forward Framework that House Democrats released earlier this year. The INVEST in America Act authorizes nearly $500 billion over five years to address some of the country’s most urgent infrastructure needs. The bill also accounts for the economic downturn caused by the global pandemic and ensures States, cities, tribes, territories, and transit agencies can administer programs, advance projects, and preserve jobs in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis. “The bulk of our nation’s infrastructure—our roads, bridges, public transit and rail systems, the things that hundreds of millions of American families and businesses rely on every single day— is not only badly outdated, in many places it’s downright dangerous and holding our economy back,” Chair DeFazio said. “That all changes with the INVEST in America Act... The INVEST in America Act is our opportunity to replace the outdated systems of the past with smarter, safer, more resilient infrastructure that fits the economy of the future, creates millions of jobs, supports American manufacturing, and restores U.S. competitiveness.”  Included in the bill is $2 million for The NEXUS (Navigating Emerging Technologies and Urban Spaces) online database, a resource hosted by UO’s Urbanism Next Center that assists decision-makers in creating new policies regarding the potential effects of innovations such as autonomous vehicles and e-commerce. On June 17 the committee will markup the bill and it’s expected that a floor vote will happen in the first week of July. 

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  • Anti-racism resources: What we’re reading this week

    Last week, the death of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis once again brought to the forefront the ugly picture of racial bigotry in our country. Like many of you, the UO Government and Community Relations (GCR) staff team is doing much reflecting, reading, listening, and learning. We’d like to share with you some resources to help us engage in change and become more educated; that’s what we do here at UO Advocates—we advocate. We’ve found these links to be insightful as we figure out how to better serve our UO GCR’s mission of building relationships that support all university constituencies, including Black students, faculty, staff, and alumni. The first is a document with links to webpages, videos, books, and other resources that are available to help us take care of ourselves and support each other, support people and communities of color, reflect, learn, and get involved. Some of these links are for UO staff and/or share a little about what UO communities are doing to support communities of color and call out and address system racism; most we hope are useful and compelling far beyond the boundaries of our campus community. In addition, here are some additional anti-racisms resources: Anti-Racism Resources for White People Luvvie’s Anti-Racism Reading List White Ally Toolkit President Obama’s Essay (which includes a link to resources) Tasha’s Anti-Racism Resources   In the coming weeks, we plan to share additional resources and highlight some of the work UO faculty and researchers are doing to examine, and hopefully change, systemic racism and inequity.

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