Latest news from the UO

  • UO architecture professor testifies to Congress

    On Tuesday, June 11, Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg, professor of architecture at the University of Oregon, testified at a hearing before the U.S. House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management. The subject of the hearing was energy efficiency and resiliency in federal buildings. The hearing was conducted, in part, to evaluate the progress being made in federal building efficiency and resiliency by the General Services Administration (GSA), which implements executive regulations governing the acquisition, use, and disposal of real property owned by the federal government. Subcommittee Chairwoman Dina Titus (D-NV) led the hearing by emphasizing the importance of developing “smart and secure” buildings. “This is a chance to look at the past accomplishments, the present situation, and our future goals,” said Titus. Along with the testimony by the GSA regarding the present state of energy efficiency and resiliency in federal buildings, Van Den Wymelenberg was joined by other two panelists who testified on current innovations being made to improve building health and efficiency. Van Den Wymelenberg, director of the Institute for Health in the Built Environment, described the Institute's development of an academic-industry partnership known as Build Health. Build Health considers the intersection of energy efficiency and other factors in buildings and human health. Van Den Wymelenberg emphasized how indoor environments can negatively impact human health outcomes, and suggested that the subcommittee adopt a vision of “passive thrive-ability”. “Passive thrive-ability”, Van Den Wymelenberg said, encompasses “environments that improve human productivity and health outcomes while using less energy and approaching net-zero energy performance.” In closing, Van Den Wymelenberg suggested that the subcommittee consider setting goals that are currently implemented at the University of Oregon through a program called BTUs 4 BTU’s, or Building Tune-Ups for BTUs (energy). He explained the approach as a way to capitalize on the investments in energy efficiency, document the energy savings from strategies implemented, establish reinvestment mechanisms to implement deeper energy efficiency and human health strategies, and research the non-energy benefits of health and comfort. Van Den Wymelenberg finished his time with a comment that elicited laughs from the committee when he said that his consortium of industry collaborators, Build Health, is “founded on the principle that academics don’t know everything.” Full Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) joined the hearing and emphasized the bipartisan interest in promoting efficient resilient federal buildings. A copy of Van Den Wymelenberg’s written testimony can be found here.

    Read More
  • Oregon Legislature approves bill making changes to PERS

    First published in Around the O on June 3rd. The UO’s Office of Human Resources is providing information about legislation recently approved by state lawmakers that makes changes to the Public Employees Retirement System. The Oregon Legislature recently approved Senate Bill 1049, and the bill has been sent to Gov. Kate Brown to sign. The new legislation contains several provisions, with varying effective dates, related to benefit modifications and system financing. The HR website provides more information about the development, including a summary of SB 1049. The bill includes a number of changes for PERS employers and members that will occur in the future. If the bill is approved by the governor, PERS will continue to analyze the bill and prepare to fulfill its requirements. PERS provides updates on its website and will provide more information about the implementation of SB 1049 as it becomes available. PERS members can sign up on the PERS website to receive email or text alerts about the legislation. “Changes to PERS generates a lot of discussion and elevates concerns,” said Cindi Peterson, associate director of benefits. “It is important for PERS members to verify information they receive and seek clarification from trusted resources before making any decisions about retirement. The benefits office and PERS representatives are available to answer questions and discuss individual concerns.” While the benefits office cannot specifically advise individuals on how proposed or approved changes may affect their retirement benefits, they strongly encourage PERS members to stay informed, get a PERS estimate and meet with a financial advisor. Visit the HR website for more information. The benefits office will continue to monitor PERS-related issues and changes closely and provide information and resources as they become available. For questions or additional assistance, contact the benefits office at 541-346-3085.   https://around.uoregon.edu/content/oregon-legislature-approves-bill-making-changes-pers/?utm_source=UOnews  

    Read More
  • UO-led study finds early indicator of an earthquake’s magnitude

    First published in Around the O on May 30th. University of Oregon researcher Diego Melgar and a U.S. Geological Survey colleague were searching databases for information to feed a simulation of what a Cascadia earthquake would look like. Instead, they found a clue that points to the magnitude of an emerging megaquake. Reporting in Science Advances, Melgar and Gavin P. Hayes of the USGS National Earthquake Information Center in Colorado detailed a pattern in GPS data that emerges between 10 and 15 seconds into a quake. It’s the start of a slip pulse, a transition involving the acceleration of the separation, or displacement, of two plates. The peak rate of the displacement foretells whether an event will fizzle into a small quake or explode into a magnitude 7 or larger event. They correctly identified, from doing physics-heavy analyses of two USGS databases dating to the early 1990s, all 12 magnitude 7-plus earthquakes, including three that exceeded magnitude 8 between 2003 and 2016. They found the same pattern in European and Chinese databases. “It was super exciting,” said Melgar, a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences. “As Gavin and I poured through the data for what were really unrelated reasons, we began to see these trends. We had a bit of a eureka moment where we, well, if what we’re seeing is true, it means something about how earthquakes start.” The databases the researchers studied contain information from more than 3,000 earthquakes, with the same window of time indicating the severity of each event. “The challenge is that we’ve found average patterns,” Melgar said. “Individual earthquakes have their own personality. There can dia subduction zone off the Pacific Northwest coast, based on the fault’s history, is at risk for a full rupture that would generate a magnitude 9 earthquake. The last one occurred in January 1700. Melgar was seeking to model what the big one will look like. GPS picks up initial movement along a fault similar to a seismometer detecting the smallest first moments of an earthquake. However, while GPS can detect displacement within centimeters along a fault line, the technology is not widely used in real-time hazard monitoring. ShakeAlert, the West Coast earthquake early warning system that is being expanded to enhance advance notification in Oregon and Washington, does include land-based GPS stations in numerous locations, but the fault line itself is offshore where GPS stations cannot be used. The Cascadia subduction zone is located where the Juan de Fuca ocean plate dips under the North American continental plate. The fault stretches just offshore from northern Vancouver Island to Cape Mendocino in Northern California. “We can do a lot with GPS stations on land along the coasts of Oregon and Washington, but it comes with a delay,” Melgar said. “As an earthquake starts, it would take some time for information about the motion of the fault to reach coastal stations. That delay would impact when a warning could be issued. People on the coast would get no warning because they are in a blind zone.” This delay could be reduced by placing sensors on the seafloor to record early acceleration behavior, he said. —By Jim Barlow, University Communications   https://around.uoregon.edu/content/uo-led-study-finds-early-indicator-earthquakes-magnitude

    Read More
  • Bill introduced by Wyden would allow graduates with student debt to save for retirement

    May 23, 2019 04:05 pm U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, and five Senate colleagues introduced legislation on May 13th that could help many college graduates save for retirement while paying off their student loans. The Retirement Parity for Student Loans Act would permit employers to make a matching contribution to an employee’s retirement plan while that employee is paying off student loans. Current law only allows for an employer to match contributions made directly by an employee to a 401(k) retirement plan. Under the proposal, recent graduates who cannot afford to save money for retirement above their student loan repayments would no longer have to forego the employer match.           For example, if an employee’s student loan payment is $500 and his or her employer matches 50 percent of retirement plan contributions, the employer would contribute $250 to the employee’s retirement account. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 45% of family heads under the age of 35 have student debt, with the median amount of debt owed rising from $5,363 in 1992 to $19,000 in 2016. “Millions of college grads are buried under tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt that prevents them from building their future—buying a home, saving for retirement and starting a family,” said Sen. Wyden. “The sooner workers start to save for retirement the better, and paying down student loans shouldn’t stop them from building their nest egg.”      The Act would be a voluntary benefit that employers may elect not to offer employees and can be provided only to workers who are eligible to participate in the employer’s retirement plan. For more information on the Retirement Parity for Student Loans Act, click here.

    Read More
  • Oregon governor will speak at UO commencement

    First published on May 20th in Around the O. Oregon’s 38th governor, Kate Brown, will be the keynote speaker at the 2019 commencement at the University of Oregon. UO’s commencement for the Class of 2019 will be at 9:30 a.m. Monday, June 17, in Matthew Knight Arena. Brown, who assumed the governorship in 2015, has more than 25 years of experience in government and public service. “Gov. Brown has a lengthy history of helping people, creating efficiencies in government, and making sure that all Oregon residents have a voice in how our state moves forward,” said UO President Michael H. Schill. “She is a friend to the University of Oregon, and she will deliver a message to graduates that will be inspirational, empowering and challenging.” Commencement is one of the UO’s most important academic traditions, conferring degrees to about 4,000 undergraduates and about 1,000 graduate students. The event starts with a Grad Parade – with faculty, staff and graduates in full regalia – walking down 13th Avenue to Matthew Knight Arena for the main event. It marks the culmination of years of hard work and scholarly study for each student. It is the moment that a Duck transitions from a life as an undergraduate or graduate student to one of the university’s more than 200,000 living alumni out in the world. More than 100,000 live in Oregon. Many have gone on to serve as leaders in business, industry, education, the arts, government, non-governmental organizations and their communities. UO’s alumni include winners of Emmy, Oscar and Tony awards, Pulitzer Prizes, Guggenheim fellowships, MacArthur genius grants, the Nobel Prize, Olympic medals, Rhodes scholarships, the National Humanities Medal and countless other honors for achievement and public service. The UO graduates more ROTC officers than any other civilian school and ranks 16th for Peace Corps volunteers produced by the nation’s largest universities. In addition, the UO has produced seven Oregon governors, eight U.S. senators and 20 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Brown was born in Spain, where her father served in the U.S. Air Force. Her family moved to Minnesota and she later attended the University of Colorado Boulder, receiving a bachelor’s degree in environmental conservation with a certificate in women’s studies. She went to the Northwest School of Law at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, earning her law degree in 1985. Brown worked as a family law attorney, focusing on cases involving children in Oregon’s foster care system. She also worked with the Juvenile Rights Project, co-founded the Oregon Women’s Health & Wellness Alliance and taught at Portland State University. In 1991, Brown was appointed to the Oregon House of Representatives, where she served the 13th District. In 1997, she became a state senator, serving the 21st District. She was elected to statewide office as Oregon Secretary of State and began that job in January 2009. Six years later, she became Oregon’s 38th governor when her predecessor, John Kitzhaber, resigned. She won a special election in 2016 and was re-elected to the state’s top post in 2018. During her tenure, Brown has signed legislation to improve the state’s education system, added jobs by passing Oregon’s largest transportation package, contained costs by improving government efficiency and accountability, and worked to assure that most adults and children have adequate access to health care. For more information, visit the UO commencement website.   https://around.uoregon.edu/content/oregon-governor-will-speak-uo-commencement

    Read More
  • Revenue forecast released; higher education leaders call for increased investments in students

    On May 15, the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis released its quarterly economic and revenue forecast. This is the forecast that lawmakers will use to make final budget decisions this session. The level of funding in the Public University Support Fund will receive is heavily reliant on this forecast. It’s clear that Oregon’s economy is currently on solid ground. According to the report, “Economic gains over the upcoming 2019-21 biennium will be more in-line with underlying growth in the labor force and productivity. Encouragingly, the latter has shown signs of life recently due to the tighter labor market. The recent escalation in the trade war is a wildcard. It is too soon to know how disruptive it may be to global supply chains as developments are ongoing.” Here’s the bottom line: Projected net General Fund resources are up $883 million, which provides undeniable certainty that the Legislature has the necessary funds to invest in tuition stability, reduce student debt and strengthen the entire education continuum in Oregon. Including Lottery revenues, net resources are up $908 million. Oregon’s unique kicker law has been triggered for both personal and corporate taxes. A record (in dollar terms) $1.4 billion personal kicker is projected for 2019-21, while corporate tax revenue of $616 million is projected to be dedicated to K-12 education spending. This means that Oregonians will receive a kicker credit on their taxes next year. Students and families across the state are counting on the Legislature to keep the cost of a college degree affordable and expand scholarships for Pell-eligible and historically underserved Oregonians so their dreams into degrees.  Moreover, Oregon businesses need the trained workforce that our community colleges and universities provide. You can read more about the quarterly revenue forecast and economic outlook here.

    Read More
  • Update from Salem: Student Success Act passes; vaccine and gun measures lose steam

    On May 13, the Oregon State Senate passed HB 3427, known as the Student Success Act, which will raise approximately $2 billion for early childhood and K-12 schools on an ongoing basis. This bill was the culmination of the work of the Joint Committee on Student Success (JCSS), which was established in January 2018. The JCSS was tasked with creating a plan to improve outcomes for students throughout Oregon. HB 3427 establishes the Fund for Student Success (FSS), the Student Investment Account (SIA), the Early Learning Account (ELA), and the Statewide Education Initiatives Account (SEIA). It requires funds to be spent on increasing learning time, decreasing class size, offering a well-rounded education, and student health or safety. According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, “At least half would go to grants to state school districts for programs aimed at improving things such as graduation rates, reading levels and attendance. Around 20 percent would fund early childhood learning programs. The remaining roughly 30 percent would fund career-technical education programs and free meals at school for low-income students, among other things.” More information about the bill can be found here. The measure pays for the new investments in early childhood and K12 education through a reduction in personal income tax rates for the lowest three tax brackets in Oregon by 0.25 percent, as well as establishes a modified commercial activities tax of 0.57 percent on Oregon commercial activity over $1 million. The House passed the Student Success Act previously, so the bill now heads to the Governor’s desk for her signature and final approval. All this came on the heels of the Senate Republican Caucus denying quorum to hold up any further activity in order to negotiate a deal on other policy and budget priorities. The standoff lasted four days and resulted in the death of two controversial of pieces of legislation. The first is HB 3063, which would end non-medical vaccine exemptions. The second is SB 978, a bill that strengths several gun control laws, including safe storage, fees, carrying in public buildings and real estate (including public universities), museum transfers, and more.

    Read More
  • UO students, faculty lobby for higher education funding at state Capitol

    First published in the Register Guard, more than 100 University of Oregon students, faculty and alumni traveled to Salem last week for UO Lobby Day to push state lawmakers for more higher education funding this legislative session. It was the biggest turnout for the UO’s annual event in the past few years with 115 UO stakeholders who got involved, about half of which were students. “We try and be strategic based on committee. So of course we meet with the Eugene legislative delegation,” said Libby Batlan, associate vice president of state and community affairs for the UO. “We also target members on the joint committee on Ways and Means, budget writing committee, and House and Senate Education Policy committee.” The purpose of the trip was two-fold: to make the case to lawmakers to invest in UO to keep tuition affordable and to explain the impact of the UO on the legislators’ districts — whether it be the number of students from their district who attend UO, the businesses who contribute or benefit from partnerships and student spending, etc. “So helping legislators understand the broader impact of the university and the footprint the university has on the state and rely reinforcing the direct connection between state funding and college affordability,” said Hans Bernard, assistant vice president for state affairs at UO. Batlan said they begin planning this event six months in advance, but this year the state Capitol was more crowded than expected with people lobbying for education funding. K-12 teachers across the state flooded Salem after holding local rallies in Portland, Eugene and Bend as they walked out of class to protest the need for more funding. The two groups and interests didn’t clash though, said Batlan, because UO’s lobbying efforts ended about the time K-12 teachers started rallying on the Capitol steps. However, the day did take a turn when Senate Republican legislators staged a walkout of their own from the Senate floor May 6 to avoid voting on the Student Success Act, which would earmark $2 million per biennium for Oregon’s public schools through a proposed half a percent tax on businesses. Senate Republicans ended a weeklong walkout Monday and returned to the Oregon Capitol after the governor and Democratic leadership agreed to major concessions. Republicans returned to the Senate, and the chamber was able to approve a $1 billion per year school funding tax by an 18-11 vote. It previously passed the House and now heads to Gov. Kate Brown for her signature. Bernard said he believes the timing of UO’s Lobby Day was crucial to getting in front of legislators before they make final budget decisions at the end of the session. “The Red for Ed and UO at the Capitol were coordinated and I think our hope is that the investment for K-12 and investment higher ed will be coordinated (as well),” Bernard said. Follow Jordyn Brown on Twitter @thejordynbrown or email at jbrown@registerguard.com   https://www.registerguard.com/news/20190514/uo-students-faculty-lobby-for-higher-education-funding-at-state-capitol

    Read More
  • More than 100 advocates lobby state legislators for increased funding

    On Wednesday, May 8, more than 110 students, alumni, faculty members and staff from the University of Oregon traveled to the state Capitol in Salem to lobby legislators for increased funding for the UO and higher education. Advocates told lawmakers and their staffs that public universities need the Public University Support Fund to grow by at least $120 million to keep tuition increases at or below 5 percent next year. The UO receives approximately 22 percent of the state fund based on a formula established by the Higher Education Coordinating Commission. The fund is currently budgeted at $737 million for the 2017-19 biennium. That level of funding reflects increases since 2015, but it is still below prerecession funding levels. Oregon is now ranked 37th in the nation for state funding per student, according to data from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. “It was so exciting to see so many students turn out to engage in political advocacy,” said Maria A. Gallegos-Chacón, the UO student body president. “I hope that legislators also took note of the sacrifices students took to be talking to them today by missing class, work and using their time to let legislators how critical it is we be taken into account. “Overall, I am disappointed with the lack of public support for higher education investment on behalf of legislators. I hope legislators will take funding seriously when it comes to cradle-to-career education and not just say it, but show with their stances and votes that they are here for Oregonian students.” Advocates arrived at the Capitol in the morning, received an orientation and welcome from President Michael Schill and Gov. Kate Brown, and met with legislators throughout the day. The UO a capella group Mind the Gap performed at the opening ceremonies of the House of Representatives floor session, and UO academic and service programs hosted booths set up in the Capitol galleria. The booths included the university’s prison education program; Oregon Research Schools Network; Sustainable City Year Program; Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, whose staff brought live dungeness crabs and jellyfish; and the UO’s earthquake early warning system, called ShakeAlert. The UO Alumni Association also hosted a galleria table and encouraged policy staff and visitors in the building to answer UO-related trivia questions. “Our goal at the UO is to reduce student debt, improve graduation rates, provide critical wraparound services and ultimately create a better-equipped workforce for the future of Oregon’s economy,” said Libby Batlan, associate vice president of state and community affairs. “Cutting through the noise in Salem can be tough, but when lawmakers hear directly from students, alumni, faculty and staff about why investment in higher education is important, that’s when real change is made.” The Legislature is less than two months away from the conclusion of the 2019 session and setting the state’s budget for the next two years. Lawmakers will wait until after the Oregon economic forecast May 15 before making any final decisions in order to better understand how much revenue will flow into state coffers from taxpayers and businesses.

    Read More