Latest news from the UO

  • Updated Oregon Impact map break down UO's effect by county and district

    February 8, 2021 10:34 am  Oregon Impact 2021 is an interactive map tells the story of the University of Oregon’s impact in every Oregon county, legislative district, and congressional district. The tool displays data about UO students, alumni, and other interesting details in a customized and informative way. This Oregon Impact map was recently updated with the latest data about the number of students, alumni, employees and local vendors doing business with the UO in each geographic area. Statewide UO students received $133 million in federal, state, and institutional financial aid, and the map breaks down these allocations by district and county. Also featured from each jurisdiction is the number of students participating in Pathway Oregon, UO’s program that ensures that academically qualified Pell Grant-eligible Oregonians will have their tuition and fees paid through a combination of federal, state and university funds. Statewide 2,385 students are Pathway Oregon participants. The map also shows the number of placements over the last five years of the UO’s Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) AmeriCorps program. This program, administered through the UO’s Institute for Policy Research and Engagement, is an interdisciplinary institute that assists Oregon communities by providing planning and technical assistance to help solve local issues and improve the quality of life for Oregon residents. The Oregon Impact map is a collaboration between the UO Campus GIS & Mapping team, the Department of Geography’s InfoGraphics Lab, the Office of Institutional Research, the Institute for Policy, Research and Engagement, and Government and Community Relations.

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  • Trustees approve housing project and get legislative update

    First published in Around the O on February 3, 2021. The University of Oregon Board of Trustees approved the second and third phases of the Housing Transformation Project and received an update on federal and state legislative affairs for the university at its Feb. 2 meeting. The three-phase housing project will replace two of the university’s older residence complexes, Hamilton and Walton, with three new buildings with a combined capacity of around 1,800 students. The project is a key component in the university’s drive to expand student enrollment. The new buildings will include a prospective student recruitment and welcome center, and a reimagined and expanded green space. The UO broke ground on the project in late 2019 and work is progressing well, Roger Thompson vice president for student services and enrollment management told the trustees. The first new residence hall will be ready for students this fall. “It’s coming along splendidly,” Thompson said. “It’s on time and on budget.” The second and third phases of the project involve building two residence halls to replace Walton Hall, and replacing Hamilton Hall with a new green space. The total anticipated cost of those phases is a combined $130 million and will be funded by issuing revenue bonds to be repaid directly from University Housing’s stand-alone budget. Given the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, Thompson and UO Housing Director Michael Griffel walked the trustees through various scenarios of occupancy in the residence halls at the start of the 2021-22 academic year and their corresponding financial implications. Thanks to healthy financial reserves the housing unit has built up, Thompson said that, even in the worst-case occupancy scenarios for next year, the project remains financially prudent.   “Our total reserves never get to a point that is concerning for me, even when we look at the downside scenarios,” he said. Jamie Moffitt, vice president for finance and administration, noted that UO housing’s finances are hit harder by a down enrollment year than the university overall, but they recover more quickly, due to the fact that the vast majority of students in the residence halls are first-year students. The trustees voted without dissent to move forward with the final two phases of the project. The project is slated to be complete in summer 2024. Betsy Boyd, the UO’s associate vice president for federal affairs, and Hans Bernard, associate vice president for state affairs, briefed the trustees on legislative issues and priorities. Boyd noted that Congress included funding for institutions of higher education in two of the four COVID-19 relief package it approved in 2020. The combined relief packages of $38 billion provided to all higher education institutions and their students was significantly less than the estimated financial losses of almost $170 billion those schools experienced last year, Boyd said.  “While we are grateful for the support we have received, we know that it is far less than what we have lost and the new costs our students and institutions are facing,” she said. Boyd said the UO will continue to advocate for additional COVID-19 relief funding and increased financial aid support for students, as well as research appropriations, in 2021. Bernard, meanwhile, recapped the three special sessions the Oregon Legislature held in 2020, which included several UO priorities receiving support. Lawmakers approving state funding for renovating Huestis Hall, for the build-out of the UO’s ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system, and to replace the ocean-going research vessel for the UO’s Oregon Institute of Marine Biology. Looking ahead to the 2021 legislative session, Bernard said the UO is working to secure a $900 million allocation for public universities in the upcoming two-year state budget, which would represent a small increase from the current budget cycle. Gov. Kate Brown proposed keeping higher education funding flat in her proposed 2021-23 budget late last year, which would represent an effective budget cut for all universities. Oregon lawmakers will debate the state budget over the next five months, based on the state’s updated revenue forecasts. President Michael Schill said he is hopeful lawmakers will recognize the vital role universities will play in a healthy recovery from the current economic recession. “Any cut whatsoever in state funding is going to be very difficult for us,” Schill said. “We are seeing the value of research universities right now. It’s research universities that are working with companies to come up with the vaccine. It’s research universities like ours that are working with Lane County Public Health to organize mass vaccination events. It’s research universities like ours that are doing more COVID-19 asymptomatic testing than anyone else.”

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  • Biden executive orders impact universities

    February 1, 2021 02:18 pm National associations representing the UO and the full spectrum of higher education institutions are requesting at least $97 billion for a Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) in the next COVID-19 supplemental appropriations package. While the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act provided $22.9 billion  was very helpful, the level of funding provided falls far short of the $125 billion that higher education leaders estimated as necessary to meet 2020-21 losses and new costs  as a direct result of the pandemic due to a sudden loss of revenue and the emergency expenses incurred to prioritize safe operations.    A coalition of higher education associations, including the American Council on Education (ACE), the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), sent a letter to U.S. House and U.S. Senate leadership at the end of January asking for at least $97 billion for HEERF.  APLU also created a fact sheet detailing the financial hit its 199 public research institutions have incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Survey results indicate the 199 public research universities that comprise APLU’s membership collectively face a $15.1 billion funding gap due to the pandemic. In addition APLU, AAU, ACE, and the Association of American Medical Colleges sent a letter to congressional leaders renewing a call for $26 billion for federal science agencies in the next COVID relief package to support scientists and research operations critical to beating the pandemic, supporting communities, and revitalizing the economy. The request is consistent with the bicameral bipartisan RISE Act, which was approved by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee last Congress. To date, no pandemic relief package has provided across-the-board research relief. President Biden announced a proposal last week that includes $34 billion for public institutions of higher education. Senate Republicans offered a proposal on Monday February 1 that makes no provision for higher education. The legislative path forward for a fifth relief package is uncertain as the Democratic majorities look toward a simple majority procedural vote on “budget reconciliation” as a vehicle for passage. In related activity, shortly following his inauguration last week, President Biden issued a series of executive orders (EO) repealing a number of Trump administration policies impacting higher education, including the following actions of interest to the higher education community. The President: withdrew the EO restricting diversity training for federal contractors and grantees; extended student loan relief through September; directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to take appropriate measures to fortify DACA and to ensure DACA recipients are protected from deportation;  rescinded the travel bans; and revoked the EO excluding undocumented populations from the census. Announced pandemic-related executive orders, including a call for greater guidance for higher education institutions.  APLU released a statement hailing the executive orders while noting interest in working with the administration to strengthen the mission of public universities.

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  • Speaker to discuss racial injustice and criminal justice system

    First published in Around the O on February 1st. UO advising and inclusion leader Kimberly Johnson will address how racial injustice in the criminal justice system leads to mass incarceration and excessive punishment, and its broader implications for social justice action in an online address. Johnson’s talk, “How Far Do You Have to go for Justice? Acting Beyond the Vote,” is part of the African American Workshop and Lecture series and will take place virtually Feb. 9 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Johnson is the UO assistant vice provost for advising and director for the Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence and is a UO alumna.  Johnson is the author of the critically acclaimed young adult novel “This is My America,” which is the current UO Common Read selection. “This is My America” tells the story of 17-year-old Tracy Beaumont in a race against time to seek justice for her father, wrongly accused and sentenced to death row, while her brother, a promising track star, is unjustly accused of killing a young white woman. Provost Patrick Philliips said he is inspired by Johnson’s work at the university and in her new novel. “While we are inspired by all our speakers and what lessons and wisdom they bring, particularly during these challenging times, it’s also critical for us to realize the wisdom and inspiration we have here at the UO,” he said. “Johnson has long been a guide, a role model and a leader for our students, as well as for our staff and faculty. With her new book out in the world, others are getting to see the insight, courage and compassion that she brings to all she does. We hope many will come hear her.” An RSVP is required by Feb 8. For more information see the Division of Equity and Inclusion website. —By tova stabin, University Communications   https://around.uoregon.edu/content/speaker-discuss-racial-injustice-and-criminal-justice-system

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  • Blumenauer introduces bill to study the impact of autonomous vehicles

    January 31, 2021 10:14 am On January 21, 2021 Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) reintroduced a bill to study community-wide influences of autonomous vehicles. The Preparing Localities for an Autonomous and Connected Environment (PLACE) Act would create a federally funded clearinghouse to examine the secondary influences of autonomous vehicles and new mobility.  New mobility includes innovations such as rideshare, car-share, microtransit, bike-share, and scooter-share.  The PLACE Act would create a clearinghouse to be housed at a higher education institution. These facilities would be required to collect, conduct, and fund research to help understand how autonomous vehicles and new mobility can influence land use, real estate, transportation, municipal budgets, urban design, the environment, and social equity. The proposed clearinghouse is funded at $2 million annually and would be chosen by the Secretary of Transportation within 180 days of enactment. The Urbanism Next Center at the University of Oregon does leading research well aligned with these topics and is well positioned to compete for the national clearinghouse.  Urbanism Next has been building a body of work over the last five years around AV and new mobility impacts, works with public and private sector partners around the globe on these topics, and has been a leader in developing this area of research through its reports, yearly conference, and their NEXUS web-based resource.  Even if housed elsewhere, the clearinghouse would speed the dissemination of research by programs like the Urbanism Next Center. Last Congress, the PLACE Act was included in Section 5303 of the Moving Forward Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives on July 1, 2020. The Moving Forward Act passed with leadership from Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), chair of the US House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. In a 2019 press release on the bill, Congressman Blumenauer remarked that “done right, autonomous vehicles can increase mobility, improve social equity, and solve some of the country’s most vexing problems. Done wrong, we may repeat the mistakes of the past. The PLACE Act will allow us to have the research at our disposal to create more livable communities for all.” Follow the PLACE Act as it moves through the current Congress here.

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  • Employee donations during food drive help fight student hunger

    First published in Around the O on January 29th. The annual Governor’s State Employees Food Drive gets underway this week, and UO employees can make a very local impact by bringing nonperishable items to the Student Food Pantry every Wednesday in February. According to the Oregon Food Bank Network, hunger has doubled across Oregon in the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is reflected in the UO student population as well; food insecurity on campus has increased since last March, when the coronavirus emerged. During the pandemic FOOD for Lane County, which stocks the shelves for the Student Food Pantry, has been unable to hold their largest canned food drives. Donations from food drives usually provide variety in food options that the agency relies on to offer well-rounded, nourishing meals to pantry users. To address that need, the UO Food Drive Steering Committee has partnered with the UO Food Security Task Force, as well as Oregon Cheerleading, to host a series of canned food drives every Wednesday throughout the month of February. University volunteers and members of Oregon Cheerleading will accept nonperishable food donations in-person at the Student Food Pantry each Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Donations that the student pantry can’t store immediately will go to FOOD for Lane County’s central warehouse for distribution to the Lane County community.  To highlight some of the most-wanted foods, each day has been themed to encourage donation of these foods:   Feb. 3: Shelf-stable proteins like nut butters, legumes and canned tuna or chicken. Feb. 10: Culturally appropriate foods, including dried lentils or beans, curry paste and spices. Feb. 17: Meal building blocks, such as hearty soups, plant-based milks, cereals and cooking oils. Feb. 24: Canned fruits and vegetables, including low-sugar dried fruit.  Masks are required. Only nonperishable, in-date food items will be accepted. For more information and a more complete list of desired foods, visit the food drive website or email [email protected] https://around.uoregon.edu/content/employee-donations-during-food-drive-help-fight-student-hunger

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  • Historian Examines Native American Genocide, its Legacy, and Survivors

    First published in Around the O on January 20, 2021. Jeffrey Ostler has spent the better part of three decades researching and teaching the thorny legacies of the American frontier. His conclusion: the wars the US government waged against Native Americans from the 1600s to the 1900s differed in a fundamental way from this country’s other contemporaneous conflicts. “Against Native nations and communities,” he says, “it was genocidal war.” The Beekman Professor of Northwest and Pacific History at the University of Oregon believes that in their description of the conflicts with Native Americans, mainstream political and historical discourses in the United States have often obscured this deadly distinction.  His new book, Surviving Genocide: Native Nations and the United States from the American Revolution to Bleeding Kansas, is a thorough and unflinching review of the evidence. From his vast survey of tribal histories, Ostler concludes that the massacres evidenced a consciously genocidal impulse.  Published in 2019 and the first in a projected two-volume series, Surviving Genocide earned widespread acclaim in the academic field and notices from the popular press followed. The New York Review of Books concluded last summer the book “sets a bar from which subsequent scholarship and teaching cannot retreat.” Based on rigorous attention to treaty language, military records, demographic data, and the actual words of participants, Surviving Genocide documents the murderous intentions that lurked beneath the idealized self-imaging of a young American nation. “In order to have a ‘land of opportunity’ required space to expand,” Ostler notes. “Early American senses of ‘freedom’ fundamentally depended upon the taking of Native lands—which almost inevitably would lead to the taking of Native lives.” From the beginning, he believes, US leaders understood and embraced this grim calculus. However, they obscured their true aims with a series of self-serving narratives built around the ideal of “civilization.” At first, this was held forth as a precious and necessary gift the colonizers were offering to Indigenous populations. Later, “defending civilization” would be invoked as justification to kill them.  Jeff Ostler, the Beekman Professor of Northwest and Pacific History at the University of Oregon While the United States’ own sense of history was framed from the beginning by this “harmful evasion,” Ostler points out that Native people have seldom been fooled. “A major theme of my book is something I call ‘Indigenous awareness of genocide,’” he says. “The oratory of resistance leaders like Tecumseh shows they recognized that whites intended to kill them and steal their lands.” In 1775, the Cherokee chief Tsi’yu-gunsini or “Dragging Canoe” noted: “Whole Indian Nations have melted away like snowballs in the sun before the white man’s advance. They leave scarcely a name of our people except those wrongly recorded by their destroyers. . .Not being able to point out any further retreat for the miserable Tsalagi (Cherokees), the extinction of the whole race will be proclaimed.” He was speaking in opposition to a treaty that proposed the Cherokees sell off 20 million acres of homeland—a large portion of present-day Kentucky and Tennessee. This tension exploded with the commencement of independence hostilities in July 1776; some Cherokee leaders sided with the British, and in response the US charged thousands of colonial troops with “the utter extirpation of the Cherokee Nation.” “During this conflict and others in the so-called Indian Wars, attacking whole communities of Native men, women, and children was planned policy of the US government and army,” Ostler says. Of course, the intention to commit genocide is not sufficient to ensure its results. Native nations and communities persisted. Like the Cherokees, some that were displaced claimed new homelands, laying the foundations of their perseverance to the present day. And through armed struggle, diplomacy, spiritual fortitude, and cultural stamina, a few eastern tribes overcame tremendous odds and retained portions of their ancestral homelands.  Leopold Pokagon The Potawatomi of Michigan, for example, offer a striking example of political resistance, Ostler says. Traditional residents of the Great Lakes region, most Potawatomis were displaced farther west following the Treaty of Chicago in 1833. But Leopold Pokagon, leader of the tribe’s Catholic converts, obtained the support of a Michigan Supreme Court justice and negotiated an agreement allowing his community of around 280 people to remain on their traditional homelands. Later in the century, other Potawatomi bands returned to Michigan and established communities. In time, with struggle, these groups also attained land and federal recognition.  The most important part of his book’s title, Ostler insists, is the word “surviving.”  Ostler’s work exemplifies the university’s support for outstanding humanities scholarship. He is one of 10 inaugural Presidential Fellows in Humanistic Study, a fellowship provided by President Michael Schill. Ostler will use the fellowship for a second volume, which will cover regions of the continent west of the Mississippi River. He can’t predict when he’ll finish it—but notes he’s especially looking forward to the challenge and responsibility of digging into colonialism’s painful history close to home in the Pacific Northwest. “Here in the Willamette Valley, the University of Oregon is on land that was forcibly taken from the Kalapuya people,” he notes. “Wherever we live in America, I believe any of us is well served to learn the history of the land’s original inhabitants, and to acknowledge the extremes of violence in our own history by calling it what is was: genocide.” –By Jason Stone, a staff writer for University Communications.

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  • Neuroscience team wins grant to explore cognitive flexibility

    First published in Around the O on January 19, 2021. Using a $5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, a team of researchers in the UO’s Institute of Neuroscience hopes to better understand the neural mechanisms behind the ability to shift attention among differing tasks. “Imagine an athlete or a musician or a student trying to focus on the task at hand, while ignoring the things going on around them and then suddenly switching their attention to something else,” said David McCormick, Presidential Chair and director of the Institute of Neuroscience. “This is something that we all use and depend on in our real lives. You don’t realize how important it is until it malfunctions.” McCormick is a co-principal investigator on the five-year NIH grant to explore the phenomenon of cognitive flexibility. Funded through the BRAIN Initiative, the Obama-era program that aims to revolutionize the understanding of the human brain, the project involves neuroscientists from six UO research labs. Together, they will employ advanced research tools and techniques to shed light on how neural pathways enable behavioral flexibility. “It's kind of the culmination of a lot of different things that we've each worked on separately, and now it’s a matter of putting it all together into answering these questions,” said Cris Niell, professor of biology and co-principal investigator on the grant. “Together we’re studying vision and we're studying hearing. We're doing everything from watching the activity of hundreds to tens of thousands of neurons, either with advanced optics or the latest in electrical recording techniques. This massive amount of interesting and important data also requires advanced computational tools that tie it all together.” Along with McCormick and Niell, the team includes biology professor Santiago Jaramillo, psychology professors Michael Wehr and Matt Smear, and Luca Mazzucato, a professor in the Departments of Biology and Mathematics, all members of the Institute of Neuroscience. The team will begin by training mice in a series of tasks. They will observe changes in attention brought about by different sensory prompts, so a mouse focused on a visual task may be cued, through the presentation of a smell, to quickly change its focus to sounds while ignoring visual stimuli. Niell’s expertise in visual processes will meet with Jaramillo’s research on auditory coding, Wehr’s interest in the auditory cortex and Smear’s focus on olfactory function. While mice are performing their tasks, the team will use advanced techniques such as wide-field imaging, which will enable them to view a large portion of the surface of the mice’s brains. Recording tens of thousands of blinking neurons generates tremendous amounts of data, which is where computational neuroscientist Mazzucato comes in. To help sift through the mountain of information, he will use methods from statistical physics, information theory, machine learning and other areas of expertise. The project builds on McCormick’s research examining how a state of attention can modulate the function of the brain and Niell’s research showing how physical activity can enhance visual processing in mice. Niell and McCormick have previously explored similar questions about the behavioral state of animals and how their activity affects brain processing. Additionally, the project dovetails with Jaramillo’s research on neuronal circuits involved in behavioral flexibility and attention. McCormick, who came to the UO in 2017 from Yale University, said the project is just the kind of collaborative research challenge that attracted him to Oregon in the first place. Tackling such a large-scale project required tapping into the full depth of expertise and equipment available in the Institute of Neuroscience. “There are only a couple of other places in the world that have the number of people and skill sets and a critical mass like we do for this particular type of research,” McCormick said. One of the questions the team hopes to answer is what specific processes are driving the attentional shifts in mice. There is some evidence that the systems that regulate behavioral and brain arousal or other activities may be involved, and the team will examine the role that acetylcholine, norepinephrine and other neurotransmitters play. In the later stages of the project they will shift from observing and gathering data to manipulating the mechanisms in mice using techniques such as optogenetics, which allows researchers to monitor and control the activity of brain cells with light signals. Any kind of fundamental information the team can gain about how the brain processes information and moves it from one place to another is potentially valuable, and Niell said the research could have numerous uses down the road. There are potential implications for everything from improving people’s ability to focus on the tasks in their daily lives to addressing more serious conditions such as attention deficit disorder or even schizophrenia and some psychiatric diseases. Niell said it could help explain other phenomena, including the so-called “cocktail party effect.” The phenomenon, which is sometimes described as selective attention or selective hearing, refers to the brain’s ability to dial into one conversation while tuning out multiple different conversations happening nearby. What’s more, Niell said, the project has special resonance in our current era when so many of us are facing additional responsibilities and distractions. “Many of us have kids at home doing school work and we’re trying to avoid scrolling on our phones to figure out who won the election and things like that,” Niell said. “This research is especially relevant now, when we are in this world where there’s just too many things going on for us.” —By Lewis Taylor, University Communications

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  • New COVID-19 relief bill: emergency funding for UO

    The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (H.R. 133), approved by Congress and signed into law in late December, 2020,  is a massive legislative package containing several substantial bills, including an omnibus package of FY2021 funding bills and an emergency spending bill to address the impact of COVID-19. The relief bill includes $22.7 billion in emergency assistance higher education and students. The $22.7 million funding is divided into four pots: 89% of the total for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF);  7.5% of the total dedicated to historically Black colleges (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions, and other minority serving institutions; 3% of the total for student emergency aid for students at for-profit institutions; and .5% of the total for grants to institutions particularly impacted by the pandemic or disadvantaged by the formula for intuitional aid. The American Council on Education (ACE), with assistance from The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), conducted a simulation on how the Department of Education might allocate the $20.2 billion pot of funding dedicated to about 3,500 public and private nonprofit institutions and their students. The formula for allocating funds relies on several measures of an institution’s enrollment, including the number of Pell and non-Pell students; full-time enrollment (FTE) and headcount; and students who were or were not exclusively online at the start of the pandemic. ACE estimates that the University of Oregon may receive approximately $24 million, with a minimum of $8.1 million of that allocated to direct grants to students. Student emergency funding can be used for a broad range of purposes, including anything that is covered under cost of attendance.  Similarly, institutional funds can be used for a wide range of purposes, including replacing lost revenue or paying for new expenses. The bill does not define which students are eligible to receive emergency aid, and current guidance restricts eligibility only to those students who are currently eligible to receive Title IV aid. It is expected that the Biden administration will expand eligibility more broadly when it takes office. A summary provide by ACE of the higher education provisions of H.R. 133 can be found here, and a breakdown of the simulated estimate for each institution can be found here.

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