We, the undersigned faculty, students and staff of the University of Oregon, believe that the Labor Education and Research Center (LERC) plays a vital role in the University’s core mission of education, research and public service, and call on the administration to ensure that the LERC budget is treated the same as that of other core academic departments.
We know that all departments may face some level of cut in the current budget climate. But as an integral part of the University´s core mission, LERC must not be singled out for a greater cut than other departments.
For 40 years, LERC has served as the primary program through which Oregon workers can access UO faculty and resources. Thousands of Oregonians have benefitted from LERC’s extension education classes, and scores of local unions have been able to effectively represent employees’ economic interests as a result of LERC trainings. In addition, LERC’s research and publications on the Oregon economy have been instrumental in enabling legislators to address issues of economic inequality. We believe these services are central to the UO´s mission as a public university.
LERC´s contributions to scholarship and education on campus are no less important. LERC serves a wide range of social science and humanities departments by teaching courses, providing guest instructors, connecting faculty to workers and unions for field research, creating collaborations on policy research, advising theses and dissertations on labor-related topics, running student internships, and hosting the UO’s Labor Research Colloquium series. Many departments are enriched by being able to add a labor focus to their curricula and research agenda – through LERC.
When LERC marked its 40th anniversary, President Schill celebrated its research excellence and its impact on Oregon workers and public policy. “I am really proud to be here,” president Schill explained, “to celebrate the role that LERC has played… to educate the citizens of this state.” “As I go across the state and I talk to folks,” he noted, “I often hear about how useful the work is that is done here.” President Schill praised the “high quality” scholarship reflected in recently published books by LERC faculty and concluded by wishing LERC well “in the next 40 years.”
President Schill’s reasons for celebrating LERC are all accurate. For those same reasons, we believe it is vital for the UO to guarantee LERC´s continued vitality by ensuring that its budget is not singled out for disproportionate cuts but is treated with the same priority as all other departments.