Upcoming Events

  • Oregon’s Public Universities and Colleges: Facing the Crisis


    Program  1:00-5:15 p.m.
    Reception  5:15-6:00 p.m.

    Public colleges and universities play a vital role in our society but face many challenges in a changing financial and legal landscape. Declines in state funding have led to tuition increases, creating potential inequalities in access to higher education. State and federal governments propose more accountability measures. Court decisions have affected university efforts to diversify campuses and provide access. And law schools face challenges of declining enrollments and a changing market.

    The O’Connell Conference is an annual event made possible by former Chief Justice Kenneth J. O’Connell and presented by the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics and the UO School of Law. It is a forum for the judicial and legal community to examine current topics in public policy and public affairs. This year’s conference will explore the theoretical, jurisprudential and political aspects of the ongoing changes in Oregon and national public higher education and legal education.

    Free and open to the public. Registration is requested. Three CLE credits are pending (registration is required for those seeking CLE credits).


    1:00-2:30 p.m.  Public Universities: Dealing with Inequity and Accountability
    Donald Heller, Dean, Michigan State University College of Education
    Lia Epperson, Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law

    2:45-3:45 p.m.  Oregon: Dealing with Disinvestment
    David Sarasohn, author and columnist with The Oregonian
    Ben Cannon, Executive Director, Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission

    4:00-5:15 p.m.  Challenges and Opportunities for Public Law Schools
    Kellye Testy, Dean, University of Washington School of Law
    Chief Justice Tom Balmer, Oregon Supreme Court
    Judge Timothy Sercombe, moderator


    Lia Epperson, Associate Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs and Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law
    Lia Epperson is a nationally recognized expert in civil rights, constitutional law, and educational policy.  Her scholarship includes examination of the use of empirical data in educational equality jurisprudence. She explores the intersection of courts and government, and how it affects educational equity. Epperson previously worked for the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund and holds a law degree from Stanford University.
    Donald Heller, Dean, Michigan State College of Education 
    Donald Heller has written and presented extensively throughout the country about educational economics, public policy, and finance. College access and choice for low-income and minority students is a focus of his work. Heller previously served as the director of the Study of Higher Education at Pennsylvania State University.  He has both a master’s degree and doctorate in education from Harvard. Heller is published in major scholarly journals and is interviewed frequently on national media. He is editor or co-editor of six books, including: Student Financing of Higher Education: A Comparative Perspective (with C. Callender, Routledge, 2013), and The States and Public Higher Education Policy: Affordability, Access, and Accountability (Johns Hopkins University Press, second edition, 2011).

    Ben Cannon, Executive Director, Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission 
    Since 2013, Ben Cannon has led the state’s commission responsible for funding, coordinating, and providing policy leadership for Oregon higher education including community colleges, public universities, and trade schools. Prior to assuming this role, Cannon served as the Oregon governor’s educational policy advisor and as an elected representative in the Oregon House and was a middle school teacher. After earning a B.A. at Washington University, he received a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University where he received degrees in philosophy, politics and economics and comparative and international education.
    David Sarasohn, Managing Editor and Columnist, The Oregonian
    Longtime journalist David Sarasohn has received many awards for his work, including the 2002 Eugene C. Pulliam Editorial Fellowship for a project that became the book Waiting for Lewis and Clark. His columns have twice won “Best in the West” and are included in Best Newspaper Writing, 2008-09. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The New York Post, Harper’s, and The Nation. In 2011, he published Failing Grade: Oregon’s Higher Education System Goes Begging, which compiles two decades of his columns about higher education funding in Oregon. Sarasohn has a Ph.D. in history from UCLA.
    Thomas Balmer, Chief Justice, Oregon Supreme Court 
    Chief Justice Thomas Balmer was first appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court in 2001 and was elected Chief Justice in 2012. Prior to 2001, Balmer worked in private practice, as a deputy attorney general of Oregon, and a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice. Balmer serves the legal and wider community in numerous ways including as a longtime overnight volunteer at the Goose Hollow Family Shelter. He received his J.D. from University of Chicago Law School.

    Kellye Testy, Dean, University of Washington School of Law
    In 2009, Kellye Testy became the first woman to lead the University of Washington School of Law. Her research and scholarship includes business and commercial law, leadership, and access to justice. She is the president-elect of the Association of American Law Schools and has won numerous awards, including the President’s Award from the Washington State Bar Association and three Outstanding Teacher Awards. Dean Testy holds a J.D. from Indiana University School of Law.