The Dunleavy administration, which wants to eliminate research at the University of Alaska, claims that someone, somewhere should donate tens of millions to replace state funds that are the key to supporting about $100 million in grants and contracts from agencies Outside.
There is nothing to justify this claim. It’s imaginary money.
Mike Barnhill, who has presented a long series of misleading reports this year about the university, struggled to explain the Dunleavy plan to cut $35 million for research Tuesday, claiming it is an opportunity to find more money.
“There is a rationale that underlies that,” he told the UA Board of Regents Tuesday. “The rationale is because in particular, the Fairbanks organized research unit is doing fundraising now, and they’re quite successful at it. The idea of expanding that to include fundraising from third-party sources in addition to the work that they do with federal government does not seem like a bridge too far.”
“I recognize it’s new, it’s disruptive, but I think it’s conceivable and possible that the Fairbanks research unit can expand its fundraising, as well as other researchers,” he said.
Is this a plan for bake sales? Garage sales? GoFundMe campaigns? How about begging on the street? All of these are opportunities.
Barnhill admitted that his $35 million number on the one-page Dunleavy plan may be incorrect. He didn’t check this with the university, a serious error on his part.
Barnhill made reference to a column written by Mark Myers, who has held a variety of important posts over the years. Barnhill suggested he agreed with the conclusions about how thousands of beneficiaries have been helped by UA research.
Barnhill didn’t mention the key argument from Myers: “OMB’s unfounded assumptions that UA can find alternative funding to offset these proposed cuts in the next year are pure fantasy.”
The pure fantasy from Barnill was his claim in June that “private universities with no state funds are among the highest recipients of federal research funds: Johns Hopkins, Univ. of Pennsylvania, Stanford, Duke, Yale, Harvard.”
Harvard has $39 billion. Yale has $29 billion. Stanford has $26 billion. Duke has $8 billion. The University of Pennsylvania has $14 billion. Johns Hopkins has $4 billion.
These universities operate in a different realm than UA and everyone knows that. The UA Foundation has net assets of about $260 million.
As a state employee, Barnhill should be telling the truth instead of serving as a political stooge for the governor and Donna Arduin, delivering pure fantasy to the regents.
Instead of admitting there is no chance of finding $35 million in spare change, Barnhill suggested that it is not only possible, but likely, as long as the university hits up the thousands of people who benefit from research.
“I would surmise that amongst those thousands are folks, entities, organizations, stakeholders that may be willing to contribute something in an effort to keep the research operation within the University of Alaska a valuable one and sufficiently funded.”
“I’m not suggesting that we need to have a gigantic endowment in order to get match money from corporate, private, alumni, in order to match the federal funds. But it is an opportunity to explore that I don’t think has been explored because of this understanding that I don’t think is correct, that state dollars, only state dollars are required to match.”
No one has that misunderstanding. He is talking about imaginary money.
The Dunleavy/Arduin/Barnhill plan given to the regents is a fraud. The most likely result of eliminating funding for research is that the $100 million in federal contracts would be lost to Alaska.
So Barnhill is right about one thing.
The elimination of state support for research would create a golden opportunity for colleges and universities Outside.
Dermot Cole can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org