The University of Alaska Board of Regents took a step today
toward consolidation of the university system into one accredited
University of Alaska. By a vote of 8-3, regents made their decision for
providing the best way to serve Alaska’s students in the face of a severe
reduction in state funding.
It was standing room only Tuesday in the board’s three meeting locations
around the state as members of the university community, legislators and
Alaskans listened to the board’s deliberations and to hear from Gov. Mike
Dunleavy about the university’s future.
In describing the fiscal realities facing the university, UA President Jim
Johnsen used a metaphor to describe the choice before the regents. “You
need to decide if the house is on fire or whether it’s just the toast
burning,” he said. “In my view, the house is on fire.”
Regent Mary K. Hughes introduced the motion that would, with oversight from
a newly formed subcommittee of the board, develop a revised organizational
structure for the university and work with students, faculty and staff
governance to bring about the transition to a new UA.
In addition, regents asked that the chancellors continue to work together
and with the president on the task of figuring out what the university will
look like in the future.
Hughes said that there is still incredible uncertainty not just due to the
reduction in state funding, but also scholarships: "Not only is our house
on fire, but gasoline is being poured on the fire."
Gov. Mike Dunleavy talked with the regents by phone and said that his
office has been, and will be, fully prepared to continue to work with the
university “to lower its overhead and improve its outcomes.”
“I hope we can come to an understanding on how we can become one of the
best universities in the country,” he said. “We stand ready to work with
Mike Barnhill, policy director of the Office of Management and Budget,
presented a step-down proposal based on reducing administrative cost
drivers. “It’s incumbent upon all those who receive state funds to look at
new ways of doing things,” he said. “I believe there are opportunities to
look for funds elsewhere and I welcome the opportunity for further
discussion with the board.”
Regents questioned Barnhill on the proposal and expressed concern about its
deletion of the research budget and state funds for the Museum of the North.
“I am troubled by the reckless suggestion we zero our research funding,”
said Board Chair John Davies. “Even if that was an achievable goal, we
certainly cannot get there in five years. We are not going to hold bake
sales to operate the Sikuliaq.”
Davies announced the formation of a subcommittee on restructuring UA that
would act as a sounding board for the president moving forward with the
development of restructuring options. The committee will be chaired by
Hughes with members comprised of Regents Karen Perdue, John Bania, Andy
Teuber, Cachet Garrett and Dale Anderson.
Johnsen said the next steps include a round of meetings with faculty,
staff, students and community members throughout August.
The University of Alaska Board of Regents is an 11-member volunteer board,
appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Alaska Legislature. Members
serve an 8-year term, with the exception of the student regent who is
nominated from his/her campus and serves a 2-year term.
The Board was established through the Alaska Constitution and is
responsible for University of Alaska policy and management through the