FAIRBANKS – In an emergency meeting today, the University of Alaska Board

of Regents voted to modify two previous decisions made when it was facing a

state funding crisis. The first, by a vote of 9-2, was to cease

consideration of a single accreditation until after the University of

Alaska Fairbanks secures its institutional accreditation in 2021. If the

board chooses to actively consider single accreditation in the future, it

will direct the president to conduct an independent cost benefit analysis

and clearly examine accreditation issues. In the second action, by a vote

of 9-1, the board suspended the systemwide expedited academic program

review process until the Board has the time to consult with chancellors and

the president on a path forward.

Today’s emergency meeting began with a discussion that included Sonny

Ramaswamy, president of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and

Universities (NWCCU) and Mac Powell, NWCCU Senior Vice President, regarding

issues raised in the commission’s Sept. 26 letter to the university. The

university has until October 31 to provide a written response.

“We sent the letter… to make sure that the board heard the concerns we are

hearing,” Ramaswamy said. “We want you to hold a mirror up, to see for

yourself what is going on.”

The standards that the NWCCU raised include clarity of roles and

responsibilities of university leaders. Ramaswamy clarified that NWCCU does

not consider the situation to be at a critical tipping point regarding

maintaining accreditation. Rather, he said, there are concerns to be

addressed.

“At the end of the day, you are vested with the responsibility to make

decisions, as fiduciary owners of the university,” Ramaswamy told the

board. “It’s not up to us to tell you how to do that.”

Students, faculty and staff have raised questions, wrote to the NWCCU and

the Board of Regents, passed resolutions, and voiced concerns about the

restructuring process. Students testified that they feel left out of the

decision-making process. Faculty representatives shared their concerns with

the process, timeline and the authority of the chancellors as CEOs of their

universities. With today’s motions, the regents signaled that they are

willing to pause and review processes and policies and to incorporate and

communicate inclusive decision-making processes in order to meet

accreditation standards.

“I don’t see it as being reactionary,” said Regent Lisa Parker, “but as

being responsive to the constituents we are supposed to serve.”

The Board also agreed to meet again in the final week of October to review

the response to NWCCU, and to hold a strategy session at a future date to

further address issues raised by NWCCU.

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