University Board of Regents clarifies stance on restructuring effort; Votes to consider options for single and multiple structures and establishes inter-university review teams
Recognizing the importance of the budget and academic issues facing the university, the UA Board of Regents today voted to clarify its earlier position on university structure to make clear it wants to consider both single and multiple university accreditations in the work to redefine UA’s structure as it works to strengthen programs and meet state funding reductions.
“We want to be sure that the message from the regents is clear,” said Regent Mary K. Hughes, who chairs the board’s subcommittee on restructuring, “we are open to all of the options or even a hybrid. We are open to the discussion of keeping the University of Alaska accredited and of maintaining all our 16 campuses, but understand that change is necessary.”
“Now I want to see Team UA out there going forward to try to make us better,” she said.
UA President Jim Johnsen supported the change in direction saying: “we will prepare a plan that includes consideration of multiple options.”
The stakes are high, he said, “… and while we strive to listen to all the voices, not everyone feels heard; while we use good data… we will not have all the data needed to satisfy everyone; while we communicate openly, not everyone will be satisfied with what has been shared; while we are taking time to evaluate the options, we will not have the time we would like to have; while we strive for perfection, none of us is perfect and there will be mistakes; and, while we focus on what’s possible, we hang on desperately to what we have.”
The board also voted to authorize Johnsen, working with the chancellors, to establish 13 inter-university teams to conduct expedited program reviews of eight academic programs and five other areas to determine how best to streamline or discontinue them. In addition, the board clarified its original motion to allow for a longer timeline to conclude the reviews. Instead of completing work by its November board meeting, regents acknowledged that some areas might be ready for review by then while others will need additional time. The full motion is posted HERE.
These expedited reviews will inform a report, due to the Alaska Legislature in December, requiring the board to consider moving to a single accreditation, in addition to guiding any restructuring decisions. The compact with the governor also requires a report on progress the university has made toward its strategic goals and priorities including structural consolidation and consideration of single accreditation.
During its first day of the two-day meeting, regents heard three hours of testimony from students, staff, faculty and community members nearly unanimously urging them to slow the consolidation process. The board also heard a report from consultant Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld on a stakeholder survey completed by more than 3,900 students, staff, faculty and community members. The survey indicates considerable disagreement among respondents in some areas and common interests in others. One area of high agreement, at 93 percent, is that having a world-class higher education system in Alaska is important. A second area of high agreement, at 91 percent, is the importance of ensuring dependable state funding for higher education in Alaska. But there was an even split between those who believe it’s important to have all of higher education operate as a single, integrated system and those who believe each campus should have its unique identity.
Regents approved the FY20 budget allocation, which distributes a combined $25 million unrestricted general fund reduction to the three universities, the statewide administration, and funds that will be reallocated to cover employee compensation for market adjustments and the Title IX program. Also, $5 million is being reallocated to fund Strategic Initiatives to support the Board’s goals in economic development, workforce development, research, student attainment and cost effectiveness. Additionally, the board previewed the FY21 budget plan and a possible tuition increase that would begin in fall of 2021.
University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center Director Brad Myrstol presented key findings from the 2019 University of Alaska Campus Climate Survey. Additionally, Chancellors Caulfield, Sandeen and White reviewed Title IX Compliance Scorecards and metrics.
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 University President.