How to move forward

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February 10, 2020

Dear UA Community,

As we roll up our sleeves to work on the many challenges we face this year, I think it’s important to consider where we are, how we got here, and how we move UA forward.

  • Throughout 2019, we were threatened by an enormous cut in state financial support; 
  • This past summer the cut became reality – it was enacted into law, and survived two veto override attempts;
  • Facing that potential disaster, the Board made difficult decisions, including to declare financial exigency and to consider a single accreditation – two impactful steps that no board would undertake lightly;
  • That cut was partially overcome, but only because of the stark reality of the cut’s impact, passionate political pressure by our communities, and the hard work of our leadership;
  • However, the stresses have had a lasting impact on the entire university;
  • While the pressure was reduced by the compact with the Governor, the fracture lines, the “survival” mentality, that appeared under stress are still present;
  • In addition, we still face enormous challenges including ongoing budget reductions, declining high school graduation and college enrollment rates, and low morale and infighting;
  • Whether we can meet these challenges will depend on what we all do this spring, and how well we do it;
  • Our success will depend in part on how we choose to characterize and respond to the challenges of the last year.

My wish for us all and my commitment to you is to chart a different course. Here are some things that I believe will help:

  • As we make difficult decisions and sacrifices, we look for solutions and new ideas to create savings and efficiencies while continuing to provide a quality education to students. We must focus on the best interests of the whole and in the end we will be stronger; 
  • We embrace an interconnected, inter-reliant UA that is responsible to the entire state;
  • We appreciate that what harms any part of UA detracts from our credibility and our mission;
  • We acknowledge our missteps honestly while attacking problems, not people;
  • We set aside personal, regional and interest-focused considerations and work for the good of the whole;
  • We make hard but reasoned decisions to reduce costs in order to preserve our core mission;
  • We focus discussion on the present and future, rather than past disputes;
  • We base analyses on relevant facts and rigorous, good faith argument, not opinions, assumptions, and sound-bites;
  • We don’t blame others for problems but work together towards solutions.

Unlike the budget, these are all things within our control - they depend on our individual and collective choices. I am confident that if we commit to this new course, we will successfully face our challenges together, because as we have seen, we are much stronger when we are united.


Sheri Buretta, Chair,
University of Alaska Board of Regents