Regents direct university administration to consolidate, seek single accreditation
July 30, 2019
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 the university.”
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 University President.