Faculty Alliance Chair Cecile Lardon asks a question of President Johnsen following his first State of the University speech on January 12. Photo by Olivia Baker

System News January 2016

  • Regents Support Draft Framework for "Strategic Pathways" to Guide the Future of the University
  • UA Tobacco Free Policy Fully Implemented Across UA System
  • A Message from President Jim Johnsen Regarding Travel and Hiring Restrictions
  • Travel and Hiring Restrictions FAQ
  • UA President Johnsen's State of the University Address
  • New Forms for Your 2015 Federal Income Tax Filing
  • President Johnsen to address legislative committee
  • Capitol Report Jan 20, 2016
  • Changes Made to Sick Leave Regulations

Regents Support Draft Framework for "Strategic Pathways" to Guide the Future of the University

The University of Alaska Board of Regents held its annual strategic planning meeting last Thursday and Friday in Anchorage. The meeting included academic and administrative leaders from the system office and the campuses.

The purpose of the meeting was to set the long term course for Alaska’s university system during this most difficult financial period for the state. The Regents were unanimous in their commitment that the university provide excellent programs at each of its campuses, ensure access to the opportunities only the university can provide Alaskans, and do so more cost effectively.

The meeting began with a report on the university’s progress and challenges in meeting the state’s high priority needs for higher education. The presentation was followed by detailed information on the university’s organizational structure, the roles and responsibilities of the Regents and university administration, the missions of its campuses, the wide range of academic programs offered across the state, cost cutting steps already underway, options for restructuring, and planning for an additional budget cut this year.

The Regents’ focus then moved to how the university could, through a more unified plan:

  1. cut expenses in both academic programs and administration while investing in areas of need and opportunity
  2. reduce the number (and cost) of redundant programs across the campuses while maintaining wide access to those programs for place committed students
  3. diversify revenues so the university does not depend so much on the state
  4. improve the student experience and their ability to make progress toward their goals
  5. build on our world leading research to diversify the economy
  6. meet the state’s workforce needs by working with employers and K-12 leaders (with special focus on the production of teachers and health care workers)
  7. manage deferred maintenance on our aging buildings
  8. engage faculty, students, staff, alumni and the community in this process

The one formal action taken by the Regents (by unanimous vote) was to support a draft framework for a long term strategic plan for the university and to charge me with building out the plan for Regents’ consideration at their next meeting in February.  MORE....

UA Tobacco Free Policy Fully Implemented Across UA System

The new UA Tobacco Free Policy, approved by the Board of Regents December 2014, has been fully implemented across the entire UA System. As it stands now the University of Alaska, in its entirety, is designated tobacco-free. For those who would like more information on the policy, click the following link:

(R05.12.102 Smoke-Free/Tobacco-Free Campuses – scroll down to page 18) http://www.alaska.edu/bor/policy/05-12.pdf

The habits and practices that form along with tobacco addiction are very strong and will not disappear with the establishment of a policy. This is not an easy life change for some people and support, compassion and understanding for co-workers and students are needed.

Compliance with UA’s tobacco-free policy is not optional. There are consequences that can result from continued violation of this policy, just as there are from violating any other policy or university regulation.  MORE....

A Message from President Jim Johnsen Regarding Travel and Hiring Restrictions

Memo to staff Jan. 6, 2016

In light of our state's very serious fiscal challenges, and the Governor’s request that all state-related entities restrict travel and hiring for the foreseeable future, I believe it is appropriate that all non-essential travel and hiring be suspended immediately.
I do not intend to constrain travel or hiring activity if allowed by the terms of a research grant or other restricted program. Nor do I want to curtail travel for fund raising, student recruitment, essential professional development, or gaining new opportunities for research grants and contracts. Opportunities for the professional development of our faculty and staff is critical for our university's quality; this reality was front and center in my mind when considering our approach for the university. As soon as practical, I will remove the restrictions so that travel and hiring can continue to be as strategic as possible.
Henceforth and until further notice, all travel in the U.S. by university faculty and staff at UAA, UAF, and UAS will require approval by the cognizant vice chancellor; all international travel will require the chancellor's approval.  Similarly at Statewide, U.S. travel will require approval by a vice president; all international travel will require approval by the president.
Reservations for travel already approved but not completed are subject to this new requirement. Please seek reauthorization immediately; consideration will be based on whether the travel is essential and whether any savings from the cancellation would be realized.
As to hiring, all new hires at the university campuses require approval of the chancellor. At Statewide, approval of the president will be required. It is my intent that we fill only those positions that are essential for the effective operation of the university.

Jim Johnsen

Click HERE for a FAQ.

UA President Johnsen's State of the University Address

On January 12, 2016 UA President Jim Johnsen gave his first State of the University Address. You can find a transcript of the address below or watch a recording.

Download a PDF of UA President Johnsen's State of the University Address

Watch a recording of the State of the University Address

New Forms for Your 2015 Federal Income Tax Filing

When the Affordable Care Act (also known as health reform, or the ACA for short) was passed, with it came a host of reporting requirements for employers and health insurance companies. This year, around the time you receive your Form W-2, you may receive one or more new tax forms related to health insurance you may have had or were offered in 2015. NOTE: These forms will arrive later than the date you receive your 2015 W-2; we are not required to send these new forms to you before March 31, 2016. However, you may proceed without them in preparing your federal tax return. The IRS does not require you to attach these forms to your return, or wait to file your return until you have them.

Please keep in mind that while we know what form we will be sending (Form 1095-C), you may receive others if you worked for another employer earlier in the year or your spouse had coverage through their employer. Therefore, we will explain the forms you might receive, why you might receive them, and what you will do with the information they contain.  MORE....

Download full article as PDF.

President Johnsen will address legislative committee

University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen will appear before the Alaska State House of Representatives’ Finance Committee on Monday, Feb. 8,  from  1:30 –3:30 p.m. He will give committee members an overview of UA and its operating budget.

The 29th Alaska State Legislature’s second session began Tuesday, Jan. 19. The state is facing an estimated $3.6 billion deficit during the current fiscal year.

To keep up to date on important legislative activity and find tips for advocacy (pdf), visit the UA State Relations webpage: http://www.alaska.edu/state/advocacy/.

Capitol Report Jan 20, 2016

by Associate Vice President for State Relations Chris Christensen

The Second Session of the 29th Alaska State Legislature is underway in Juneau, and the 90-day session will be a challenging one. My name is Chris Christensen, and I am the Associate Vice President for State Relations. This will be the 33rd session I have spent working with the legislature in Juneau, and my fifth year representing the university. I know the legislature and its members well, but each year brings new challenges and unexpected complications. One thing I have learned in my time here is that there are many passionate advocates for the university, people who are willing to devote their time and energy to advancing its interests. You made my first four sessions with UA much easier, and I look forward to working with all of you again this year.

Over the course of the legislative session, you will be receiving this newsletter periodically to keep you up to date on what is happening in Juneau. When there are important hearings or opportunities to actively engage in advocacy for the university, we will also post it on the UA State Relations webpage: www.alaska.edu/state

Our most important task each session is advocating for the university’s operating and capital budgets. That job has been made more difficult over the last few years by the dramatic reduction in oil revenues received by the state, the result of both declining production and a collapse in prices. In FY13, the state took in $6.3 billion in unrestricted revenues. By FY15, unrestricted revenues had declined to $2.3 billion. During FY16, the current fiscal year, it is estimated that the state will receive $1.8 billion in unrestricted revenues. In FY 17, unrestricted revenues are projected to be about $2 billion. This decline means that the state will run an estimated $3.6 billion deficit during the current fiscal year. When the legislature puts together the FY17 budgets this session, it will attempt to lower next year’s deficit by reducing state spending.   MORE.....

Changes Made to Sick Leave Regulations

Expanded leave share options for bereavement was a staff governance initiative

On January 5, 2016, President Johnsen approved changes to University regulations regarding use of sick leave and leave share to support employees who experience a death in their family or who need leave donations for intermittent absences. 

Some of these changes were initially requested by the UAF Staff Council with the support of other governance groups. 

The changes include the following:

  • A new allowable use of sick leave for “an absence within 5 days after the death of an immediate family member.” This is in addition to the existing provision which allows up to 5 consecutive days of funeral leave for a member of the employee’s immediate family (which may or may not occur within 5 days of the death).
  • Leave share will be allowed for both types of bereavement leave, up to a maximum of ten days.
  • An absence of 10 consecutive days is no longer the only way to qualify for leave share. Employees will also be eligible to use donated leave after absences totaling 80 work hours during a period of 28 calendar days.

Other housekeeping changes also were made, including changing from a calendar year measurement for leave share to a rolling-backward measurement to be consistent with the university’s Family and Medical Leave policy, changes in the procedures for administration of leave share donations and requests, and changes to the leave share definitions to comply with IRS guidance. 

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