UA Board of Regents hears public testimony with many advocating for UAS

Published: Jun. 2, 2020 at 8:12 PM AKDT
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The Board of Regents will vote on the University of Alaska’s operating budget for fiscal year 2021 at their meeting June 4-5, and one of the options for that budget is consolidating the University of Alaska Southeast into the University of Alaska Anchorage or University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Many members of the public called into publicly testify on Tuesday night to reject that consolidation, including several elected officials.

“UAS is also an economic driver within Juneau and elsewhere in Southeast, but our state government employment, tourism industry, ferry system and many defining aspects of our community and Southeast communities have been devastated,” City and Borough of Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon said. “This aspect makes UAS even more important.”

State House Representative of District 36, Dan Ortiz, and Representative of District 17, Andy Josephson, both testified saying the legislature, which appropriates funds, would rather support a University of Alaska with the Southeast campus independent from UAA or UAF.

“It’s always going to be the legislature that’s the appropriators and they’re the ones that decide what the funding level will be for whatever university system we have in place and by centralizing the system I think you risk receiving that broad-based support that’s currently there right now,” Ortiz said.

Another concern for university constituents was the deletion of UAA programs. Joel Potter, a professor at UAA, testified on the behalf of 89 professors who have pledged to give up a negotiated salary increase in order to save programs that are slated for deletion.

“They have done this because they care deeply about the programs that are pending deletion at UAA and the opportunities for students those programs represent,” Potter said.

In an expedited program review, UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen had recommended programs like the MFA in creative writing and literary arts, MA in English and the BA in Sociology be discontinued.

Several members of the public were concerned that UA President Jim Johnsen, who makes the recommendations to the board, was a finalist for president of the University of Wisconsin and likely to "jump ship."

This was the last opportunity for public testimony before the regents meet Thursday and Friday.

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