Dear Commons Community,
The University of Alaska Board of Regents voted unanimously yesterday to terminate its declaration of financial exigency. Its vote came after Governor Michael Dunleavy formally agreed to reduce cuts in the university’s budget from the $135 million he had sought for the current fiscal year to the $25 million that state lawmakers countered with.
The vote was 10-0 in favor of terminating the decision that would have allowed the system to cut programs quickly and to dismiss tenured faculty members with 60 days’ notice. That status has hurt morale and created a sense of instability for the university, critics said, prompting some faculty members to file a grievance seeking to have it lifted. As reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
“Tuesday’s vote comes one month after regents, faced with an unprecedented 41-percent cut in the state budget for the university system, declared financial exigency. At the time, they said it could be terminated if the university’s budget situation improved.
Dale Anderson, a member of the Board of Regents, reminded the board that under the agreement signed by the governor and the university, the $25 million in cuts this year will be followed by $45 million in reductions over the next two years.
“We’ve been given the luxury of a three-year glide path” and a smaller reduction, Anderson said, “but remember, the reduction is $70 million.” Another declaration of financial exigency might be needed in the future, he said, “to save the institution.”
Since the governor’s budget cuts were announced in late June, the system, which includes separately accredited universities in Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Juneau, as well as 13 community campuses, has made significant cuts.
In addition to administrative reductions, the contracts of many of the system’s adjunct instructors and term professors have not been renewed, James R. Johnsen, the system’s president, said. Travel and hiring freezes are now being allowed to “thaw” to resume essential operations, he said.
None of the cuts made so far relied on the existence of the exigency declaration, Johnsen said.
Next month, the regents will meet to consider Johnsen’s proposal that the system be consolidated from three separately accredited universities to one, with a number of regional campuses. The chancellors of the three main campuses are among those who oppose the move.
In a recorded announcement, Dunleavy defended his decision to initially push for the draconian cuts that led to an ongoing campaign to recall him from office.
“I understand the budget approach and timing, being so late in the legislative year, created significant angst among Alaskans,” he said. His budget vetoes, he maintained, forced Alaskans to take the state’s fiscal challenges seriously.”
The U of Alaska community is giving thanks today!