A crew hangs flags in the courtyard at the University of Alaska Southeast on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. Classes start Monday, Aug. 26. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A crew hangs flags in the courtyard at the University of Alaska Southeast on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. Classes start Monday, Aug. 26. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Empire Live: UA Regents Subcommittee meets on university restructuring

Live updates from the Regents subcommittee

Much of the discussion at this meeting centered around public input in recent weeks and what the university should retain. While the university needs to remain attractive to ensure student enrollment and maintain its accreditation, severe cuts will be made and the university’s overall structure will findamentally change.

This meeting provided no actionable material and was simply an update on some of the input University President Johnsen had received.

Johnsen will present a more complete restructuring plan to the full Board of Regents on Sep. 12.

3:00 p.m.

Anderson points out that while financial exigency has been withdrawn the directive to move the university to a single accreditation model has not.

2:54 p.m.

Regent Purdue says, “the eyes of the state are upon us,” and that this is the opportunity for the university to streamline itself.

She takes issue with the “consortium” model which in the past has been promoted by the University Chancellors. The “consortium model” she says, is simply a code word for the status quo. She says that she has seen incredible collaboration between the universities in the past but she has also seen the opposite.

“The best way to see if the consortium model works, is to see if it works now,” she says.

2:44 p.m.

There is recognition that the reductions must be done in a thoughtful way as to not jeopardize student enrollment and has been reiterated several times.

Accreditation is something that also needs to be considered, and inclusion and transparency is an integral part of that process Johnsen says.

He says that a special website has been created where updates and documents area available to the public.

However, Regent Dale Anderson says that they cannot put aside the goal that needs to be met by 2021 and that this is the Boards opportunity to create a sustainable budget. He says that they cannot allow time to slip away, because that’s what academia does.

“We can’t afford the university of yesterday,” he says.

A list of areas under consideration for reduction or elimination.

A list of areas under consideration for reduction or elimination.

2:32 p.m.

The meeting is now reviewing student services and the needs that need to be met in terms of enrollment and student affairs.

As part of this process the subcommittee were looking at what student services could be consolidated centrally and which had to be regionalized. As an example, admissions are something which could be centralized while things like financial aid local recruitment need to be regionalized.

2:24 p.m.

A “Stakeholder Mapping Survey” is being prepared for the Regents meeting for Sep. 12. The results will be analyzed and present to the Regents at that time and will hopefully affect the planning process.

Regent Karen Purdue takes slight issue with the fact that business or commercial interests are not included in the list of “stakeholders.” Those are the employers, she says, and their input should be sought.

The survey is not limited to any group, but university officials had selected certain groups that they made an effort to reach out to. They say that the response to the survey has already been very helpful.

2:17 p.m.

Planning workshops were held Aug. 19-23 which helped identify areas of concern and explore options available to the university.

Facilitators of those workshops created a list of “first principles” which came up repeatedly during the sessions. Those concerns are being shared with president Johnsen.

Among those priorities were concerns not only about what the university will offer in the future but the rate of those changes and a review of their efficacy.

For example the list has a “plan, do, check, adjust” approach rather than a “plan, do.” Changes need to be thoughtful, and include a “check, adjust” process.

2:11 p.m.

The discussion has moved to program review. Community input surveys as well as consultation with the accreditation body are integral parts of program review. Cutting of certain programs can have adverse affects on attracting new students and whether or not UA can maintain academic standards.

A slide from the Regents meeting showing current areas for review and a timeline for implementation.

A slide from the Regents meeting showing current areas for review and a timeline for implementation.

2 p.m.

The meeting has now turned to how some of those savings in administration might take shape. Travel and procurement freezes, as well as reduction of adjunct faculty are projected to save the university roughly eight million dollars by the first two months of the 2020 fiscal year.

With the governor’s’s compact and the end of financial exigency has allowed for a certain “thaw” in funds. For example, the notice of a 10-day furlough was withdrawn.

President Johnsen is saying that when hiring freezes take place that places extra responsibilities on others who may already be burdened.

1:50 p.m.

Johnsen went over his “strategic approach” to the reductions that will occur over the three years. The consolidation of administrative services needs to be carefully done, he says, because there are current positions where administration and academics overlap.

One of the university’s priorities is offering programs which will attract enrollment and that reduction and consolidation of administration must be done with that in mind.

1:45 p.m.

President Johnsen is going over the numbers where the reductions will hit as the university cuts its spending by more than $70 million, over three years.

Now that financial exigency has been terminated, Johnsen says, the university must review its programs and examine where reductions can be made.

Reductions to administration can be made immediately through consolidation of “back office” functions, the presentations says.

President Johnsen says that the transition and implementation plans were done with the review of faculty, staff, students and community members. As that process turns to program review, he says he wants to step up that aspect of the process.

1:28 p.m.

The board is discussing the university’s budget and the reductions that must be made under the compact made with Gov. Mike Dunleavy earlier this month.

On Aug. 13, Dunleavy signed a “step down” compact with Board of Regents Chairman John Davies which outlined a series of reductions UA would make in exchange for cuts from the state taking place over three years, rather than all at once.

President Johnsen opens the meeting by saying he wants to update members of the Board and receive feedback before the official meeting on Sep. 12.

He directs the meetings attention to the four points designated by the Board on July 30 which outline the priorities for the restructuring of the university system.

A screen shot of the meeting’s slide show showing the priorities designated by the Board of Regents on July 30, 2019 for restructuring the university.

A screen shot of the meeting’s slide show showing the priorities designated by the Board of Regents on July 30, 2019 for restructuring the university.

1:10 p.m.

Roll-call is taken in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau. Members of the Board, university administration, faculty and staff are present in the various locations.

Background

The University of Alaska Board of Regents Subcommittee on Restructuring the University of Alaska is having a special meeting at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

The subcommittee is meeting to discuss the changes the Board of Regents agreed on at a July 30 meeting. At that meeting it was decided that the University would be reformed into a single accreditation model.

The subcommittee was created at that meeting to act as a “sounding board” for UA president Jim Johnsen as he crafted a plan for the university’s restructuring.

Johnsen has been tasked with making a plan for the university’s changes but has not been authorized to make any changes. Any changes to the UA system must be approved by the Board of Regents.

The slide-show presentation being used for the meeting can be found here.


Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.


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