That’s likely a phrase every Alaskan has heard quite a bit over the past few weeks. Some might be tired of hearing it. Others might breathe a sigh of relief, viewing the cuts as a sign of fiscal responsibility. Others might feel their stomachs drop every time it comes up — made aware again of what the cuts could mean for them as individuals. Regardless of how one views the budget cuts, no one who pays attention to state politics will claim they haven’t seen a variety of opinions from both sides of the issue.
However, there is one group for which the term “budget cuts” seems to have most clearly translated to “uncertainty” in our state — and that is students of the University of Alaska system. This, we believe, is for good reason — when Gov. Mike Dunleavy proposed his budget, the central point of which was budget cuts, he put forth a proposal to cut funding to the University of Alaska system by 41 percent.
As the president and vice president of the Associated Students of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, we have seen first-hand the concern of students at our university and throughout all universities in the UA system. Students in our state are resilient, however, we have begun organizing, campaigning and working to protect the universities we love and the university system that we are proud to call our own. But students can’t do it alone, and the effects of these cuts will be felt by more than just us. Our entire community statewide will be hurt by these cuts to our university. Economically, culturally and spiritually, the entirety of Alaska stands to lose if we are the primary target for cuts this year.
As students united, we are strong, but there is only so much we can do. That is why the two of us write this piece in an effort to appeal to a wider audience — the Alaska community at large. You may not be a student of the university, you may not have any friends or relatives attending it, you may not even be acquainted with one of the nearly 35,000 people spread out across the 19 UA campuses, but you are still affected by any damage to the UA system. In this state, we are all bound to some extent to the University of Alaska, whether we know it or not. It is our hope that you aren’t frightened by the concept of a budget cut to UA hurting the economy or the Alaskan way of life — rather, it is our hope that we all as a community are motivated by it.
In the next few weeks we have an opportunity as a community. We have an opportunity to say to the government of Alaska, “no, we will not allow our university system to bear the brunt of these budget cuts. We will not let a cornerstone of our community be threatened by this budget crisis, when doing so could hurt not only the students but everyone in our great state.” We hope that you’ll all join us in opposition to the cuts, and we would like to thank everyone who is standing with us for your support in these trying times.
• Dawson Mann is the president of the Associated Students of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. James McLean is the vice president of the Associated Students of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.