Campuses unite to discuss students’ futures

Jeremia Schrock / Sun Star Reporter
June 10, 2011

Brian Rogers, Chancellor of the University of Alaska - Fairbanks (UAF), gestures during a June 4 meeting with the Coalition of Student Leaders. Seated next to him are (L-R) presidents Dara Friday (Bethel) and Shauna Thornton (Kenai).

On June 4-5, the Coalition of Student Leaders (CSL) convened at the University of Alaska – Fairbanks (UAF) to discuss student concerns. Representatives attended the summit from all three major universities, several of the University of Alaska (UA) systems satellite campuses and from the community-at-large.

Peter Finn, CSL speaker, began the summit with a recap of the coalitions accomplishments over the year. According to Finn, the coalition helped negotiate a student pay raise and petitioned the legislature to increase need-based scholarship. The organization also took part in what Finn labeled “an epic tuition battle with the Board of Regents (BOR).”

The coalition was also involved with petitioning the board to amend their non-discrimination policy.  The Board did so in February. “That was a big victory,” Finn said.

Finn’s term as speaker came to an end during the summit and he extolled the organization to improve relations between student groups and the regents. “Relations between the regents and student groups hasn’t been that great in the past,” he said. Finn also presented former student regent Ashton Compton with an award for her work on the BOR.

Nicholas Pennington (right), president of the Kodiak College Student Association, talks to Chancellor Brian Rogers (left) and Sonia Lodhi, a student representative from the University of Alaska - Southeast, during a June 4 meeting with the Coalition of Student Leaders. Jeremia Schrock/Sun Star

The coalition also selected Nicholas Pennington, the president of the Kodiak College Student Association, as their new speaker. Last year, Pennington reformed Kodiak’s student government. It had not met since 2008.

Shauna Thornton, president of the Kenai Peninsula College (KPC), updated the coalition on the prolonged budget battle facing the campus. In an effort to balance the Kenai Borough budget, Mayor David Carey is pushing to cut approximately $650,000 in funding to KPC. According to the Peninsula Clarion, that number represents 5 percent of the college’s budget.

Thornton said that students at KPC were working together to ensure that the budget was not cut.

Joining the coalition were university and state officials. UA President Patrick Gamble, Chancellor Brian Rogers and Alumni Director Joe Hayes joined Reps. David Guttenberg ( D-District 8 ) and Bob Miller ( D-District 7 ) for a dialogue with the coalition.

“It’s a whole different world out there today,” Gamble said, compared to his time in college. He added that his biggest concern during school was to make sure he didn’t schedule a lab on a Friday.

Rep. Guttenberg applauded the coalition on their yearly advocacy trip to Juneau. “One of the biggest things is when students come down,” he said. Guttenberg also pushed the coalition to do more, encouraging them to go directly to a legislator’s office if need be. “Get in their face,” he said.

The coalitions primary goal over the next year is to encourage better student advising and more mentorship. “It’s a bit of a beast when you’re trying to manage your way through it [the advising process],” said Ryan Buchholdt, president of the Union of Students of the University of Alaska – Anchorage (USUAA).

“The students want it, Chancellor Rogers really wants it and President Gamble also acknowledged that it should be addressed,” Freitag said.

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