Interim chancellor discusses turbulent new era
Chancellor Dana Thomas was in attendance at this week’s ASUAF meeting to discuss his Haven and AlcoholEDU policy memo, impending changes under Strategic Pathways Phase Two, the search to fill UAF administration positions and the university’s upcoming budget.
Last semester, ASUAF ran a survey to discover student opinions on the Haven and AlcoholEDU trainings implemented by the administration. The results indicated that of 470 people polled, two-thirds disagreed with levying a fine against students who did not complete the training, according to ASUAF President Colby Freel.
Thomas admitted that in his experience, “the fee was wildly unpopular.”
As an alternative to the training courses, a one-credit required course is planned that will cover the same topics. This course will be offered in-classroom or online.
Policy changes for the trainings and the new course should be available to students starting Fall 2017 semester unless UAF Faculty Senate decides to postpone implementation. Thomas said that he would urge them to adopt the new policies.
Thomas brought up several of the changes that were coming with the implementation of UA President Jim Johnsen’s plan to consolidate the three universities UAF, UAA and UAS.
Johnsen’s plan would have all health programs move to UAA because it operates Alaska’s nursing program. Moving the health program would affect the UAF Career and Technical College, which educates 50 percent of all Certified Nursing Assistants in Alaska, according to Thomas.
Strategic Pathways includes moving or centralizing several student affairs programs including e-learning, community campuses, university relations and financial services.
Centralizing these institutions is complicated because the differences between campuses is more than skin-deep, according to Thomas. Each campus has a different perceived role and different registration requirements, among other differences.
People can express their thoughts about Strategic Pathways by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. More information is available at the Strategic Pathways website.
Senate Chair Anderson-Agimuk asked Thomas how the University system may be affected under the presidency of Donald Trump, as it is partially funded by federal grants.
Thomas expressed concern about funding for education and particular for research here at the university. Thomas stated that he was unsure so far what would happen under the new administration, however, he said that the university would maintain contact with Alaska’s US Senators about the actual impact of federal policies.
Thomas also mentioned that two UAF faculty and one graduate student from Iran who will have limited travel options due to the travel ban enacted by President Donald Trump. The ban affects people from several middle eastern countries which have no established ties to terrorist attacks in the US since 9/11.
Freel commented on students who may be losing faith in the UA system and how “it is hard to inspire that faith,” in the face of cutting programs. He also commented that, “the quality of our education is decreasing.”
“The School of Ed[ucation] … seems to be changed on a whim and not from solid critical thinking,” Freel said about the students losing faith particularly in enrollment. “President Johnsen’s plan relies heavily on increased enrollment.”
Freel stated in the Theatre Department, where he is a student, budget cuts have caused many of the required courses to be removed. Theater students have to take “directed study” courses instead—Freel cited an example of this where he took a directed study course, but he didn’t receive any actual instruction.
ASUAF Clerk Diane Murph said in one of her engineering classes the professor did not assign homework and the students had to direct their own study because there was no funding for a grading TA for the class.
Senator Cordero Reid stated that in the Psychology Department, the tenured professors have to teach both the upper-level courses as well as introductory courses, since there are far fewer adjunct professors at UAF. This has lead to the professors being “stretched thing” and that students can see the strain in the professors’ lesson plans, according to Reid.
Thomas noted that things are difficult due to budget cuts to the university and the financial situation of Alaska. Last year the university budget was cut by $25 million which is not much compared to the state budget deficit—in excess of $3 billion, according to Thomas. He also emphasized that the university administration will continue to parse out and fix problems for students.
Freel asked Thomas about enrollment, citing that UA President Johnsen’s plan relies heavily on increased enrollment for funding. Thomas replied by saying that he projects that there will be a three percent decrease in enrollment next year, however, after that enrollment will steadily increase.
Thomas stated that the number of college-age people in Alaska is increasing steadily according to the census as well as the new F35 fighter jet squadron which will bring people to Fairbanks.
Governor Bill Walker has proposed a flat budget for the UA system, which Thomas has stated is historically the budget that the universities get. The state Senate has proposed a five percent reduction, followed by an additional five percent reduction over the next two budget years, according to Thomas.
The university asked for $341 million from the state last year and received $325 million.
“It will be the usual sausage-making process of coming up with the budget,” Thomas said.
Thomas also discussed the topic of Title IX, the federal law that makes it illegal to discriminate based on sex. The U.S. Department of Education has been reviewing 160 colleges to ensure that they are complying with Title IX using data from 2011 through 2014. They have been releasing the reports from this review over time and UAF’s report will become available in February.
“We continue to learn … We’re humans, we make mistakes … We can and must do better in this area,” Thomas said.
Student Involvement Coordinator Heidi Shepard told the senate about a leadership conference hosted by the Leadership, Involvement, and Volunteer Experience Office on Feb. 11 from 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. in the Hess Recreation Center.
The conference is titled Catalyst and interested students must register at the Office’s page on Orgsync.com. There is a $15 registration fee.
Freel and Reid encouraged the other senators and attendees to go to the event.
Huckleberry Hopper, presented on the concept of “anti-fragility” and requested travel funding to go to a conference to learn about anti-fragility.
Anti-fragile organizations are ones that thrive in situations of instability, such as during budget cuts, according to Hopper.
Hopper stated that he wants to attend the conference to learn about how to implement anti-fragile systems into the university so that it isn’t as dependent on funding from the state.
He stated that he has already invested his own money into the conference and was requesting travel funds with the optional addition of a small scholarship. He asked for either $595 or $1595.
“I’m tired of our programs being cut and not being able to do anything about it,” Hopper said. “I do plan to try to apply these to make the school money.”
The senate did their second reading of a bill to fund the Self-Defense Workshop put on by the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Club.
Freel used of $1,000 from the Title IX line of the ASUAF Budget and the Student Affairs Committee used $100 from the Student Affairs Commission line of the ASUAF Budget for the Workshop.
The senate voted on giving the club up to $2,000 more in funding for the Workshop. The senate voted with seven in favor, one against and one abstaining.
For the Election Board: Reid nominated himself as he walked out of the room stating that he had fulfilled his hours. Since Anderson-Agimuk had not opened nominations yet, he was then nominated by Mann. Mitchell was nominated by Holst.
Both Reid and Mitchell were appointed by vote with some senators abstaining.
The senate also appointed Sierra Von Hafften to the senate with a unanimous vote in favor.
The senate confirmed both Von Hafften and Ham to the senate.
Present: Ben Anderson-Agimuk, Ivik Henry, Cordero Reid (left early), Raymundo Lopez, Sam Mitchell, Brian Holst, Ham, Molly O’Scannell and Dawson Mann.
Not Present: Georgia Durden (excused), Rickards (excused)