Letter to the Editor: Use of UA emails to contact legislatures

Over the last few weeks there have been numerous and contradictory emails involving the right to use your UA email to write your legislators. There have also been attempts by some administrators to bully students, staff and faculty to only write in support of the UA message or worse their own personal stance.

It is clear from the UA email policy rules that students, staff and faculty have the legal and association right to use their UA email to write to our legislatures: the exception being you cannot advocate for a political party. Having rights and exercising them wisely are two different things. I personally think every UA email should come with a disclaimer that “What is herein written and attached may or may not represent the opinion, values and message of the UA system” to avoid any confusion on who we are representing as individuals being we all are de facto part of a larger system.

It is also wise to not use the UA email system during what is considered normal business hours for non-official activity. Arguably, writing our legislatures is official UA business because we have been asked to do it, but it may look in poor form to write legislatures when we are supposed to be working. Never mind the fact that many faculty and staff are always working.

Of note always keep in mind all your UA emails belong to UA with no veil of privacy. Conversely it is probably wrong to use your personal non-UA email for official UA business. Ask Palin and Hilary about those headaches.

The individual bullying and system-wide recommendations on what we should and should not say to our legislatures are disappointing. Not in so much as the correctness of the advisement, but in terms of the execution. A university should encourage free thought and speech.

Is it really time to quote Voltaire again? and again and again?

I recommend that our leaders and bosses provide a statement encouraging individuals to feel free to speak-write in their personal opinions to the legislature, while dually making the case why the UA system message is best for the UA system as a whole and hence the individual.

SB-174 (guns on campus) is a recent example. The bill has the votes to pass, it will pass, the lead author Senator Kelly is actually a great advocate for UAF, but as President Johnsen eloquently and logically wrote-we can make a difference by advocating for amendments to the bill. A starting line about how “the UA system respects students, faculty, and staff’s individual opinions and right to voice these opinions: below is the UA system message on the issue of SB-174”, would have been a nice addition.

I actually don’t think President Johnsen was attempting to bully or intimidate in this case, but the language could be perceived as such. Recently we received another UA Statewide message saying, we should now speak up against SB-174, which in the least is weak sauce and the worst, looks like UA Statewide interests would have been better served by encouraging the UA community to speak their minds in the first place. This is very confusing. Overall it is exciting to see the UAF community rally in defense of our University in these difficult times.

– Jeffrey A Benowitz

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