UAF students and employees gather to talk strategy

By Andrew Sheeler / Sun Star Reporter
Feb. 21, 2012

Despite the title “Shaping Alaska’s Future,” the University of Alaska Statewide forum covered concerns very much about the present. The forum, which took place Feb. 14, raised familiar concerns for UAF students: tuition increases, unwanted fees and problems with advising.

Although University of Alaska President Patrick Gamble advertised the event through a listserv email sent to all UAF students, the president was present for a few minutes and did not address the handful of students, faculty and staff who attended. Instead, Chas St. George emceed the event. St. George works as part of the university’s Strategic Direction Team. With microphone in hand, St. George went from speaker to speaker, requesting their feedback on a variety of topics, including advising, credit transferability, tuition and fees, financial aid and problems with Blackboard.

ASUAF President Mari Freitag dipped into her contingency funds to offer free pizza for the small crowd that attended. Blake Burley, a freshman majoring in petroleum engineering, said he had been stuck with a subpar advisor and that there is “really not a lot of transparency with the advising process.” 

A grad student said she felt the responsibilities of an advisor and a student are often unclear.

When talk turned to credit transferability, a handful of students raised concerns. ASUAF Vice President Dillon Ball is a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering. Ball told St. George that despite maintaining a high grade point average while attending class at UAA, when he came to UAF his GPA didn’t transfer along with his credits. Ball said he was forced to start from zero.

The subject of tuition and fees brought more audience consternation.

“The fees are getting ridiculous,” one woman said, calling their cost astronomical. The grad student, said she didn’t know why she had to pay a student government fee, for example. Lack of student input and control of fees was another problem, said Juella Sparks, a graduate student and staff member who also has two daughters attending UAF.

“Once you vote them in, it’s a lot harder to vote them out,” Sparks said.

Though plenty of concerns were raised and questions were asked, the answers were nowhere to be heard. St. George concluded the session by thanking the participants and referring them to the website where they can submit additional concerns for consideration. Anyone can offer comments or concerns about the University of Alaska system at the website www.alaska.edu/shapingalaskasfuture/submit-your-ideas/.

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