UAF votes no confidence in Johnsen
The UAF Faculty Senate passed a resolution Monday, Feb. 6 expressing a lack of confidence in the decisions and actions of UA System President Jim Johnsen and his Strategic Pathways plan for university restructuring and cuts. The vote mirrors a similar “no confidence” vote passed by the UAA Faculty Senate earlier this year.
“Under Strategic Pathways, substantive and long-lasting decisions about major changes to academic programs have been announced without providing a careful analysis of the impact of those changes and without coordinating with affected faculty,” the resolution read.
Johnsen’s actions have left faculty and campus administration out of the decision making process, according to the resolution.
“The… vote should be seen as an expression of frustration at the way Strategic Pathways has vacillated in its vision,” Alexander Hirsch, a political science professor and member of the faculty senate, said. “[It has] introduced a climate of confusion and uncertainty for students, staff and faculty.”
Johnsen says his actions were justified.
“It’s the faculty senate’s job to provide input and ideas,” Johnsen said. “But it’s the board of regents job and my responsibility to actually make decisions.”
Furthermore, the faculty senate feels that a “one size fits all” approach to university restructuring would ultimately do a disservice to the unique campuses and would cost more in the end.
“The uncertainty and disruption distract faculty from serving the educational mission of the university,” the resolution read. “And have caused both promising junior faculty and senior faculty to leave the university.”
The pressure is too high not to act, Johnsen said, but he understands that times are tough.
“There is very real pressure on us. This budget situation is unprecedented and we have some very hard decisions to make,” Johnsen said. “But I get that’s really tough time now. There’s a lot of fear, there’s a lot of anxiety, there’s a lot of uncertainty.”
Compared to three years ago UAF havs 927 fewer employees in the UA system, 264 of which are faculty.
The resolution cited a severe lack of consistency in Johnsen’s decision making, with the president changing his mind on a month-to-month basis.
The resolution made note of a decision made by Johnsen and the Board of Regents to pursue a NCAA waiver or consortium model for athletics in September 2016. The plan was altered to instead cut six teams from UA athletics in October. Ultimately neither decision was pursued, and no action was taken with regard to the athletics program.
Also noted were Johnsen’s plans for the UA’s school of education structure. The elimination of education degree programs in the system was announced in September 2016. That plan was changed in November to making UAF the headquarters of a new statewide education degree. By November, the plan had again changed to making UAS the headquarters of the program.
Student responses to the news were cautious.
“I don’t know whether or not it was good that the senate is doing what they’re doing, but I’m assuming they’ve got some smart people in there,” Benson Hoover, a Petroleum Engineering student, said.
While the faculty senate recognized the financial problems facing university, they felt the actions of President Johnsen actively harmed the university.
“The vote today is a clear sign that the administration must work more closely with faculty as the university moves forward in making budget decisions,” Hirsch said.
All things considered, Johnsen says he does see room for improvement.
“I absolutely respect the voice of our faculty and I will defend their diverse points of view,” Johnsen said. “We can and should do a better job with more focused input.”
The UAA faculty senate previously voted no confidence in Johnsen on Jan. 13.