Students, athletes, professors uncertain of their future as UA declares a financial emergency
The University of Alaska Board of Regents knew Monday would not be an easy day.
"It's a difficult decision and obviously no board of regents ever wants to make that decision but we must make it," said regent Mary Hughes.
In a 10-1 tally the Board of Regents voted in favor of "financial exigency" meaning the university system is in a budget crisis requiring administrators to consider cutting its staff and programs. The move is an effort to deal with a $136 million cut in state funding to UA.
"We have, as has been indicated, a fiduciary responsibility to make sure that the institution survives. And I think unfortunately we are, right now, grappling with survival," said regent John Davies.
After the vote, UA President Jim Johnsen laid out three models of what UA may look like in light of deep budget cuts. The first scenario involves closing one university or more, including the University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks or the University of Alaska Southeast.
But after speaking with UA officials and faculty leadership that measure looks very unlikely to happen.
"I think that's the most outrageous assumption and I don't think anyone would ever choose that because first of all, you'd be hurting the maximum amount of students if you did that," said professor and faculty alliance chair Maria Williams.
The second model keeps all three schools intact but focuses on what each university does best and what programs may be in demand.
"Maybe looking at programs at one university that might not be as strong, but the other university is strong and then similarly I think what happened with the School of Ed here at UAA, the students were transferred to either UAF or UAS," Williams said.
The third option restructures the schools into one accredited university.
"One of the things that President Johnsen has mentioned, it would mean not really closing but having one school of business or one school of engineering," Williams said.
Some regent members wanted the public to know that Monday's vote on financial exigency is only a "tool" to help them with the situation, saying it was not a plan in itself. Regents are hoping that lawmakers and Gov. Mike Dunleavy will work out an agreement where at least some of the $136 million in cuts are restored. The board expects to make a decision on what to do in September.
"The anxiety level of our students is extraordinarily high, extraordinarily high for the faculty," Williams said.
The UAA gymnastics team sat with their coach at the meeting waiting to learn more about the future of their sport. Coach Tanya Ho says for student-athletes and new recruits coming in from out of state and from out of the country, September is way too late to find that out.
"If we have no program, I need to let them know,” Ho said. “I can't in good faith tell them to come to school here, move here, start your education and to find out in September that we're not going to have a program. Our season isn't until January."
Current student-athletes say they don't know whether they should pack up and leave or try to stick it out and see if their sport is saved.
"For us, the biggest thing is just not knowing," said student-athlete Sophia Hyderally.
Hyderally is a senior on the team and says the process is frustrating for her and other students.
"We are so close to graduation and the fact all of that can be taken away from us in such a short amount of time, with no real time to plan for our future it’s just scary honestly," Hyderally said.
Tere Alonso, an athlete from outside of Alaska, says some students feel pushed aside.
"We commit to represent University of Alaska and we chose to get our education here, and with this whole situation going on it feels as though we commit to this place and we are not getting that same commitment back," Alonso said.
Students are also worried about moving to another school not knowing if their credits will transfer. Others are debating if they should sign a new lease for their apartment unsure of what will happen next school year.
The UA Board of Regents will meet again on July 30 to continue discussing possible options.
Copyright 2019 KTVA. All rights reserved.
YOU MAY ALSO BE INTERESTED IN: