University student says relationship with UAA is like having a 'crackhead boyfriend'
With massive looming budget cuts to the university system, the University of Alaska Anchorage Chancellor Cathy Sandeen held another "Ask Me Anything" meeting for the public at UAA on Friday.
Non-traditional freshman student Natasha Gamache says she enrolled in UAA to get off of state benefits as a single mother with six children.
"You can't say hey, let's have regular rallies to try to boost morale? Because right now being in [a] relationship with UAA is like having a crackhead boyfriend. I never know where I stand. My money's going somewhere but I'm not sure that it's going to be worth anything. And I always feel like I'm walking on eggshells," said Gamache.
Gamache says she has applied for school at Alaska Pacific University and was accepted because she's unsure what the future holds at UAA.
"Thank you for your comments. I really appreciate it. Yeah. We're all very upset and frustrated. And I, our hearts go out to the students because, as you so profoundly demonstrated, you're the victims of what is happening in higher education in Alaska," Sandeen replied to Gamache.
Sandeen also told Gamache that the school is doing the best it can to least impact students.
"But as you point out, you know, in a budget cut as large as we are facing the people in this room won't be here anymore. Under the one university model the majority of people sitting up here probably won't be here anymore including me," said Sandeen.
Bobbi Olson, a long-time supporter of UAA athletics and financial donor to the university, asked Sandeen if athletic teams will be able to travel for their competitions during the fall semester because of a travel freeze. Olson also wanted to know how many athletic department staff members would need to be cut, or could be cut, while still retaining viability with the NCAA.
"You're going to hear me say this a lot today. And that is, I don't have the complete picture or the complete answer on this. I do know that given the potential direction of the University of Alaska. And I say potential because the board authorized the president to develop a plan for one accreditation. And that would definitely affect athletics," replied Sandeen to Olson.
A faculty member asked the chancellor, and panel of UAA cabinet members, why Native Student Services hasn't hired a director.
"I was having a conversation with Native corporations and other members of the Alaska Native community about this concept and how it would work and had a lot of support for it. Then the hiring freeze comes down. So I apologize that we're caught in that situation," replied Sandeen.
Bruce Schultz, vice chancellor of student affairs, commended Native Student Services.
"Last year the retention rate for Alaska Native students went up nine percentage points in one year because of the work that takes place in your program," said Schultz.
One UAA student asked if the sociology program would be cut. Sandeen says there are different factors that go into deciding what programs will stay.
"Things like enrollment. Is it the only one in the state right now? How many students graduate? What's the graduation rate? Are there special circumstances with this degree program? So no final decisions have been made yet," said Sandeen to the student.
UAA student Morrigan Kellen told the leaders that she's worried about the theater program going away.
"We have such quality theater education here in Anchorage. However I'm scared because it's a cliched story we hear over and over again; the arts getting cut," said Kellen.
"Well, it's a national trend that when universities have to hone down, they hone down more into workforce preparation programs than those that aren't seen as workforce preparation programs. But the art faculty who are here know that I'm a supporter of the arts," said the chancellor.
UAA art graduate Katie Behnke then stood up to support Kellen. She advised her to demonstrate how what she's learned can be integrated into the workforce.
"They think I can make a pretty picture. But that's just a part of what I can do. It's networking. It's being able to creative problem solve. And if you emphasize those are the skills that you're learning through your liberal arts degree you're going to be able to advocate for your degree program a lot stronger," said Behnke.
A former faculty member offered his services. Steve Aufrecht says he was connected to UAA for 30 years, joining the university in 1977, before retiring.
"We're here. We get pensions. We get paid. And we can volunteer. We can help out with classes. We can help out with counseling students. There's a lot that we can do. The university doesn't make good use of us," Aufrecht told the crowded room.
Sandeen also told people to continue speaking out. People can continue the conversation with her by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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