Are students being heard enough in UA process?
From Anchorage to Fairbanks the message from college students to the University of Alaska Board of Regents is the same.
"I heard regents talk about how they feel the process has been inclusive but the letter expressly stated that students, faculty and staff don't feel comfortable with the process and none of them were heard or asked to voice their concerns," University of Alaska Fairbanks student Bernard Aoto told the board Monday.
Aoto and his fellow classmates Daniel Vaziri and Aiden Earnest waited for their turn to speak with Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities President Sonny Ramaswamy in the emergency meeting. The chance to share their concerns almost didn't happen.
"The students that are present in the audience today have been asked to be recognized. They wish to address the accrediting commissioners," Student Regent Cachet Garrett told the board. "These are the students that have asked to be recognized before the NWCCU hangs up."
Regent Chair John Davies said the board didn't have enough time.
"This is a conversation between the board and the commission at this point," Davies said. "We're going to try to develop more inclusive processes as we move forward but we're now well over our hour with the commissions."
Garrett fought back.
"I think these students students are just requesting one minute and this is the time to start our inclusivity if we haven't already," Garrett said. "Am I not right?"
Davies then allowed the student to speak. On Tuesday, he said he made the decision because he wanted to hear from them and that he was following the recommendation of NWCCU.
Once given their time, the students didn't hold back.
"I find it hard to believe that three students are supposed to be the entire voice for this entire process," UAF student Aidan Earnest said. "I would challenge all of you to go down to MBS and pick a random student and ask them to explain this process to you. I don't think they can."
"We have the right to have a voice on this board and [Garrett] is not being recognized," UAF student Daniel Vaziri said. "Her hand was up before many of the other regents and was not acknowledged, was not even looked at."
Davies said the board chose to take the single accreditation model off the table, at least while UAF is in the process of accreditation renewal. That should be complete in 2021.
Davies said the board is very aware of concerns students and staff have. He said Ramaswamy is very complimentary on the strength of UA's academic programs. The issue isn't about the academic programs, he said, it's more about communication through the system.
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