THIS GROUP IS HEAVY ON THE ‘BIG GOVERNMENT’ FRONT
A task force appointed by the University of Alaska Board of Regents is a team of Alaskans representing a moderate-to-liberal slice of Alaska politics: Four Democrats, two Republicans and four who are registered as Undeclared. It’s the reverse of how Alaskans are registered as voters. But this is academia, and left-leaning politics is not surprising.
The group is tasked with exploring options for the university system’s future structure in a time of budget cuts.
The task force includes:
- One former and one current member of the Board of Regents: Jo Heckman, A former regent, co-founder of Denali State Bank, Republican; and Sheri Buretta, leader at Alaska Federation of Natives, Chugach Alaska Corporation, and former transition team member for Mayor Mark Begich, an Undeclared.
- Three Alaska private sector leaders: Tom Barrett of Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., Undeclared; Aaron Schutt, of Doyon Ltd., a Democrat; and Joe Beedle, former CEO, Northrim Bank, who has published op-eds opposing budget cuts. He is a Republican.
- One rural Alaska leader: Reggie Joule is a former legislator and mayor, now lobbyist for K-12 education with Sen. Tom Begich’s wife’s advocacy group. He is a Democrat.
- Three retired UA faculty members: Terrence Cole, of UAF, far left faculty member, an Undeclared; Cathy Connor, leftist former faculty member at UAS, a Democrat; and Gunnar Knapp, retired UAA, an Undeclared.
- One former UA executive: Wendy Redman, former UA executive vice president of Fairbanks, an Undeclared.
- One student: Joey Sweet/UAA and former UA student regent, no voter registration found.
The task force is charged with evaluating the following structural options and others for the UA system and providing an update to the Board of Regents in September, and a final report in November. The options they will look at include:
- Status Quo – Three separate accredited universities with the community college campuses part of their respective regional university.
- Lead Campus – Three separately accredited universities but with more focus of specific academic programs at each single university along with expanded availability of courses across the system via distance delivery. Also, reorganize the community college campuses to report to one of the lead campuses.
- One University – A single accredited university for all of Alaska with the community colleges organized as a unit within the university.
- Three independent universities – Three separately accredited universities and associated community colleges with independent administrations and no statewide administration.
The members will gather input and evaluate how to move forward with what will be a smaller budget. Gov. Michael Dunleavy has proposed cutting $134 million cut, roughly 40 percent of the state’s support for the university system.
University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen has fought those cuts and said they would “devastate” Alaska’s university system and lead to campus closures, tuition hikes, and layoffs of as many as 1,300 university employees.