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Wednesday, January 27, 2021
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Allow Board of Regents to do their job



On Sept. 20, 2019, the Senate State Affairs Committee heard from the UAA Faculty Senate.  

I was there and listened. However, the Board of Regents is still best suited to decide about structuring the University of Alaska at this time.

First a context, then a comment.  In a break from normal procedure, the State Affairs Committee was used to hear additional faculty voices.  Those voices were appreciated, and I will consider them in this priority:  First, constitutionally, then statutorily, and then budgetary. 

The Board of Regents has the primary duty to own and manage our university.  The legislators have a duty to fund and describe by law the outline of the university.  The governor has the power of veto and proposal.    

The state is small in population and large in geography as well as diverse in its culture and economy.  Each campus has taken on different missions that complement our communities and should complement a unified but diverse U of A system.     

The Sept. 20 hearing was informative, and there were many credible speakers (including Dr. Forrest Nabors, together with faculty).  There is a general consensus on a few areas, namely that the Alaska Constitution, Article VII, Sections 2 (“The University of Alaska is hereby established as the state university…”) and 3 (“The University of Alaska shall be governed by a board of regents…”) represent the controlling authority. 

Presently, under that controlling authority, information is being collected and circulated by relevant decision makers.  The Board of Regents met in Anchorage on Sept. 12-13, 2019. Public testimony was collected, both from Anchorage and around the state. Additional opportunities for public testimony are here:  From Nov. 7-8, 2019 there will be a scheduled Board of Regents meeting in Fairbanks.

As we go through this period of history, it’s important to remember:  This is about all Alaska; not just one community, or one community versus another.  The University of Alaska, to be fair, just like all of us, should be looking for ways as to “how we can do it better.”  But, that’s a disciplined process, a process found in our state Constitution.

In my view, at this time, structural changes to our university system primarily rest with the decisions by the University of Alaska Board of Regents (which know the complexities of our university system).  The Legislature has had a role, prior to Sept. 20, and that occurred when the legislature inserted intent language in this year’s budget.  The intent language tasked the Board of Regents with looking at all issues related to consolidation and the different campuses. The due date for that board report is Dec. 1, 2019.

Before the Legislature does anything, if anything at all, about structuring, it may be wise to see what that report says.  Allow the Board of Regents to do their work, pursuant to their authority, for the benefit of the entire University of Alaska system.

Sen. John Coghhill represents District B Fairbanks North Star Borough and North Pole.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • And what city do you represent? Ah, that’s right, Fairbanks. Based on your voting record on the statutory PFD in recent history, I would say that there is a chance you have been bought and paid for by the UA system Mr. Coghill. Please do us all a favor and either retire or switch political parties.

    • North Pole, I thought.

  • At an 8% graduation rate, yeah, they need to do something for our money that they spend. Not much of a return.

    • I don’t think I will convince you but remind everyone else that is a bogus number.
      It’s an open enrollment university — meaning community members can take classes they are interested in and skip the others. It means you can work full time and be on an 8 year gradation plan. UA has fewer typical students just like AK has fewer typical citizens.
      The real numbers are on the websites of the various campuses.

      • No you can’t. 8 percent in a 4 year program, and only 31 percent if they stick it out 8 years. These are real numbers. The place stinks to high heaven.

        • Aren’t graduation rates an indicator of the type of students who start something but don’t or can’t finish because life gets in the way? The share of non-traditional students, particularly at UAA, is extremely high. My experience is that those who are serious about school graduate and go on to do very well in the job market or graduate education out of state. There are not obvious things that can be done to increase graduation rates without adding entry requirements or dumbing down standards.

          What is the return on the 52 million dollar Statewide investment? They produce zero grads, zero in Grant funded research and every outside consultant has suggested major cuts to Statewide. Yet, Senator Coghill would like to see the Regents continue to give them more power. Bad decisions will continue to beget bad decisions until, regrettably, there is a shakeup with the Regents and the President.

  • God help us from “boneheads” like you Coghill. You, and your counterparts have been the reason for real bad debt with the university and it’s bulging waste of funds from the state. Break up the university is the best plan. Fire the president of the university in Fairbanks and look to change and get rid of the problem staff of each UAA and UAS as well as UAF. That idiot group and you have aided the worst debt for students in the history of the United States. Alaska student debt is $21,000,000. It is the third largest of student debt in the US. You are a stupid legislative idiot. SB91 wasn’t example enough of your thinking….? You couldn’t think your way out a paper bag, let alone give good advice to the public. You, Stedman, VonImhof, Giessel Bishop and Stevens are always bellying up to the bar when it comes to “bad decisions!”

  • So the regents should just continue the status quo, i.e. continuing a high-cost school producing low-value students. Sounds like a plan.

    • Drop out rate is high. Not getting the best candidates. They are probably going to real school’s out of state.

  • Senator John Coghill;

    You were prime driver of SB91. And the main RINO in opposition of modifying or repealing it.

    You’re a RINO in direct opposition to Gov. Dunleavy’s plan to reduce the state budget to have us live within our means. A RINO who does not believe Alaskans deserve a full PFD to use as they see fit to support their families. A RINO who teamed up with six other RINO’s to deny a fully qualified, honored member of the Alaska Legislature to join the Senate; because they didn’t like his answer to “follow the law” when determining the PFD.

    You, sir, may foxtrot oscar alpha delta.

    I truly hope you and the entire Six RINO Gang in the AK Senate are primaried with extreme prejudice. Voted out so hard, you won’t even run for PTSA VP at your kids elementary schools!

    Good day, SIR!

    • Coghill has no claim to fame, other than he is Jack’s boy. Big effin deal. Jack was a glad hand idiot who turncoated Arliss, and then was snubbed by Wally in 1990. A dumb guy. Coghill Jr. is also a dummy. He needs to leave politics, like yesterday, and go back to holding up anti_ abortion signs full time. Not a man of reason. More like a country hick preacher with very limited congregation and low IQ

      • Uh, Paul….he”s from the North Pole.

  • The regents better hurry up, as the accreditation guys are about to strip more course accreditation from UA. Perhaps they should have been concentrating on actual education when they were fighting smoking on campus, concealed carry on campus, and chasing the manmade global warming due to CO2 emissions (aka climate change) chimera. There are only so many hours in the day and when you spend all your time chasing foolishness, its real easy to forget to take care of business. But as long as the state dollars keep on flowing, no problemo, right? Appear that time is about at an end. And long past due. Cheers –

  • I doubt that incumbent management and regents are best suited to fix UA. If so, how could they have created this mess in the first place?

    Isn’t this the guy most responsible for the disastrous criminal reform (SB91) legislation – or should I say criminal growth legislation?

  • Who is in charge of accreditations? And it would be great if they did their job.

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