UAF professor pleads with top comedians to report on Alaska budget cuts - Must Read Alaska
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Friday, October 22, 2021
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UAF professor pleads with top comedians to report on Alaska budget cuts

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A creative writing professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks has reached out on social media to the world’s most popular comedians, begging them to report on recent budget cuts to the University of Alaska system.

In numerous posts on Twitter over the course of many days, writing professor Sara Eliza Johnson calls the governor and legislators “fascists” who are anti-education.

Johnson sent her Twitter messages to comedians John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah and the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, pleading with them to “cover” the downsizing of the university.

Johnson also notified television newscasters Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes of MSNBC to enlist them in the cause of fighting the budget cuts.

Johnson teaches a variety of creative writing classes, including “Arguing Across Contexts” and her specialty, which is poetry.

“Sara Eliza Johnson’s Bone Map charts a dreamscape that mixes elements of folk tale into mysterious itineraries through the commingled fringes of the world of sacramental animals and a frail humankind,” according to her website.

The State of Alaska budget has been cut 12.5 percent from the proposed budget of former Gov. Bill Walker, and approximately 7 percent from the actual spending of the last fiscal year. Programs developed during the oil boom years have been trimmed or eliminated as the state struggles to live within its means. The University of Alaska system budget has been trimmed by 17 percent, which will lead to layoffs in the days ahead as the system is forced to restructure its offerings.

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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

  • This is an appropriate example of “educators” at UA. Leftist propaganda is her/their credo. Instigation, misrepresentation of facts and outright falsehoods are their tactics, not education. I don’t know what she hopes to gain by calling on “heavy hitter” leftist fools/tools to save her day, but she’s only making herself look worse. Her actions demonstrate that she hasn’t the mental capacity to form her own relevant, coherent statements. Too bad. She and others like her are what the left is “fighting” to preserve at UA. For crying out loud. Alaska and citizens are the victims of a great disservice from Johnson and others of her persuasion, politically, rhetorically and realistically. That’s what the dims/socialists want for all Alaskans. Wonder how much her public salary and benefits are worth. Whatever that sum is, cut it by 90% and it’s still too much for what Alaskans get, in my opinion.

  • How does a state fund a department for faith based initiatives? I know weird thing to ask and it’s Florida. Thank you for reaching out on our behalf . Climate research? Yeah. Nothings wrong ?

  • After reading the posts, its no wonder the university is failing the students. Lower numbers of graduates, poor scores and too much money just to go to school in that system. U of A is a lower class university thanks to the likes of this Johnson and the president by the name of Johnson. Losing accreditation, etc.

    • I’m not Jim Johnsen’s biggest fan; I worked with him and I know him, but Jim didn’t make the mess that is the UA. I don’t know that he helped it any, but he didn’t make it; it has been a mess since the Seventies, at least. And I only go back to the Seventies because that is when I first came in contact with it.

  • I don’t get it. Why would anyone think that trying to run your government from inside a junior high gym is anyway humorous or worthy of ridicule?

    • I agree, who would have thought the “Thrilla in Wasilla” was anything other than humorous?
      Just looking at those legislators sitting at those desks brings a smile to my face and then throw in Bert Cottle grabbing at young girls-why it’s nothing but a laugh fest. They clearly weren’t ready for prime-time IMO.
      I say bring on the comedians.

    • “I don’t get it. Why would anyone think that trying to run your government from inside a junior high gym is anyway humorous or worthy of ridicule?”
      You and Saul Alinsky, evidently.
      5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.

  • Let’s hope the first to go in the 135 million in cuts is her salary.

    Suzanne is it time to remind everyone the facts in your February 23 piece

  • So we are supposed to spend ourselves into a credit rating disaster because…..

    • This is important. Truly.
      If you care about credit ratings read this article about how the cuts will lower the credit rating of the university. It’s one of many ways the cuts will cost the state. There is a reason the governor hid the financial impact of the cuts.

      • clown,
        Every one of your cohorts have been whining about damage to the “education” system by being forced to restrain spending. You have shed light on the ‘real tragedy’. “The UA credit rating”. How unthoughtful of Governor Dunleavy to cause UA that catastrophe by telling them to reduce spending. Maybe UA can get one of those ‘credit recovery’ outfits to manage their credit. Hire some of those comedians prof. Johnson likes. They’ll fit right in. Have them do a ‘benefit’ for UA. UA could start with managing their budget, of course, but they won’t. Hard to do that when you’re used to virtually unlimited spending of OPM (other peoples’ money, almost $1bln year). The UA spending is limited to only about $850+ million per yr. now. Simply ghastly. How will they ever get by? Guess they’ll learn the hard way. Much deeper cuts need to be made there. While they’re at it, they can upgrade to true education instead of more indoctrination into socialism.

        • ” Maybe UA can get one of those ‘credit recovery’ outfits to manage their credit. ”
          Or maybe the governor could not downgrade the university’s good credit?
          Just a thought. Since this about saving money and all.

          • It’s about not wasting money….and all!

      • Yeah, get an organization like Bloomberg to tell the truth, their CEO can’t tell the truth, and neither can their journalists.

        As has been said many times, we do not have a funding problem, we have a spending problem, and the legislators don’t want to reign that in.

        The UA system, which I am a graduate of as well, needs to reevaluate their wasteful spending. Many of the staff are only working 9 months out of the year, and are very highly paid for that – it is ridiculous. I know of a department head, whose wife complains all the time that they have to tighten their belt during 3 months out of the year, I told her that they need to budget and spend on 75% of the monthly income, that is the only way, do not overspend as they have been. Simple math from a UA BS degree graduate told a gal from a big name lower 48 university with a MS degree how to fix their financial problem.

        The problem goes back to the 80/20 rule, and UA System wants 100%.

        • You can dislike the man himself (and I’ll join you) but Bloomberg is where wall street gets its news. It’s a conservative site.
          If you read the story you would find that the credit rating agencies are poised to lower the credit. This is wasted money. It means we pay more money to banks instead of keeping it Alaska. Spending problem is a talking point that in no way deals with the lowering of the credit rating. You can retreat to comfortable talking points or we can have an evidence based conversation. Which would you prefer?
          “Credit rating companies Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings had warned the budget cuts could lead to a downgrade of the system of three universities with more than 26,600 students.”

          • Note the “could” in your last sentence regarding the credit rating. “Could” is not the same as “will”.
            The world could end tomorrow. You could wake up tomorrow and love the Governor’s cuts. Neither of those (probably) will never happen.
            UA was facing the possibility of a lower credit rating before the budget cuts. So don’t blame the cut if their credit rating goes down.
            Evidence-based fact checker notes that Bloomberg News “have a slight to moderate liberal bias”. Meaning, they’re not a “conservative site”.

  • Apparently someone thinks that anyone with any intelligence listens to comedians for their political insight. Since when did these modern day court jesters become the voice of the people? They’re there only for our entertainment (which has been sorely lacking for YEARS), and they are quickly dismissed once they’re out of sight. Is this really what the University of Alaska has fallen to? How about taking the 10% cut out of the ADMINISTRATIVE SALARIES that are unrelated to teaching courses and improving the lives of students, and which constitute well over 50% of the University’s total costs?

    • Most of the people who go to university, not just UA, think that late night comedians ARE the news.

  • I thought that was a picture of a 7th grader. I must be getting old. How ridiculous. Didn’t get your way, so contact big libs with big microphones to show the nation how you act like your picture looks.

  • Suzanne, please send those same sensational commentators and comedians the facts and figures about the failing UA system, the loss of the education program’s accreditation, the declining enrollment numbers, the percentage of incoming freshmen — from failing ALASKA K-12 schools — who come to UA requiring remedial math and English courses before they ever take a university course (that’s on taxpayer’s backs, of course) and the history of the years of overspending by the previous spend-crazy legislatures that led to these necessary cuts. It’s not like any of the recipients of her whining diatribe will look at, let alone consider, the context or the facts, but at least die on the hill trying to educate them so this uneducated, drama queen fluff ‘professor’ who doesn’t know the real meaning of “fascist” doesn’t further brainwash the masses with her baseless shy-is-falling, snowflake rhetoric. Think of the precedent that will set.

  • Sad as it may seem, this was probably much easier for Ms. Johnson to do than to sit down and have a serious non-condescending conversation with an actual conservative. She probably could not communicate with a person of the Right, even if her life depended upon it. And it may.

    • I’d be more than happy to have a serious conversation with a conservative. And since this has started I’ve had many. But I’m had them in face to face meetings, not on this site.
      Conservatives like von Imhof are upset that gov has not provided an economic analysis months after he promised to do so. And now it’s clear why — if he produced an analysis it would be clear that the cuts will cost the state.
      I’m flabbergasted that people (on this site) aren’t getting this. Downgraded credit, loss of jobs, lower property values and other downstream effects of the cuts. The cuts will cost us money.
      And of course some do get it but they think the “pain” is worth it if they can rejoice in the defeat of the people they hate.

      • I’m thinking you’ve put your finger on a big part of the problem facing Dunleavey. He will most likely have to compromise with this Legislature on these vetoes if he wants any PFD IMO. They (legislators) will hold his feet to the fire until the “recall bunch” starts getting their signatures-at which point it will no longer matter, again IMO.

      • Clown: It’s hard to have any serious conversation with you when you hide behind the name Clown.

        • Yeah, well imagine how hard it must be to have serious conversations with the literal clowns of the right wing, then.

      • Clown,
        You should have a conversation with a true libertarian. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m not losing sleep over the state workers losing their jobs. The property values were already seeing a decline in some communities, before the budget cuts. The legislator and most local assemblies haven’t done anything to promote new industries, IMO.
        I’m flabbergasted how people, both you and commenters on this site, still continue to think that government somehow has all the solutions to everything, when it actually tends to make everything it touches worse.
        The cuts will cost the state? Well, NOT cutting the state’s budget will cost us. I’m not on board with a sales tax or income tax just for our legislator to continually spend on many departments that should be privatized, consolidated, or totally disbanded. I’m not on board with my municipality raising my property taxes every year to spend on stupid projects (like the port of Anchorage) or doing nothing about our public schools pumping out some of the worst students in the nation.
        I’m willing to have a conversation with you if you’re willing to think out of the box and have creative solutions to Alaska’s issues instead of just continually pointing out the problems. Everyone can whine about our multitude of problems. Do you have any creative solutions other than “keep government the same” and/or “we need new taxes”?

  • They probably won’t care unless they can find a way to tie it into Russell Crowe’s jockstrap.

    • Don’t you have some fart jokes to share, Sean? I’ll bet you are just a riot when you get going!

  • Alaska’s democrat legislatures are comedians, they are the evil clown show of the Great Frontier.

    • Sure ED, the pros are in Juneau with a quorum and the amateurs showed up in Wasilla. As said by Sen. Steadman, this is not a comedy show but evidently those yahoos (all Republicans) felt they were comedians and chose to throw their own monkey wrench into the workings.
      Not to worry, as things will work out in the end IMO, as politics tends to do these things from time to time. The comedians will be exposed and you’ll get to see them slinking back to Juneau, mark my words. Heheh!

  • There is so much vitriol in these comments. This is not the Alaska I came to as a young person, where people looked out for each other and we respected diverse opinions and lifestyles. A lot has changed since the early 1970’s, but I am quite sure that Governor Hammond, who it was my privilege to meet during the first semester I studied at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks in 1976 would be absolutely horrified at what his vision of the Permanent Fund Dividend has turned into, and has turned some of us into. Back in the day, we understood that a ‘Dividend’ meant exactly that — a bonus which was distributed when things were going well for the State. We did not expect,
    let alone demand, thousands of dollars as ‘our right’. And — we paid state income taxes. It was a very simple form, with a smiley face at the bottom of the page if you got money back, and a frowny face if you still owed. Emojis that were decades ahead of their time !

    Now, we are consumed in online wars and the “I’ve got mine” attitude is so disturbing.

    • Irina, I have to take a minute and thank you for your comment. I admit I haven’t seen your name before and I often chime in on this forum and try to keep my comments firm, but kind.
      You talk about the Alaska you came to as a young person and described how Alaskan’s treated each other. It put a smile on my face. I hope others stopped and smiled too. I’m a fifth-generation Alaskan and my mind rolled back to my childhood where people looked out for one another and for each other’s kids. You could be counted on with a handshake.
      I recently returned to the small town where I was born and raised and was happy to see, that for the most part, some of these old “Alaska” ways were still in motion. The “old-timers” were still shuffling around town. Kids were playing. Someone dropped off some fresh fish and checked in on my mom. People drive by on the street, lifting their fingers off the steering wheel ever so slightly to say “hi” as they pass by. It doesn’t matter if they know you – they just do it.
      I hope that everyone gets a good nights sleep tonight and this week turns out productive.

    • Things that made the Alaska you came to as a young person are anachronisms.
      New Social Democrats see Alaska not as what it was, but what they want it to be.
      Social Democrats require diverse opinions and lifestyles to be imposed, enforced whether respected or not.
      Social Democrats and fake-news media demand productive Alaskans gratefully accept PFD’s as a bonus, a welfare entitlement, not as a royalty check in lieu of privately owned subsurface mineral rights.
      The PFD is governed by law so, yes, Alaskans demand their right under the law…
      … and, with respect, state income taxes be damned. While the state’s awash in money (and accrued interest) stashed safely out of taxpayers’ reach, it seems unreasonable to stiff productive Alaskans with an income tax.
      It’s not the ““I’ve got mine” attitude that started the war.
      It’s the profligate spending, lying, waste, mismanagement, law-breaking, and utter contempt that so-called legislators exhibit toward Alaskans wanting their full PFD’s but not, for example toward the group of hardworking folks who pay Alaska’s lobbyist army $20M annually to buy or rent these legislators.
      And it’s the reaction, vitriolic as may be, of productive Alaskans, fed up with political pablum, that will end the war or at least reduce the corruption to a manageable level.

  • She could at least have written an insightful, thought provoking, & moving poem to plead her case; instead she just went negative & showed the world that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about (fascism/fascist are specific political & economic terms, oftened ignorantly or intentionally misused for authoritarian or totalitarian because of their association with NAZI Germany).

    • She got reefer eyes.

  • She took her writing classes from the Dermot Cole Institute of Writing for Leftists and Democrats. Noticeable nose and eyebrow piercing. Wonder if she has a tramp stamp too, with a piece sign? She looks like an actor in a vampire movie. But, can she write and spell?

    • Uh…..King, that would be peace sign. But she caught your drift.

  • She must be a lying stoned lib!
    None of her claims have any truth to them!

    • Real knee-slapper there, Robert!

      • Chiwaaaawaaaa!!! Spank that little yipper and give him a little chicken bone to chew on.

  • Obviously these cuts to UA are tough, but something had to change, and this “professor’s” reaction reflects how far off the University is. It is a bad look for her, and a bad look for the University.

    What does she think it will accomplish? Is 20 second schtick by John Oliver going to change things?

    Granted there are some jokes at UAA, the Education Department losing its accreditation is a joke. A bad unfunny joke. Where was the outrage when this failure was made public. How on earth did the president keep his job after that debacle? Anyway sadly, the University keeps showing what its is made of, and we cannot keep funding the status quo.

    Getting laid off from work is hard. It sucks. But we are a small state, and our institution need to be in balance with who we are.

    On a side note, our University hockey teams are clearly not cut out for D1, nothing wrong with D2. The Sullivan use to sell out as a competitive D2 team. Now, not so much.

    Anyway, this is tough, but we will get through this. After the name calling and insults end we will have to figure out how to live in a post oil boom Alaska.

  • Cut the university funding from the top down. We do not need the feel good classes and overpaid state workers running up the budget every year. I did not see anyone write or say anything when private industry had to down size they just went about it survive. UAA could raise tuition and sell some land or work towards a positive solution instead of crying and whining. Opps they don’t teach creativity or positive solution thinking do they?

  • And the Regents are just NOW having a meeting about their financial woes? Good grief. Today 7/15 at 1pm in Fairbanks. See the deets about their live-streamed meeting at:

  • The libs like to let wildfires burn and smoke out our cities and whole planet that cause more climate change than anything!

  • Okay, I’ll try…..what rhymes with “Greedy Democrats”? …nothing?
    How about ….”selfish non-productives”? … anything?
    Well heck, I guess I ain’t no poet.

  • Never take advice from a person that sticks pieces of wire through the skin on their face and lets it hang there. That is a SURE sign of flawed judgment.

  • Oo oo, I got one:

    Roses are red
    Violets are blue
    Our Governor is cutting the budget
    So you better get used to it
    (And stop whining)

  • there once was a prof named eliza
    a legend above all, a writah
    but this Doolittle
    could do but little
    to make us any the wise-a.
    there once was a prof named sara
    stuck pins in her face where a
    heartfelt look
    was all it took
    to make us all care-a
    there once was a prof
    the pride of UAF
    getting more money
    was the goal of this honey
    ’cause enough was never enough
    there once was a prof named johnson
    who looked a lot like a lost ‘un
    are those pins on her face
    to keep it in place
    or are they on wrong…

  • There’s a great job waiting for this “educator” in California. No need to move – she’s already in California in her head.

  • What y’all have missed is that Ms. Sara Eliza Johnson isn’t a journalism teacher but rather a creative writer teacher. So when she calls the Governor and Legislators “fascists,” she isn’t writing a news report, but rather she’s writing fiction.

  • As a graduate of the class of 79’ it hurts to see the budget cuts to my alma mater. It hurts even more that so many people in Alaska still refuse to understand that the party is over and get real about the fiscal crisis the State is in.

    Wake up! Both the legislature and governor were elected by the “people” hardly making them fascists! Will Durant stated that a society’s opulence is what eventually destroys it. Maybe that will be Alaska’s fate.

  • Prez Johnsen needs to be investigated and charges brought against him and all staff for any criminal involvement in the university financial problems. He and they have done all they can to cover up their activities in operations. He may have been embezzling for a long time and having is staff cover up.

  • Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am. Stuck in the middle with an underperforming university system that has the highest cost per student and lowest graduation rates for four or six year students.

    Yeah, that stuff is funny as hell.

  • Ms. Johnson …

    the price of oil is falling out of sight
    and the state budget is in sorry shape tonight
    what a barrel used to get us
    now will not buy a head of mat valley lettuce
    no the economic forecast is not bright …

    Please critique …

    Bob Maier – (not the author)

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