University professor assigns writing students: Protest the cuts - Must Read Alaska
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Wednesday, October 16, 2019
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University professor assigns writing students: Protest the cuts

THIS ASSIGNMENT IS FOR CREDIT AT UAA — WRITE LEGISLATORS AND OBJECT

A University of Alaska Anchorage writing professor, name unknown, has assigned to her writing students an unusual and questionable task: Write to their legislators to protest cuts to the university system. It’s an assignment for credit and the instructions are clear. Here’s the assignment:

The professor tells students that “no matter your position on the University Budget” they’ll get points. But she also makes it clear there is only one right answer to this assignment: They need to write about how bad the cuts are.

Gov. Michael Dunleavy last week, in an effort to balance the State budget, vetoed $130 million from the University of Alaska budget, which is 40 percent of the funds the system is used to getting from the state. Most of the university funds comes from federal money, tuition and grants.

Because it’s a summer class, it’s likely there won’t be a flood of letters. In fact, those letters will be lost in the tsunami of letters coming from national groups from the Lower 48, which are responding to a coordinated letter writing campaign by the university administration, led by UA President Jim Johnsen.

The Legislature currently doesn’t have the votes to override a veto, but in this high-stakes environment, anything could happen — even blackmail or bribery — and Johnsen has been engaged in a full court press to try to turn legislators. He needs 45 votes to override the veto and he is far from having that number.

But Johnsen has help from the Democrats, at least. In Anchorage on Tuesday, legislators will be holding “listening sessions” to hear from constituents about the budget, in an effort to build a case for overriding the governor’s budget and deliver a defeat to him during his first year. The Anchorage meeting is sponsored by Reps. Ivy Spohnholz, Zack Fields, Harriet Drummond, Matt Claman, Geran Barr, and Sen. Tom Begich.

 

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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

  • Example #1 for why this cut is too late in coming.

    • No kidding. Agree whole heartedly. Sadly probably tenured. Gone are the days where students were encouraged to think, process, cultivate their own opinions. Now they are expected to swallow dogma on a daily basis.

  • I don’t see the problem here. Write to your legislator, vote, voice your opinion. I don’t understand why there is a need to be afraid or paranoid that some professor is going to twist the mind of my son who is a student in that class. He’ll complete the assignment and get the credit.

    • The professor has no place in telling your son what to think. Your son should be encouraged TO think and to examine both sides, formulating his own opinion. It is heinous that students have to put up with intentional indoctrination even if they have a strong backbone and can manage to still think for themselves.

  • I don’t see how the students could get “less quality” instructors than what they have now. Didn’t a “student” post (remember the hockey whiner) that class sizes were shrinking, even with the full blown budget? This kind of “college” stunt should give anyone that thinks for themselves a good idea of what they’re getting, instead of a useful, job garnering degree. They are being taught to try and whine their way out of perceived problems. That usually doesn’t work in the real world. That ‘professor’ should receive a “blue ticket” back to where she came from. If those students want a work ready education, try Alaska Vocational Tech and learn a real profession. I don’t think they teach a course in whining there.

  • I understand that the University of Alaska is worried about these budget cuts, but I wonder how their enrollment numbers are looking these days?
    In light of loosing their accreditation for students pursuing teacher degrees as well as so many graduate & undergraduate degrees available online, I can only think their income from tuition is way down.
    This loss of tuition revenue is plaguing many schools of “higher education” in New England as 3 just decided to close their doors for good in Vermont.
    One college that closed in Vermont was said to owe the USDA over $20 million. (Presumably from unpaid student loans)
    Realtors in VT believe that the several hundred year old colleges may be bought by forgein investors looking to start “Immersion” schools in our country…think China.
    Seems like history repeats itself in America.

    • Just UAA lost accreditation for school of Ed. I had no idea add campus has full schools of education each one independent of the other. Seems there could be some unity across the UA system within programs.

  • Straight out of the Terrence Cole left-wing playbook for radical college professors. Speaking of which, old Lefty twins Terrence and Dermot Cole will be presenting another of their hateful lectures at UAF on Monday, July 8 at Davis Concert Hall. About 800 Democrats can squeeze nicely into each other at that venue for a hate-in. No doubt, a rallying lecture for “UA Strong” and an admonishment session against Governor Dunleavy. The Living Dead and the Dying Living give another yawning performance and last, last, last, last, last, last lecture before the insane Democrats at the University lose their minds all over again.

    • Maybe afterwards they can dress all in Black and go downtown to intimidate weak looking people as a pack of Red Guard Communists armed with concrete milk shakes. Of course Fairbanks isn’t Portland; some of them might actually get shot.

      • Anchorage is definitely getting to be a bit like Portland…… they could make a road trip.

    • What? Professor Cole is still around? I had this twitching nincompoop as my History prof years ago. This sounds like something he would do. Who shows up to the Cole’s lectures? Neither of them are good public speakers. Their books are dull and full of anecdotal propoganda.
      If Jim Johnson and his nutty summer staff feel that bringing in the broken-down dinosaur twins will dissuade Dunleavy on UA budget cuts……have at it. If anything, the Cole’s headliner only buttresses the position for MORE University cuts.

      • Bring in the midgets. Dwarfism in the middle of a budget fight is a guaranteed pathway to MORE cuts. Luvin it!!

        • But which dwarf is which?
          Do two dwarfs make a whole? Maybe a whole lot of BS.

        • Watch out you may anger the PC police and the ‘racist on every corner’ coalition. ????

          • I doubt the Joker gives a Rat’s bitootee, Elizabeth.

          • Believe me, the Cole Twins do NOT want to piss me off.

  • I was the kind of student that would have played the devil’s advocate. In the mid 60’s I led a protest against better grades for punctuation over content. Brick and mortar colleges will be giving way to online schools soon. There is a professor in San Diego that requires his class to take the final exam in the nude is one reason. Ricardo Dominguez, a professor who teaches a visual arts class at the University of California at San Diego has required the students to be naked for the final part of the course for 11 years now. But now, this year, one helicopter moms is mad.

    The professor also disrobes for the final exam, which involves students participating in a “series of gestures” while nude.

    • Were those hand gestures, or other than?

  • This is additional evidence of the corrupting influence of distributing wealth through a politically controlled central treasury that Governor Dunleavy is trying to address.

    The sad reality is that the beneficiaries of government largess don’t even realize that their demands are at odds with the ethical standards that must be upheld to maintain a democratic society – nor, apparently, do a majority of Alaska’s legislators who appear to be acquiescing to their demands.

    This is why we need to support those legislators who are standing with the Governor and confront those who are prioritizing the demands of organized factions over the right of all Alaskans to receive the dividend amount to which they are entitled by by statute.

  • Dunleavy: “I can’t give a clearer example of why these cuts are necessary.”

    UAA prof: “Hold my kombucha.”

  • This just in, 9 out of 10 UAF professors recommend their students join cpusa, revcom.us, dsa, and antfa. Viva la revolution! Karl? is that you?

  • An Alaska kid can go to GCU, a private out of state university for about 10K less a year than the UA system charges, and GCU manages to keep its accreditations. Sorry UA, you suck and must face the axe and with any luck this is just the first blow to your bloated crony bologna “University”.

  • So do the cuts to K thru 12 mean they can’t have drag queens read fairy tales to the kids now?

    • Unfortunately No Jack. That is held at the Loussac Library which is fully funded by our property taxes so dutifully squandered by the Society to make Anchorage just like Seattle.

  • If the professor wants her students to do her bidding, she should pay them. That’s the way things get done in our nominally capitalist — can I say “capitalist”? — society. Thus the short-term solution is for her to pay her students at least $15/hour but only after she signs ’em up with a W-4, and I-9, files for a tax number, etc. unless the UAA approves and then that system can handle the copious “human resource” details. Her obvious bias reminds me of Sowell’s question: “The next time some academics tell you how important diversity is, ask how many Republicans there are in their sociology department.”

    • Haha! That’s a good one!

  • Inquiries, applications, and enrollment were all up in 2019.

    • Can you site your source, please? I’m having a hard time Googling this.
      Thank you!

  • Once again, Suzanne lies to her readers, just to have another click-bait for Republicans

    (1) She first states that “a professor, name unknown”, and follow by giving her gender with the sentence “But she also makes it clear there”
    (2) The professor email is clear “Of course, you may write anything you feel, no matter your position on the University Budget”. There is only someone like Suzann Downing who will then affirm that They need to write about how bad the cuts are”. Nowhere in the assignment will you find such statements.

      • Suzanne, care to point out where it’s pretty clear!
        It’s usually easy to avoid your slants but this is blatant IMO. The assignment clearly allows for any other reasons and there is no obvious pressure, other than in your mind.

        • The pressure is partly in what’s not said. She presents no other side to the discussion, for example, how the state has been living above its means and needs to find a way to balance the budget. The discussion could be about budget and whether it’s fair that the UofA bear the brunt of the cuts, or whether other alternatives exist.

          Then the obvious pressure is also directly stated: “Your work in sharing what the University of Alaska means to you will be vital in convincing the legislature to override this veto.” On the heels of, “This may mean a loss of your degree program,” that statement feels like pressure to me.

          • If you think that statement feels like pressure then it is my guess that you’ve never attended a college or university. The statement is very likely true and college profs regularly allow their own feelings into their lectures but you think that pressure.
            The only thing here is whether/not these students are given a look at critical thinking so they can avoid being subjected to unnecessary brainwashing (always a threat IMO).

    • Haven’t seen Suzanne lie about anything…..ever. Funny how the truth so upsets the radical Lefties and Democrats. No wonder we have Dunleavy and Trump in power. The general public sees right through the Left.

    • Haha! That’s a good one!

    • Marc: you aren’t being very genuine. Clearly the entire first paragraph of the professors post leads a person (student) to the direction of the assignment. “Devastating; unprecedented; crippling; loss of YOUR degree program” are the words used to describe the budget situation. Looks like a cattle prod to one direction to me. I’d love to see the grade on any well written letter to a legislator in support of the Governors budget cuts.

  • Education vs Indoctrination 1.01?

    Time for some pink slips apparently has been overdue for a long, long time.

    Maybe if The University were teaching instead of indoctrinating the graduation rate might improve and the graduates might find it easier to find productive employment.

  • This is a class assignment. She is requiring them to write their legislator. If they don’t I guess they would “fail” the assignment. So even if they don’t feel the need to write their legislator right now or if they don’t feel they have all the facts yet, they still have to do it

    She sets the assignment up with her story about cuts giving her opinion how they may effect the students. True or not.

    They then (I assume) have to turn in their assignment for grading by a person who may well experience a gain or loss depending on the results of legislative action which the students may ask for (or not) in their letters. She has an axe to grind & is using her control/influence over her students to help promote the grinding.

    • Say Dave, this is how teaching works or are you get now getting around to discovering it. You need to get on board with Art Chance to remove all the Lefties in Alaska so’s the axe that needs grinding is the correct one. All would be OK, then.
      Of course nobody on here knows what Aldrich intends to do with all the writings-whether/not they would be discussed in class and further, whether/not any critical thinking would be involved in such discussions.
      Are you only just now getting the idea that college students are subjected to their professor’s opinions??

      • For the past 15 years, I have taught hundreds of UAA students, and I feel very comfortable saying this assignment is not appropriate. Participation in the processes that govern our affairs could certainly be taught more often – there are vast layers of lessons to be had here, and in a variety of disciplines, particularly writing (to inform, to persuade, to stall, to spur to action). My spring students asked me for guidance on what they could do to influence the budget cuts, and all I would say was that their ideas and their perspective can only be factored into a decision if they make them known. That goes for cuts they’d like to save, too, complacency bites. I also advised they copy the UAA President so he would understand their priorities in making his decisions. I’m not trying to compete with Professor Aldrich on who nailed the civics lesson here, there are very specific reasons I would not go beyond this guidance. For example, I have a direct financial and personal interest in University funding. This isn’t some randomly selected bureaucratic farce I intend to dutifully annoy while educating. While it may not be improper to present students with severe but predicted loss of opportunity under the vetoes, doing so as an authority figure and state official advising on a position gives those predictions more weight, resulting in a position that would more likely benefit my interests. As another reason, I was compensated for providing instruction and awarding points towards a grade. There is absolutely no way I would withhold either for the failure to articulate and share a position on a political matter, regardless of what it is or what scoring criteria I employ. For one, it places after-the-fact conditions on the bargained-for exchange, notably that students waive privacy rights (submitting personal information into the public record), which would be wrong and substantially inconsistent with my lectures. Secondly, I am very supportive of educating through practical life experiences, especially those that inform action of significance to the student – bringing it home, as it were – but this is basically forced political speech. I imagine Prof Aldrich sees it a different way, but it hurts to see comments identify this as just how it all goes. A great many university professors taught me to write and analyze and think and argue, including with them. All the makings of a great advocacy letter, written at my pleasure on matters of my choice. So, it can go that way, too. I’m counting on it.

        • Well C, you don’t agree that this is appropriate but haven’t given sufficient reasoning for your position IMO. We aren’t particularly interested in what you would do, either.
          While Aldrich, so far, only has her assignment to look at we just don’t know what her classroom situation will be relative to this assignment. Your suggestion that “this is basically forced political speech” is nothing but hogwash but you are the expert on your opinion.

        • Where/what is the verb in the antepenultimate sentence? (Even if I’m not a member of the clergy or the bar, I always like a little Latin thrown into the mix. BTW my spell checker doesn’t like that word but at least one dictionary does.

  • Hi there,

    My name is Kobe Rizk and I am the student intern for Must Read Alaska. I wanted to make everyone in the comments section aware of the MRAK political forum just launched last month. I have set up a topic related to the University of Alaska, and I welcome all of your thoughts. Simply navigate to the “Forums” tab of the home page and find the FY2020 budget forum under “Alaska Politics”. If you have any questions, please reach out to me at kobe.rizk@yale.edu.

    Looking forward to reading your thoughts.

    Kobe

  • An educator cannot be this tone deaf to think this is helpful to the anti cuts crowed or to the profession.

  • A writing assignment? Good one. These students CAN’T write. Maybe a texting assignment? Or, how about a film documentary suitable for Pornhub?

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