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.