University 'restructuring task force' dominated by Democrats - Must Read Alaska
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Friday, August 14, 2020
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University ‘restructuring task force’ dominated by Democrats


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.

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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

  • Wendy Redmond = radical Leftist, who relentlessly lobbied for money to UA in the 1980s and 1990s, and became personally wealthy from doing it.
    Terrence Cole = last lecture, super radical Left-wing History professor who taught students revisionist garbage for 30 years. Cole has been telling everyone that he has terminal cancer and gets continual sympathetic attention from doing it.
    John Davies = mastermind of the UA restructuring group. Far Leftist, extreme environmentalist, local politician, advisor to Luke Hopkins, marijuana advocate, and teller of untruths, mistruths, and far from the truths. (ie. Liar).
    These are the kind of people who want to control the UA’s future and the minds of our young people.
    Please take notice, Governor Dunleavy.

  • Yes indeed, the ‘Task Force’ certainly looks to be stacked with Lefties & Liberals (on a mission to tax our State to prosperity!).

    In your list of four ‘options’ why not consider a 5th …. “NO University System” as I’m quite sure/confident there could be some fantastic savings for the State of AK without the burdensome overhead (current and long-term) of options 1-4.

  • If you go to you’ll see that the UA faculty salaries are where the lions share of the State Budget goes. Big government and more money isn’t the answer to what ails the University of Alaska and Democrats aren’t going to bring the finances into solvency.

  • If the libs/wingnut/dims are concerned with “spending” reductions, maybe they should divest themselves of some of the tens/hundreds of thousands of acres of UA real estate. Instead, the “task force” will, undoubtedly, whine for more and more public funding. The university already owns several huge parcels of land, within the State of Alaska, for what reason is unclear, to me. That makes about as much sense as the “donkey owning the cart”. If you leave it up to the donkey, the cart will go nowhere. The term “education” has become a misnomer for UA in Alaska. It’s all about money, not educating Alaska’s youth (and some adults/seniors). Without the $$ to keep their inane “spending” flowing, they appear to be lost, even though the university owns multiple millions worth of real estate in Alaska, that they will never put to any use except “owning” it, tax free. An exercise in liberal ideology. What a “task force”.

    George Orwell: ” A liberal is a power worshipper without power”.

  • Time for Governor Dunleavy to create his team and break up the university system as it is today and for the future. New names for the university campuses and each individual campus with their own board members, academic programs and a strong effort to ensure that one campus will not infringe on another. Smaller campuses could be asked to go “technical” or stay as an extension of a main campus. Properties and funds to go with the campuses by design of the governor’s team. BREAK-UP the University problem and start a growth pattern for community colleges, junior colleges and technical schools along side a university campus in a regional altitude basis.

    • D K – Great idea. Include a three year decreasing State support graph for each to follow, starting at the current Governor’s Proposed decrement, allocated by historic consumption of State support in the past three years. That means the biggest consumers of State subsidy experience the greatest reduction. Accountability to the local “customer” is more effective than the mixed signals that so often emanate from either central offices in Fairbanks or legislative offices, alone.

  • I hold out little hope of any meaningful change.

  • What? Dick Randolph isn’t on the team? This is a must have, if for no other reason than to keep Terrence Cole from slipping away. A happy, radical Left-winger is not happy unless they are unhappy. And Dick Randolph can keep old Terrence unhappy for quite some time.

    • Who can be unhappy with immortality? LMFAO.

      • Terrence Cole interview at the Birch Hill Cemetery in Fairbanks, opining about his immortality. Yep, saw it on a television clip. An appropriate location for an interview….or a harbinger of things to come?

  • Governor, you want to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic, leave “restructuring” to the crowd who sunk Alaska’s university system into the third-rate relic that it is today.
    They weren’t going to do a damned thing, and told us as much, until you squeezed off their money!
    So, why not contract out university management and administration to an organization, foreign or domestic, recognized for its education excellence instead of its ability to Get Money?
    Sure and contracting-out means Biblically epic weeping and gnashing of teeth among our Elite.
    Forget them! Who do you believe productive Alaskans care more about…
    hard-working folks who managed the university system into an overpriced, underperforming anachronism that appears nowhere on any nationally recognized list of top-quality colleges…
    or children who should be getting a reasonably priced, classical education that prepares them to become literate, productive American citizens?
    Put that way, the choice is simple, no?

  • I can tell you what the University System needs and I don’t need a bunch of academics to help me. Cut spending, reduce costs, streamline, consolidate, and generate. The UA system should be a single headed monster with three limbs total, one in Fairbanks, one in Anchorage, and one in Juneau, there should be no other campuses. If you want to go to college, go to college. If you want to go to a community college, go to an online accredited college.

    Since the UA System is a land grant college system, they should use their land to generate revenue. The UA System did not receive the rightful share of allotted land, this should be remedied, the feds owe UA land.

    Having a task force made up of people who will not affect the change that is needed is simply a waste of time and money.

    • Surely you don’t expect teachers to leave home to take their continuing education classes so they can advance through the columns and steps and get paid more; we simply must have a UA campus in every community.

      • That’s exactly what I expect, if they can’t take the courses online then they can do it during the three months a year they have off. Summer school for teachers, they can improve themselves and look to earn more during the quarter of the year they are not actively earning their salary.

  • Early prediction: No matter what the result is called, seventy-five per cent of any budget reductions will fall on UAA. The University powers and UAF die-hards have resented the growth at UAA for forty years. This is a chance to get even. The results will have nothing to do with educating people; it is all about money, power and status.

  • Folks, let’s stop politicizing our Alaskan institutions. Bickering about who belongs to what political party clouds productive and honest debate. The PFD is a good example of how the debate about calculating the PFD and protecting the Permanent Fund does not follow party lines. We should listen to Alaskans with well-thought ideas from any political party, economic background, etc. — And breaking up UA system would cost MORE money. The goal is making higher education available and affordable for Alaskans. Alaskan graduates are the people who will be leaders and innovators in the future, no matter what political party they or their parents belong to.

    • Every nonbeliever should join up with the Party of Hillary Clinton, Baby Butchery, Fast and Furious, Benghazi, Alynsky-ites, Iranian Cash Gifts, Illegal Immigrant Benefits, Obamacare, Fake News, Global Warming Hysterics, and last but not least, Wannabe Overthrowers of America’s President;…
      the Party whose sterling efforts on behalf of Alaska’s education industry has made it what it is today,…
      and help make higher education affordable and available.
      Not better, just affordable and available, no?

  • Jeff, your ideas are about 40 years too late. All of the radical groups from environmental nutcases to LBGTQ and beyond have moved to the Democrat Party. You will find none of them with Republicans.

  • Can we be sure all UA salaries are covered by state sourced revenues? Research faculty often, mostly, bring revenue into a university to cover their and there students’ salaries at least in part.

    Did you compare other University salaries? It is a competitive world out there! Jere

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