UA Regents Approve Discontinuation of Four UAA Athletics Teams, Address Budget Challenges
During its full board meeting September 10, the University of Alaska Board of Regents agreed to maintain men’s and women’s nordic (cross-country skiing) programs based on a revised recommendation from UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen. The regents approved the elimination of men’s hockey, women’s gymnastics, and men’s and women’s downhill (Alpine) skiing at UAA with the caveat that the board will consider reestablishing the teams if supporters raise enough private money by February 2021. This decision reduces UAA athletics to eleven sports teams. The recommendation is expected to save UAA approximately $2.2 million in FY22.
“These decisions aren’t taken lightly, but dealing with $120 million reduction in base funding and the costs and revenues associated with each program, they are a necessary consideration as we go forward,” said UA Interim President Pat Pitney.
“If you look at how much has come out of academics and administration proportionally to support our academic and research mission, and how little has come out of athletics, it’s hard for me as the chancellor responsible for the entire UAA university, to justify protecting one aspect to that level,” UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen told the regents.
The athletics decision was a component of the discussion on the university’s budget challenges.
“Adjusted for inflation, the UA state budget is now back to 1997-98 state funding levels,” Pitney said. “But we’re not in survival mode. We are keeping a solid core foundation. This university is solid and strong. It has quality programs. We’re here to stay because the state is so vitally dependent on those engineering and business graduates, healthcare graduates, teachers from the university, and all other VoTech and Master’s programs.”
The university is planning for a $257 million FY22 state operating budget, a reduction of $20 million from FY21. Assuming the compact with Governor Dunleavy continues through FY22, the university’s state Unrestricted General Fund base budget will be more than 30 percent less than in FY14.
The regents also discussed UA’s need for capital budget funding for facilities, especially deferred maintenance.
It is critical that UA, through its programs, demonstrates it is central to our communities and state for our ongoing economic recovery, Pitney said. UA is focusing on meeting student needs so they are ready to fill the state’s workforce demands — especially in the jobs that are being, and will be created as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The university is going to be smaller but focused on the programs that deliver to more students who also support the university through tuition,” Pitney said. “We will keep and enhance our core programs and maintain our high quality. These are essential to grow enrollment, research, our service to Alaska, our partnerships and our philanthropy.”
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The Board also discussed Title IX compliance and the recent conclusion of the Voluntary Resolution Agreement with the Office for Civil Rights and the enormous amount of work that the universities have made to focus on improving the campus climate, safety, training and prevention efforts throughout the UA System.
Pitney addressed the current social justice movements across the country and the important work the university must face to ensure that the university addresses racial inequality. She addressed the letter she received from members of Racial Justice for UA and concerns over a culture of racism and anti-Blackness.
“I will sit down with representatives from that group to work for a culture that is seen across the board as positive, and a culture of anti-racism,” Pitney said. “We are committed to racial justice and diversity.”
In other action, the board approved adding language to its bylaws designating the chancellors as the CEOs of the institutions they lead. The additions provide greater clarity by summarizing leadership authorities in one place. Amendments implement concise statements of the roles and responsibilities and campus chancellors, supplemented by delegations found elsewhere in system policy.
The Board also heard updates on its land grant initiative, plans for further reviews of academic programs and the results of how each university is teaching out those students affected by the deletion of 43 academic programs.
The University of Alaska Board of Regents is an 11-member volunteer board, appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Alaska Legislature. Members serve an eight-year term, with the exception of the student regent who serves a two-year term. The Board was established through the Alaska Constitution and is responsible for University of Alaska policy and management through the university president.
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Alaska Problems Require Alaska Solutions
On January 16, a fire destroyed the water plant and washeteria in the southwest Alaska village of Tuluksak. For the village of about 350 people, it was a devastating blow. The water plant was the only source of drinking water in the village, in which the primarily Yup’ik residents lack indoor plumbing and rely on honey buckets, not uncommon in the flat, swampy region.