Gov. Mike Dunleavy offered a one-page “plan” to wipe out research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The disastrous set of numbers, which is as irresponsible as anything ever produced by an Alaska governor, calls for cutting $85 million from UA in the fiscal year that began July 1. And $38 million in the fiscal year that begins next summer.
Of the total, $35 million of the cut would come from research.
The document is dated July 19, based on data provided by the university July 18, so it was created overnight, which means that no real work went into the effort to remake the university in Dunleavy’s image.
That’s probably why Dunleavy didn’t release it when he bragged to reporters Thursday about his new multiyear plan. He never said his master plan was produced in one day and it consisted of one page.
The university released the document Friday in advance of a meeting Tuesday at which the survival and future shape of the university will be debated.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks is Dunleavy’s chief target. He cites misleading and false statistics, which has become standard practice under Dunleavy. If carried out, the Dunleavy master plan would mean that tens of millions of federal research dollars would leave Alaska along with faculty members and researchers who will be eagerly recruited by universities Outside.
It’s not clear at this point whether the document proves that Dunleavy is unaware of how research and the rest of the university is funded or whether he simply doesn’t care about the facts. The same can be said about temporary budget director Donna Arduin and policy expert Mike Barnhill, the latter charged with leading the attack on higher education.
The state general funds that Dunleavy wants to eliminate for UAF research are required to qualify for federal funds. The claim that “private, corporate and federal funds” can replace $35 million in research support statewide is impossible.
This cavalier approach to the future of the University of Alaska represents a staggering level of incompetence by Dunleavy, the candidate who promised not to make any UA budget cuts.
Elsewhere on his master plan, Dunleavy says the university can raise $9 million in “sales, fundraising” to continue sports at UAA and UAF. That’s not going to happen. The universities have tried.
He also says the UA Museum of the North can raise $1 million more in admission fees, KUAC can raise $792,000 in donations and the UAF Small Business Development Center can raise $959,000 in fees.
All of these are impractical ideas, tucked into the overnight plan with no analysis.
The UA Regents are charged with setting priorities for the university, not the governor. All of these decisions are to be made by the regents, who should reject these specifics and give real thought to what comes next, trying to mitigate the worst parts of the Dunleavy disaster.
Dermot Cole is a longtime Alaskan, an author of several history books, and a former Daily News-Miner staff columnist who now writes an occasional column on Alaska politics and history. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.