University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen is seeking a clean slate. The embattled university president of about four years shared a video statement with the university community Wednesday acknowledging his role in what he referred to as the breakdown in unity across the university system.
"I've had some time to reflect on my part in how things have fractured over the last few weeks," Johnsen said in a solemn tone. "And I think what I've learned there is, one, that I sort of stayed in that crisis mode that I was in over the spring and the summer, trying to fight off that huge budget cut, and I didn't adjust to our new, still urgent, reality."
Johnsen noted his need to empower others across the university system in an effort to follow along with a message of inclusivity that the Board of Regents recognized as necessary and lacking during recent governance decisions.
"While that was a hard thing to do while facing that big budget ax, after the agreement there was an opportunity to reach out and involve more people," Johnsen said. "No one person, including me, has all the answers. And again, while we are under pressure, often leaders do step up and come up with approaches and plans to deal with challenges and crises.
"But I think at this point, we've got time to take a breath, think about things, figure out how we're going to bring more people in, how we're going to empower people and how we're going to develop a plan that's clear, that people can support and that'll move this university forward," he said.
Johnsen's video statement comes after weeks of apparent infighting between campuses, culminating last week with the University of Alaska Anchorage Faculty Senate passing a resolution of no confidence in Johnsen's leadership.
While Johnsen's words were considered a step in the right director, UAA Faculty Senate President Scott Downing said he would like to see Johnsen and the Board of Regents "walk the talk" a little before his mind can be changed.
"I think our concern is still pretty high. It's a positive step to acknowledge some of the shortcomings of the leadership, but I think he's going to need to restore confidence in his leadership and demonstrate ongoing commitment to the inclusive governance processes moving forward," Downing said in a Wednesday phone interview. "In addition, I think he really needs to recognize the chancellors' authority and responsibilities as chief executive officers of these individual universities."
Downing said the UAA Faculty Senate was encouraged by some of the steps taken by the Board of Regents during its emergency meeting held Monday to discuss communication and governance failures with accreditation agency Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
"We were heartened by the motion by Regent (Karen) Perdue to stop discussion of the single accreditation. Also whatever processes going forward there, making sure there are good cost-benefit analyses," Downing said. "We also thought it was positive that they put an end to the statewide academic review process.."
The UAF Faculty Senate has not released any official response to the UAA resolution of no confidence.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.