UAF campus

The setting sun illuminates buildings on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus in April 2019.  

Less than a month after sending warning shots over the University of Alaska leadership’s bow over what they saw as impending governance violations, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities has answered to the university’s mea culpa response — sent last week — commending leadership on a shift to the right track with regards to open communication with all stakeholders amid structural and budgetary changes.

“It is clear that the board of regents, system office and institutions are moving forward collectively to clarify the roles and responsibilities throughout the system,” NWCCU President Sonny Ramaswamy wrote. “You are also creating opportunities for inclusive dialogue regarding the future structure of the University of Alaska System as you develop a path forward to solve the funding and enrollment challenges that threaten the state’s institutions of higher learning.”

The regent’s letter — which the agency responded to Friday — is a response to a September communication from the NWCCU warning university leadership to improve governance, communication and decision-making processes to adhere to accreditation standards.

The three chancellors of the UA campuses in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau also sent responses to the NWCCU last week. 

Regents discussed at a recent meeting the necessary shifts in communication and governance needed to create a “more inclusive” decision-making process as the university continues to grapple with large-scale budget cuts handed down from Gov. Mike Dunleavy earlier this year.

The agency’s Friday response was sent to UA President Jim Johnsen, the board of regents and all three chancellors.

Regent Chair John Davies celebrated the response in a statement released Friday afternoon. 

“It’s good to know we are headed in the right direction,” Davies said. “We appreciate the commission’s prompt response and look forward to our Board of Regents meeting next week and the work ahead with our chancellors and governance leaders.”

The board of regents is scheduled to meet again in Fairbanks on Thursday and Friday to discuss fiscal 2021 funding and campus-level program reviews. The meetings — held in the Butrovich building on the UAF campus — will be open to the public and livestreamed at www.alaska.edu/bor/live.

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.