UA Board of Regents Meeting

UA President Jim Johnsen, left, listens to comments being made via videoconference during a special University of Alaska Board of Regents meeting to consider declaration of financial exigency Monday afternoon, July 15, 2019, in the UAF Butrovich Building. On July 22, 2019, university leadership declared exigency. The big question everyone is asking now is what will happen to the university system.

The University of Alaska Board of Regents unanimously passed a motion Monday afternoon approving the transmittal of a response letter to the university’s accreditation agency regarding the university’s communication and governance standards. 

The letter is a response to a September communication from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities warning university leadership to improve governance, communication and decision-making processes to adhere to accreditation standards.

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 letter communicated central principals, Regent Chair John Davies explained, that will guide the regents in their effort to be more inclusive throughout the remainder of the decision making regarding the governor’s budget cuts.

“Ensuring that our governance structure is clear and functioning properly is an ongoing task to which the board and our institutional leadership is fully committed,” Davies wrote in the board’s letter of response. “The board is fully committed to clear and appropriate division of authority and responsibility between the system and its institutions. A properly functioning relationship between the system and the institutions is essential, particularly in a time of scarce resources.”

The board’s three-page response letter will be sent to the commission along with individual responses from the three university chancellors.

The regents will not make changes to the chancellors’ letters, Davies noted during Monday’s meeting, adding that the chancellors responses are their own thoughts and not those of the board.

All three of the chancellors’ reports outlined the plans of each official to continue transparent communication with the students, staff and faculty of the individual universities.

“Chancellor White and his executive team have established many pathways for communication, dialogue and feedback. For example, the chancellor and provost meet regularly with leadership of faculty, staff and student governance groups for an open dialogue as well as full governance bodies for faculty, staff and students,” the University of Alaska Fairbanks report read. “Information is broadly shared through websites, email, video, social media and list serves as well as the Cornerstone campus newsletter that is distributed to students, staff and faculty. Chancellor White regularly hosts open forum events to share information and invite ideas from faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members.” 

University of Alaska Anchorage Chancellor Cathy Sandeen and University of Alaska Southeast Chancellor Rick Caulfield expressed similar goals. 

The board of regents will meet again Nov. 7-8 in Fairbanks to continue discussing how to move forward with cost cutting measures in a more methodical and inclusive way, Davies said at the end of Monday’s meeting. 

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