The University of Alaska will be laying off 48 human resources employees in a recently announced system-wide overhaul of the university’s HR departments. Notices were issued Monday but are not set to go into effect until September. 

UA President Jim Johnsen announced the changes in an email to university employees Monday and in which he pushed a “redesign” versus “merger” message amid concern within the university community over the mass layoff.  

“This is not a merger — it is a complete redesign based on best practices in higher education, which will lead to increased efficiencies that ultimately serve you better,” Johnsen wrote in the email. “We want to make our search for new talent more efficient and our onboarding of new employees more effective.”

According to UA Spokeswoman Robbie Graham, there are currently 51 HR positions in the university system. Of those, 48 were given layoff notices; 14 of those positions were at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Graham noted that the university will “see cost savings through some downsizing of the number of directors and the efficiencies realized by the changes,” but maintained that the impetus for the revamp is in “creating efficiencies and providing better customer service” within the department. 

State funding for the university hangs in the balance as the House and Senate continue discussions of the operating budget in a conference committee this week. Amid looming uncertainty, the UA Board of Regents are holding a special meeting in Anchorage on Thursday to continue their own budget discussions.

The new HR structure has diverted from traditional offices to five specific areas of focus made up of operations, talent acquisition, transition and benefits, labor and employee engagement, and organization development.

Graham said that the cost savings found from the department changes will likely be found by hiring less director positions, which tend to be more expensive. Graham added that some of the position descriptions are still being finalized, so she is currently unsure how the positions will be allocated, noting that some will still be placed at each campus but many may not be. 

“Some will be place-based, but many positions will not be, meaning they can do their job from any location,” Graham wrote in a Tuesday email to the News-Miner.

The Board of Regents will meet from 10 a.m-3 p.m. Thursday at the University of Alaska Anchorage in the Edward Lee Gorsuch Commons Building, Room 107. The meeting is open to the public. For those who are unable to attend in person, the meeting will be livestreamed at alaska.edu/bor/live.

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