To the editor: “The times they are a-changing.” So wrote Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan in the 1960s. People don’t like change! Witness our governor and our president, who ran on platforms of change, and then when each surprises us by keeping his promises, doing what he said he would do if elected, like the Red Queen we cry, “Off with his head!” (impeach, recall).
The University of Alaska, from which I retired, is an instrumentality of the state and is now facing changing times that remind me of the end of another era. In 1989, I had the privilege to travel as a citizen ambassador with People-to-People International to former communist countries as the Berlin Wall was dismantled. In a meeting with our East Berlin counterparts facing drastic cuts in state support for the university, one remarked, “We have all these people to be paid!” Times change, how to pay all these people was no longer a relevant question. The critically important question was “What is the mission of this university? How many of which type of people are needed, and where, to accomplish that mission?”
Focus on the mission. That was the mantra during my military service as a nurse in the Vietnam War, stationed at a troop medical unit. Often I asked those under my command, “What is our mission here?” Some gave a predictable general answer of “To defend the Constitution of the United States and the American way of life.” But the times demanded a specific answer: What is our mission this week? Today? Right now? That is what we must accomplish, our mission.
Those are the same questions now for the University of Alaska: What is our mission? I have full confidence in the UA Board of Regents and President Jim Johnsen, all smart people, to do what is necessary. It is time to admit that “the times they are a-changing.” We need to change, too.