University of Alaska Board of Regents Chair John Davies released a statement Friday afternoon all but dismissing a Thursday letter from University of Alaska Anchorage Faculty Senate citing no confidence in UA President Jim Johnsen and the path the university appears to be heading down.
The letter, addressed to the Board of Regents, set out the Anchorage faculty's concerns regarding the ongoing administrative consolidation and expedited academic review, moves that they categorize as a violation of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities standards that the university must adhere to in order to maintain accreditation.
“Faculty repeatedly raised accreditation concerns associated with consolidation as the discussion moved from the consolidation of UAF, UAA, and UAS Colleges of Education to the discussion concerning single accreditation. Faculty have consistently asked for cost-benefit analysis of these massive changes and yet none have been forthcoming,” the letter reads.
Davies noted in his response that current financial times are complicated but that university leadership is in no way picking favorites.
“The accreditation issues are not about the quality of our three universities — they reflect the difficult circumstances we have faced and reasonable concerns about how decisions to implement further budget reductions will be made," Davies said. "Context is important in understanding these concerns.
"Over the last eight months, the university faced a budget crisis that threatened its very existence," he wrote. "That dire circumstance drove the president’s recommendations and the board’s quick action to declare financial exigency and to explore a possible move to one accreditation. Given the circumstances, on July 30 the board quickly heard about an alternative approach from the chancellors, deliberated, and made a difficult decision to address the crisis. Senior university leadership was expected to support board direction to ensure viability.”
The UAA Faculty Senate passed a resolution Friday officially declaring no confidence in Johnsen's leadership.
This is not the first blow to the level of support vested in university leadership by faculty. In 2017 both UAA and UAF voted no confidence in Johnsen's leadership. The 2017 declaration was sparked by similarly tumultuous times in the university's finances, specifically noting Johnsen's role in the program consolidation system called Strategic Pathways.
The UAF Faculty Senate has not published any official response to the UAA letter. UAF Faculty Senate President-elect Julie Maier noted that the senate will meet Monday to discuss the UAA vote as well as a faculty survey that will be turned into the senate over the weekend.
"We haven't spoken about the UAA declaration as a senate, so I can't speak for the senate on that," Maier said. "But certainly faculty who come and talk to me are definitely very concerned with the leadership of Jim Johnsen, but those are individuals, not everybody."
Maier said the survey response rate "has been very high."
The "no confidence" vote and letter from UAA come just days after university leadership were served a letter from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the accreditation agency responsible for the UA system, warning leadership that the university could be violating its accreditation standards specifically in the case of governance and decision making processes.
The Board of Regents will hold an emergency board meeting to discuss the letter Monday. Regents will meet room 109 of the Butrovich building on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus from 8:30 a.m to 12:30 p.m. The meeting is open to the public. For those unable to attend in person, the meeting will be livestreamed at www.alaska.edu/bor/live.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.