University of Alaska regents vote to end financial exigency

UA Board of Regents chair John Davies (left) and UA President Jim Johnsen at the July 30, 2019 UA Board of Regents meeting (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

The University of Alaska Board of Regents unanimously approved a motion to end financial exigency. The vote overturns a declaration that allowed for quickly eliminating academic programs and firing faculty, even those with tenure.

UA President Jim Johnsen, who recommended the new motion to the board, says that a recent change to university funding from the state was a big factor.

“The material circumstances that were on the ground when the board declared exigency are markedly different material circumstances that we face today. You know, from a $136 million reduction in one year to $25 million in one year.”

The board of regents declared exigency in July when faced with an unprecedented budget cut of $136 million from Governor Dunleavy. While cuts to administration and adjunct faculty have occurred this summer, Johnsen says no faculty had been laid off due to exigency.

The governor changed course last week when he signed an agreement with Board chair John Davies. This agreement outlined a three-year plan for cuts instead of one. It also halved the total amount of cuts to $70 million.

Johnsen says he hopes the efforts to transition the University of Alaska from three separately accredited universities to one will allow for big savings.

“We’re working hard now on a plan that the Board of Regents directed us to prepare that they’ll be considering at their meeting September 12 and 13. And that plan would involve substantial administrative cost reduction across the University system and also reduction in the number of duplicative academic units across the university system.”

The vote was 10-0 in favor of ending financial exigency. Regent Sheri Buretta was absent.