University of Alaska regents rescind idea of merging campuses

A white sign on a light wooden door says  "University of Alaska Board of Regents/Executive Session in Progress/Please do not disturb"
The University of Alaska Board of Regents met in Anchorage for an executive session in September 2014. (Josh Edge/APRN)

University of Alaska Regents will no longer consider a controversial proposed merging of the University of Alaska Southeast and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. In a meeting Wednesday, regents unanimously voted to rescind a June 4 resolution that directed the administration to explore the merger introduced in May by former UA President Jim Johnsen.

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Regent Darroll Hargraves of Wasilla led the charge to rescind, noting abundant and diverse opposition to the merger.

“I want to express appreciation to everyone and every organization that has passed resolutions and written letters supporting their opposition to consolidation,” he said.

The board approved a new measure which calls on UA’s interim president Pat Pitney to work with chancellors and shared governance to analyze unspecified structural changes, and on four specific directives related to enrollment, the fisheries and ocean sciences programs in Juneau, and more collaboration with industry, communities and Tribal organizations.

“And lastly, assure the Alaska College of Education has clear roles and responsibilities for program delivery that address the priorities of teacher education that are transparent and well-integrated,” she said.

The UA system faces up to a $40 million deficit in 2022, and Pitney stressed that there will be other downsizing proposals.

“We have to be smaller,” she said. “When you take a 30% reduction, plus a [more than] $30 million reduction due to COVID. We are going to smaller, but we’re going to be more efficient and have more cross-campus programs.”

In a UA release following the meeting Pitney said “Success of the University of Alaska system is dependent on our communities and businesses embracing their campuses and programs. Future actions will keep the trust of communities and businesses at the top of the list.”