UA faculty alliance seeks to turn UA president's job into figurehead

In the Alaska realm of dumb ideas, I’d include this resolution from the University of Alaska faculty alliance.

The faculty alliance voted 8-0, with one abstention, to turn the UA president’s job into that of a figurehead. This would also weaken the UA Board of Regents and make it harder to create education policies that are best for the entire state.

It’s been clear for a long time that faculty members are upset with UA President Jim Johnsen over his handling of the budget crisis created by Gov. Mike Dunleavy. Rather than focus on the source of the problem, they have chosen to direct their energies entirely against Johnsen.

But it seems to me that anyone holding the UA president’s job right now would be in an impossible position. It’s not at all clear yet how the university is going to deal with its budget and Dunleavy’s unreasonable demands. I believe the focus should be on overturning the so-called “compact” Dunleavy forced on the institution.

What we have instead is more in-fighting, which strengthens Dunleavy’s hand.

The faculty alliance, with three members from each of the main campuses, wants the UA Board of Regents to redefine Johnsen’s job so that he would have almost no power over the University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Alaska Anchorage and the University of Alaska Southeast.

They seem to believe the chancellors would be in a superior position to deal with the Dunleavy disaster, but there is no reason to believe that. As soon as the chancellors identify major programs to be cut, the same objections will surface.

Under the faculty plan the president would appoint the chancellors and be able to fire them. Other than that the president’s main job would be to ask that get along with each other.

Some of the proponents are claiming the three chancellors and the president would be equals under this plan. That will make the job of the UA regents that much harder and lead to a great lack of accountability and greater in-fighting.

Instead of being “responsible for the efficient operation and management” of all aspects of the university, the faculty want the president to “promote the efficient operation and management” of the university system. He would “facilitate cooperation and collaboration” among UAA, UAF and UAS. This will work perfectly until the moment that it doesn’t.

How would giving the chancellors more power to compete directly with the Legislature for their own campuses lead to better decisions for all Alaskans? It wouldn’t.

The president would no longer be “chief executive officer of the university.” The president would be “chief executive officer of the university system administration.” That is the portion of the university that provides statewide operations on such things as information technology, institutional research, land management, human resources, computer networking, insurance, etc.

There is no point in continuing to have a president of the University of Alaska under the organizational scheme promoted by the faculty group. And it may be unconstitutional.

The Alaska Constitution says: “The University of Alaska shall be governed by a board of regents. The regents shall be appointed by the governor, subject to confirmation by a majority of the members of the legislature in joint session. The board shall, in accordance with law, formulate policy and appoint the president of the university. He shall be the executive officer of the board.”

Dermot Cole14 Comments