Originally published in The Northern Light
In an effort to tighten the university budget Strategic Pathways is UA President Jim Johnsen’s solution for necessary cuts and changes to UA. Separated into phases, Strategic Pathways will focus on select programs in each phase, allowing for public testimony and careful thought regarding each and every program up for reductions and termination.
Phase I of Strategic Pathways is underway this week and will be submitted for approval to the University Board in Juneau on Sept. 15 and 16. Phase II, which will be evaluating online learning, health, fisheries, human resources, institutional research, university relations and student affairs begins in October.
Phase I of Strategic Pathways surrounds multiple programs, including engineering, business management, procurement, athletics, information technology and teacher’s education.
On Wednesday, Sept. 7, Johnsen held a forum in the Student Union where students, faculty and community members could voice their concerns about implementation of Strategic Pathways phase I.
The forum consisted of many athletes, coaches, students, staff and community members. Head coaches and athletes stood in the crowd and spoke emotionally about their journey with UAA athletics to Johnsen.
“I’m concerned about getting athletics cut, obviously as being on the gymnastics team, but also I’m concerned about my education. With an athletic cut, I can’t stay here if I don’t have an athletic scholarship,” Morgan Ross, a member of the UAA gymnastics team said.
The gymnastics team is going out into the community and working hard in school to show dedication to their team and their university. Out of the 16 members on the team, they have a goal of reaching eight 4.0 grade point averages, serving 800 community hours this semester, attending student-run events as a team, perfect attendance, hosting clinics for local gymnasts, attending all the public forums, each writing a letter to the Board of Regents and writing a letter to NCAA.
Although the forum was meant to be a place for students, staff, and community members to speak about all things with phase I of Strategic Pathways, the discussion was overwhelmingly focused on the possibility of cutting UAA athletics.
“I am most concerned with the preponderance of public backlash that has resulted from the athletics suggested cuts. I recognize it’s a highly visible program and that’s why those cuts are going to garner outrage. I’m concerned that that’s drowning other news, just as significant. Things that would significantly change the educational future for all students,” USUAA President Sam Erickson said.
Jennifer Spencer, one of the few members of the forum who didn’t speak about athletics, voiced concerns with after hours being cut at the library.
“They were able to put in a new door. I was a bit confused as to why we were able to get the door, but cut after hours,” Spencer, a student at UAA studying social work said.
In response to her concerns, Johnsen raised his arms in the air, fist-bumping the sky, and enthusiastically exclaimed “yes!” and nothing more.
“I didn’t know if it was a ‘yeah!’ you’re gonna get your hours back or like a ‘yeah!’ get off the mic. I feel like he kind of understood where I was coming from, but still I wish I would have got some clarity with a yes or a no,” Spencer, said.
One notable member of the forum was Andy Josephson, member of the House of Representatives, who shared his concerns in the forum about UAA’s budget and the engineering program.
“We should have two programs, clearly we are not going to close our new engineering building. UAF has always traditionally had a superior engineering graduate program. I’m actually traveling there on [Sept. 20] to tour the campus and see what going on there. The engineering program has seen massive growth I wouldn’t touch that, I would increase that,” Josephson said.
A soon-to-be graduate of psychology and justice at UAA, Jessamy Silver stumbled upon the forum and decided to voice her concerns for future generations of UAA students to the Johnsen.
“My younger brother is coming in next year and I know he’s actually been starting to consider not coming to UAA at all. He’s looking at the environment now and is not sure he wants to do that,” Silver said.
UAA was just one of three campus visits Johnsen is doing to reach out to the community and receive feedback on phase I of Strategic Pathways. Johnsen will take the feedback to Juneau and share it will the University Board on September 15 and 16