University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen is losing support among faculty throughout the university system. The UAA Faculty Senate voted last week to recommend to the Board of Regents that Johnsen be suspended for his efforts to move the university toward a single accreditation, among other reasons. The Kenai Peninsula College Faculty Forum has already cast a vote of no confidence.
Jim Johnsen was scheduled to speak in Kenai the last two weeks, but cancelled both appearances. If he’d stopped by the KPC campus, and there weren’t any public plans for him to do so, it would have been the first visit to the Kenai by the university president in more than half a decade. That is just one reason the KPC faculty forum passed a vote of no confidence for Johnsen in August. The vote wasn’t close. Twenty-three voted no confidence, four voted against and there were seven abstentions. Longtime KPC faculty member Alan Boraas signed the letter.
“We wanted to send a strong message. And that strong message had to do with how the president is influencing an organization of the university in light of budget cuts.”
In its letter, KPC faculty say their vote of no confidence doesn’t have anything to do with Johnsen’s character or integrity. They say a UAA structured as a single entity, with a single accreditation will create a “cumbersome, detached, top-heavy administrative unit...which will create inefficiency...and stifle creativity.”
Right now, UAA and its satellite campuses, including Kenai Peninsula College, are accredited independently from campuses in Fairbanks and Juneau. Boraas says the strategy Johnsen has chosen as a way to deal with Governor Mike Dunleavy’s massive budget cuts shouldn’t come as a surprise. Johnsen commissioned a study on this same plan early in his tenure. That study didn’t find any cost savings in a single accreditation model.
“So this has been his strategy and now he’s trying to influence the Board of Regents. We felt that other options need to be looked at, particularly, the Chancellor’s Model.”
That accounting of the governor’s budget cuts would focus on reducing administrative costs.
“The conflict is with something called Statewide (System Office). Statewide is housed in Fairbanks. It doesn’t produce credit hours, it doesn’t produce research. It administers. The legal department is there and things like that. The Chancellor’s Model would significantly reduce Statewide, significantly reduce a top-down model, creating this consortium between the three universities.”
That office has seen its budget reduced in recent years, right along side the broader university, by 37 percent just between 2014 and 2017. But Boraas says normal cost measurements are difficult to apply to Alaska’s constitutionally-created university.
“(It’s) very difficult to measure education. You can count bodies and credit hours and all of that, but ultimately, what goes on in the classroom or the equivalent of a classroom is that learning process. And you don’t know its outcome until five, ten years down the pike.”
The Board of Regents voted this week to, at least for now, abandon the restructuring plan Johnsen had been pursuing. One of the board’s subcommittees is set to meet Friday in Fairbanks to discuss a restructure of the university.