Dan Joling / Associated Press                                Regent Karen Perdue, center, speaks at an emergency meeting of the University of Alaska Board of Regents on July 22 in Anchorage. Regents voted 10-1 to declare a financial exigency, allowing administrators to expedite layoffs of tenured faculty in the face of severe budget issues.

Dan Joling / Associated Press Regent Karen Perdue, center, speaks at an emergency meeting of the University of Alaska Board of Regents on July 22 in Anchorage. Regents voted 10-1 to declare a financial exigency, allowing administrators to expedite layoffs of tenured faculty in the face of severe budget issues.

Financial crisis opens University of Alaska up to layoffs

ANCHORAGE — The University of Alaska Board of Regents decided Monday they could no longer wait to see if the Alaska Legislature will bail them out from severe budget cuts inflicted by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

Meeting in an emergency session, regents voted 10-1 to allow administrators to expedite layoffs of tenured faculty, end programs and take other measures to cut expenses.

Declaring the financial emergency is a terrible blow to the university’s reputation, said regent President John Davies. Faculty considering a job would think twice about accepting one, he said, but at this point, the university’s financial situation is not a secret.

“The national headlines are already out there,” he said. “Those faculty members are already choosing not to come. Students are choosing not to come.”

Moving forward without action was no longer a choice, Davies said.

“We have to, in effect, plan for the worst and hope for the best, at this point,” he said after the vote.

Dunleavy, a first-term Republican governor who took office in December, used his line-item veto pen on June 28 to slash more than $400 million from the state operating budget approved by the Legislature.

About one-third of his vetoes were directed at the university. Along with a $5 million cut made by legislators, the university saw its state funding fall by $136 million, a cut of 41% that took effect three days later with the start of the new fiscal year.

That translated into reductions of $11 million each month for the next year. Continuing to delay a decision on how to reduce expenses would compound the problem and require greater cuts later, said UA President Jim Johnsen. Layoffs are inevitable because most of the budget is devoted to people, he said.

The regents could vote on what to cut in September.

Johnson asked regents for direction on how to plan and gave them three alternatives: cut entire campuses, cut each campus proportionately, or come up with a new university structure that makes strategic cuts with fewer programs offered at fewer locations, larger class sizes and consolidated administration.

Regents opted to receive more information on the latter two and will meet again July 30.

The university has main campuses in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau and 13 satellite campuses. Proportionate reductions would hit UA Fairbanks, where most research facilities are located, with a $67 million reduction. UA Anchorage, which serves the most students, would see a $47 million reduction. UA Southeast would be in line for a $10 million reduction.

A majority of state lawmakers two weeks ago voted in favor of overriding Dunleavy vetoes but could not muster a three-fourths majority required to override. Legislators are currently meeting in a special session.

Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, voted to override, while Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, attended the special session in Wasilla and did not attend the Juneau vote — in effect, a no vote.

Override supporters vowed to try to restore university money and hoped public pressure would change the minds of override opponents.

Regent Lisa Parker cast the only vote against the declaration. She would not comment afterward, citing regent policy that says only the board president could speak for the board.

Regent Karen Perdue said the public needs to understand how short the time is to make major institutional decisions while minimizing harm to students.

“We not only have a moral obligation to students, we have a legal obligation to students in relation to our accreditation,” Perdue said. “When you think about students who are halfway through their course of study, and they’ve already spent a lot of money, and invested in us, to give them such a short notice, and finality, is just not acceptable.”

• This is an Associated Press report by Dan Joling.

More in News

Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink address members of the media during a remote press conference on Monday, March 1 in Alaska. (Screenshot)
State to receive 8,900 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Alaska continues to lead the nation in vaccine rollout

Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, listens as Rep. Zack Fields, D-Anchorage, delivers an apology on Friday, March 5, 2021, for earlier remarks. Vance called for a Sense of the House vote to rebuke Fields for his comments. (Peter Segall/The Juneau Empire via AP, Pool)
Alaska House condemns comments about lawmaker’s appearance

Sense of the House sponsored by Rep. Sarah Vance

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: IFQ permits go by mail only on request

Pandemic work conditions prevented mass mailings of IFQ permits

Homer News file photo
Homer High School.
School announcements

School district risk level update and upcoming events

This image compilation shows the latest winners of the Mariners on the Move award from Homer High School. (Image courtesy Paul Story)
Mariners on the Move

In the latest installment of awarding Homer High School students with a… Continue reading

Sue Post and Jim Levine walk across a field to observe northern lights on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Diamond Ridge near Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Aurora dazzles over Homer

Good viewing was seen on Tuesday, Wednesday

Mike Chihuly and Crosson on a snowshoe outing in a blizzard in Ninilchik. (Photo courtesy Mike Chihuly)
Ninilchik author explores bird dog hunting in latest work

The book features photos and recollections of more than 40 years hunting Alaska game birds with dogs.

Tracy Silta (left) administers a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to Melissa Linton during a vaccine clinic at Soldotna Prep School on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
District vaccine clinic sees large turnout

The clinic was targeted specifically to KPBSD staff

Most Read