Point of View: Big and small, UA campuses need our support in the recall of governor

“I wonder what the Kachemak Bay Campus will become.”

  • Therese Lewandowski
  • Wednesday, May 13, 2020 1:30am
  • Opinion
Therese Lewandowski

Therese Lewandowski

During my 25 years as an administrative assistant at the University of Alaska’s Kachemak Bay Campus in Homer, I witnessed a profound truth: Alaskans are hungry for in-state higher education. Sadly, with programs all over the state being shuttered, students are now leaving Alaska and taking their bright futures with them.

I spent my entire career watching students walk through the doors of a University of Alaska campus and understand the incredible opportunities that even a small school offers. I invite you to see the journey of my Kachemak Bay Campus as your own — because, truly, it is. Watch through the lens of your own community how my campus flourished in decades past, watch how it fed livelihoods and grew an economy similar to yours.

In the 1980s, Kachemak Bay Campus students earned general education requirements and took courses in the new Apple computer, accounting/bookkeeping, and creative writing. By the 1990s, class offerings included small business management, a boon to Homer’s entrepreneurial populace. The Kenai Peninsula Writer’s Conference in the early 2000s brought in UAA faculty, published writers, agents and editors.

Around 2005, the sciences took off with an RN degree, an AA in nursing, and a CNA certificate that equipped Homer and other Alaskans communities with dozens of health care professionals each year. We also gained a lab with the upper level field biology program “Semester by the Bay” that taught local and Lower 48 students about our coastline. In 2010, the campus built a new learning center and testing lab for GED and ESL programs. Last year, we gained an additional health care degree — a BA in nursing. And let’s not forget the Jump Start program, which allowed high school juniors and seniors to take college classes for dual credit.

All this vibrant, community-building growth came to an abrupt halt in 2019, when Gov. Mike Dunleavy pulled out his famous red pen and threatened to slash the University of Alaska system by 41%. Shock, grief, and anger lead to an unprecedented groundswell of support for higher education. The governor, however, turned a deaf ear. The fact that he got away with “just” $70 million dollars in cuts to such a vital economic driver was a harsh reality that left campuses all over the state scrambling to lay off staff and close programs.

Now it’s 2020 and Gov. Dunleavy has refused to listen, yet again, unleashing more vetoes. I wonder what the Kachemak Bay Campus will become — an online learning center perhaps without students and teachers opening real doors, spare class offerings, and bare-bones staff operations. All we know for certain is that programs built over the years are in jeopardy. Statewide university attendance fell 10% this year and many Alaskans are making plans to attend Outside colleges and universities. Their fear is understandable.

I was always proud of our Kachemak Bay Campus. I witnessed lives change as students walked through its doors to take classes or pursue a degree. Tens of thousands of Alaskans have prospered similarly at other campuses over the years. I felt proud of these campuses in other parts of the state, too. Now I’m heartbroken.

The governor himself has prospered in large part due to the University of Alaska, having received his teacher’s certificate and Master of Education degree at UAF. His education afforded him a variety of good jobs including, now, running our state. If watching Gov. Dunleavy discard our universities after enjoying his own personal gain makes you angry, you’re not alone. Join me and over 50,000 other Alaskans (and counting) in support of recalling Gov. Dunleavy. It’s our university system, not the governor, that deserves an open door to Alaska’s future. If you haven’t yet signed the recall petition in 2020, please do so now.

Finally, congratulations to all 2020 University of Alaska graduates! You’ve completed a degree in trying times and your communities are so proud of you.

Therese Lewandowski has lived in Homer, Alaska, for 38 years.


• Therese Lewandowski has lived in Homer, Alaska, for 38 years.


More in Opinion

Alaska Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer. (Photo courtesy Lt. Governor's office)
Point of View: Thanks to Alaskans for participating in the democratic process

This year has been one for the record books, and this month’s… Continue reading

The logo for South Peninsula Hospital. (Image courtesy South Peninsula Hospital)
Point of View: Help us to help you by being COVID-19 safe

Doctors seek community action in keeping COVID-19 numbers down

Michael O'Meara's cartoon for Nov. 25, 2020.
Letters to the Editor

Thoughts from readers like you

Zoe Stonorov. (Photo courtesy of Zoe Stonorov)
Point of View: Community and isolation

Be kind to each other during the pandemic.

A "hug raincheck" sticker Flo Larson received in the summer of 2020 in Homer, Alaska, made her realize how much she missed human contact during the COVID-19 pandemic, she writes. (Photo courtesy Flo Larson)
Point of View: Thoughts about the pandemic

Last summer, while standing on the boardwalk on the Spit, an acquaintance… Continue reading

Michael O'Meara's cartoon for Nov. 19, 2020.
Letters to the Editor

Thoughts from readers like you

Michael O'Meara's cartoon for Nov. 12, 2020.
Letters to the Editor

Thoughts from readers like you

A Remington Deluxe Model 5 manual typewriter. (Homer News file photo)
Editorial: Let our better angels prevail

It’s over. President Donald Trump’s hope for another four years collapsed last… Continue reading

Michael O'Meara's cartoon for the Nov. 5, 2020, issue.
Letters to the Editor

Thoughts from readers like you

Most Read