University of Alaska regents cancel financial exigency declaration

University of Alaska Board of Regents Chair John Davies (left) and UA President Jim Johnsen (right) at the board’s July 30, 2019, meeting. (Photo by Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

The University of Alaska Board of Regents has approved a motion to end financial exigency. The vote overturns a declaration that allowed for quickly eliminating academic programs and firing faculty, even those with tenure.

UA President Jim Johnsen, who recommended the new motion to the board, said that a recent change to university funding from the state was a big factor.

“The material circumstances that were on the ground when the board declared exigency are markedly different material circumstances that we face today,” Johnsen said.

The board of regents declared exigency in July when faced with $130 million in cuts from Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s line-item vetoes to the state operating budget. While cuts to administration and adjunct faculty have occurred this summer, Johnsen said no faculty had been laid off due to exigency.

The governor changed course last week when he signed an agreement with board Chair John Davies. This agreement outlined a three-year plan for cuts instead of one. It also reduced the total amount of cuts to $70 million.

Johnsen said he hopes the efforts to transition the University of Alaska from three separately accredited universities into one will allow for big savings.

“We’re working hard now on a plan that the board of regents directed us to prepare that they’ll be considering at their meeting Sept. 12 and 13. And that plan would involve substantial administrative cost reduction across the university system, and also reduction in the number of duplicative academic units across the university system.”

The vote was 10-0 in favor of canceling the financial exigency declaration. Regent Sheri Buretta was absent.

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