University of Alaska students rally in front of the Alaska State Capitol on March 18, 2019. (Mollie Barnes | Juneau Empire)

University of Alaska students rally in front of the Alaska State Capitol on March 18, 2019. (Mollie Barnes | Juneau Empire)

Students protest proposed budget cuts to university

The university is facing a 41 percent reduction to its budget

Students from the University Alaska system held a rally Monday in protest of the governor’s proposed budget cuts.

“We wanted to use this opportunity to have everyone all together, because we’re all spread out across the state,” said Teresa Wrobel, a student at UA Anchorage who is also a senator in the UAA student government, in an interview with the Empire. “I think we hear a lot from a lot of different groups about how education is important, but I think we need to focus as well on the student voices — those who will be affected.”

[‘Justice shouldn’t create more victims’: Former prisoners preach patience for SB 91]

Wrobel was part of the group that led a rally in front of the Capitol on the unusually warm afternoon. There were about 50 people attending the rally, but some people on Twitter noted that the university’s spring break schedule might have affected attendance.

The university is facing a 41 percent reduction to its budget due to state budget cuts proposed in Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s fiscal year 2020 budget. University System President Jim Johnsen said he would have no choice but to propose to the Board of Regents deep cuts for every UA campus including community campuses, major reductions to faculty and staff, and reduction and elimination of educational programs and services across the state if this operating budget passes as is.

“We don’t have to accept these cuts,” said Audrey Kirby, a student from UA Fairbanks. “They won’t hear us if we don’t do anything. …With a budget cut of this magnitude, it will make it almost impossible for anyone to have an experience like mine.”

James McLean, the vice president of The Associated Students of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, questioned why the cuts were targeting education. Education is one of the largest areas of the state operating budget, but other cuts have been proposed too, including the Alaska Marine Highway System, Medicaid, the Power Cost Equalization fund and others.

“We are going to fight for what we believe the University of Alaska should have,” he said. “What we’re doing here as the coalition of student leaders holding this rally, we’re going to the legislators and we’re forcing them to question themselves and to answer our questions as to why this is going on. And we’re showing them that we’re not just going to sit down and be docile while they cut our funds. … We have a right to an affordable education.”

Trystin Luhr also spoke at the rally, comparing Alaska to a boat that is “taking on water.”

“At the end of the day we need smart, well-informed Alaskans to maintain this ship that we call the last frontier,” he said. “I hope to see our future continue. I hope to able to work on this boat called Alaska.”

He’s a student at UA Southeast from Petersburg, and said he wants to be an Alaska State Trooper after graduation.

“One of the biggest contributors to crime in Alaska is poor education,” Luhr said. “It’s universally known that a poorly educated population is more likely to make crime. It’s awful. … At the end of the day a well-educated, well-informed and active populace is what we need. I implore our great leaders to do all that they can to say no to the current budget, to fund the universities and make our future possible.”


• Contact reporter Mollie Barnes at mbarnes@juneauempire.com.


More in News

Daily school district COVID-19 risk levels: Aug. 3

Risk levels are based on COVID cases reported in a community and determine how schools will operate.

A fire crew can be seen here at a containment line for the Swan Lake Fire in this undated photo. (Courtesy Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management)
Fire crew’s departure highlights different wildfire season

With fire season winding down, state sends firefigthers south

Photos by Jeff Helminiak / Peninsula Clarion 
                                Part of a newly installed interagency public lands display at the Kenai Municipal Airport.
Kenai airport gets public lands display

The murals stretch from floor to ceiling in the ticketing area of the newly remodeled airport.

File
Seward extends emergency restrictions

Emergency ordinance 2020-009 was adopted unanimously by the city council on July 27.

COVID-19. (CDC)
State reports 1 new COVID death, no new peninsula cases

The person who died was an Anchorage man who was in his 70s.

Image via Kenai Peninsula Borough School District
Daily school district COVID-19 risk levels: Aug. 1

Risk levels are based on COVID cases reported in a community and determine how schools will operate.

Rep. Gary Knopp is seen in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy Jayme Jones)
Lawmakers remember colleague killed in crash

State Rep. Gary Knopp, who represented Kenai-Soldotna area, was one of seven people killed Friday.

COVID week in review: Cases climb; state reports new deaths

18 new hospitalizations and four deaths associated with COVID-19 were reported this week.

A screengrab of Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintedent John O’Brien announcing in a Thursday, July 30, 2020 video that masks will be required in school buildings this fall, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Schools to require masks, face coverings

Masks are now mandatory for all staff and students in third grade and higher.

Most Read