What others say: Make good on UA system’s strengths

  • Wednesday, July 22, 2015 3:17pm
  • Opinion

Early this month, Jim Johnsen, the presumptive next president of the University of Alaska system, traveled to Juneau.

It’s a tough time to be stepping into the system’s top job. Faced with a multibillion-dollar statewide deficit, cost-cutting lawmakers have targeted the University of Alaska. At best, the university’s funding will remain flat — a de facto cut when contracts require pay increases for many employees.

In Juneau, Johnsen said his vision for the University of Alaska includes a “focus on distinctive strength” at each of the system’s campuses. In Fairbanks, that would mean a focus on mining and engineering. At Anchorage, aviation technology and the Institute of Social and Economic Research will take priority.

What will this mean for Juneau?

Johnsen pointed to the University of Alaska Southeast teacher education program as a distinctive strength here.

We agree that establishing a focus is important for each of the university’s campuses, but how that focus is implemented will matter a great deal. Will it involve cutting everything but that focus? Or will it involve something as simple as ensuring each campus uses the same curriculum and materials as the others, saving money through efficiency? We would hate to see UAS becoming nothing more than a teachers’ college, valuable only to a niche audience.

We have already seen the loss of UAS’ ceramics program, an institution that brightened Juneau with art, and we worry about the future even as we understand that cuts must be made.

Why not take advantage of the natural resources Juneau offers — the icefield, the open water — and include a focus on the marine environment and the outdoors? UAS’ diesel maintenance program is a good one, and feeds our local industry.

We also remind UA officials that regardless of their decision, the public must be kept informed. Earlier this month, reporter Katie Moritz wrote about one Juneau resident who was stunned to learn that her years of preparation for a dental program were for naught because the program had been canceled weeks before she was to begin.

The UA system must involve the public to avoid further cases like this.

Furthermore, we expect the Legislature in the coming year to examine new sources of revenue. The University of Alaska should do the same. UA has not yet made the recruitment of international students a priority, but that overlooks Alaska’s great geographic advantage.

Alaska is equidistant from Europe, Asia and the East Coast of North America. The university system should take advantage of that fact, just as the state’s airports have. They’ve become transshipment and refueling stations that serve world commerce. UA could become an international destination for learning and education.

As Johnsen prepares to become UA’s president, we hope that his focus strategy will not overlook ways to grow the university, not simply preserve its core specialties.

— The Juneau Empire,

July 22

More in Opinion

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink promotes getting immunized with the flu shot this winter. (Photo courtesy Alaska Department of Health and Social Services)
Immunize when you winterize

An annual flu shot plus the COVID-19 vaccine protects Alaskans and our health care system, too.

(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Dunleavy’s first act as governor was unconstitutional

That’s according to a ruling by Senior U.S. District Judge John Sedwick.

This Aug. 3, 2021, photo shows Juneau International Airport.  The Federal Aviation Administration shared recommendations on Thursday for improving aviation safety in the state. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: How the FAA will improve the margin of aviation safety in Alaska

Alaska depends on aviation more than any other state…

Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Perspective of an educator in a ‘high-risk’ group, part 2

During some of the darkest days of my time in ICU, it was obvious where we all live is a special place.

Lawmakers havereturned to the Alaska State Capitol for a fourth special session. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Revenues should be determined before more PFD spending

The governor believes the dividend drives the entire calculation. Sadly, he has it backwards

Ronnie Leach. (Photo provided)
Point of View: For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, #weareresilient

At the onset of COVID-19, we expanded our services in a way to ensure COVID-19 consciousness.

Rep. Don Young talks during a June 2021 interview with the Empire. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion:Where’s Don Young when America needs him?

Once upon a time, avoiding political controversy was completely out of character for Young.

Peter Zuyus
Voices of the Peninsula: Seniors appreciate vaccination efforts

To those who have worked to encourage vaccination we say: Be proud, you are, in fact, saving lives.

Jackson Blackwell (courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: Carbon dividends are the bipartisan climate solution

By levying a gradually increasing price on carbon, U.S. emissions will be slashed by 50% in 15 years.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy holds a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Dunleavy: Facts Matter

Political opportunists care more about spreading political untruths than accepting the facts.

Steve Hughes. (Photo provided)
Voices of the Peninsula: We are all victims of COVID-19

It is disturbing to hear, as a triage nurse, the many reasons cited for not getting a vaccine that are based on misinformation.

Opinion: LGBTQ+ Alaskans deserve respect and dignity

Like every state that lacks equality, we need federal protection.