Welcome to the Grapevine

The Grapevine is administered by the UAF Marketing and Communications Department and was designed to dispel rumors, clarify misconceptions and clear up misunderstandings about UAF topics of a general nature to improve communication between the administration and the UAF community.

Many times departments are able to quickly resolve an issue and we post the solution to the problem here as well. Thank you for your suggestions.

Submit your question or suggestion here.

As always, building and facilities issues that need attention should be forwarded to dispatch@fs.uaf.edu or reported directly to 474-7000. Unsafe conditions should be reported to Environmental Health, Safety and Risk Management here.

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Aug. 29, 2014 -- Cleanup outside the Wood Center


Is the work outside the Wood Center going to be done before students get here this weekend?


From Marianne Freelong, Customer Service Manager of Facilities Services

There is some cleanup work still to be done and that will be completed by this weekend.

Aug. 27, 2014 -- Microwave in the Wood Center


It would be really nice if there were a public-use microwave in the new upstairs of Wood Center, accessible from the seating area.


From Lydia Anderson, Director of the Wood Center

Thank you for your suggestion, however, we've already considered it and decided not to include one. We had one upstairs for years and finally had to remove it. It became a health code issue because students don't clean up after themselves and dining didn't have the staff/time to keep it clean throughout the day. ASUAF has one for student use in their offices.

Aug. 25, 2014 -- Printing Services


Now that Printing Services will cease to exist, is there a preferred provider for letterhead and business cards? Also, who will be in charge of maintenance and supplies for all of the copiers that were under their care?


From Raaj Kurapati, Associate Vice Chancellor of Financial Services & Business Operations

Printing Services will continue to deliver services through Dec. 31, 2014. We are currently working on an RFP to establish a select group of entities which can continue to provide printing services to the university after Dec. 31, 2014, including letterhead and business cards.​

The ​copy pool will continue to operate as a university service. We have not decided where such will be housed after Dec. 31, 2014 but regardless of where it ultimately resides, we do not expect an interruption in services currently provided to customers.​

Aug. 25, 2014 -- BlackBoard assessment


I hear UAF Faculty Senate leaders are informing UAF Faculty that BlackBoard is being replaced. Is this true? Are we replacing BlackBoard? What are we replacing it with? When is this happening and why has there been zero communication about it? Blackboard is very important to many students and faculty. A change of this magnitude should not be taken lightly.


From Martha Mason, UAF Chief Information Officer & Executive Director of User Services

Last year, the UAF Faculty Senate did run a small pilot in cooperation with UAF eLearning to see what the current Learning Management System (LMS) environment was like. That was an exploratory pilot only.

At the request of the Statewide Academic Council, the UAF Faculty Senate is participating in a system wide Learning Management System review. This review will assess whether BlackBoard Learn is meeting the needs of UAF and evaluate other viable LMS systems.

At this time it is premature to state that BlackBoard will be replaced as that has not been determined. The Learning Management System review will be launched this fall and will be a faculty driven activity.

Aug. 25, 2014 -- Streaming classes during the work day


I think it would be wonderful if the classes that are only offered in the middle of the day could be streamed online. That way, those who work could still attend (sometimes people forget about travel time; no one can attend a one hour course on a one hour lunch break). There are programs where people attending through streaming could still see the lecture and ask questions. I think it would go a long way toward increasing UAF's flexibility and make it easier for people who aren't full-time students without jobs to obtain degrees.


From Susan Henrichs, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

This is a good suggestion for classes that are delivered in a lecture format, and some instructors are doing this already. Currently the equipment to record lectures is only installed in a limited number of classrooms, so this can be done easily only for the courses offered in those rooms. If you need a particular course, I'd suggest contacting the department office to ask whether the lecture can be recorded. Also, some classes are available online, and the department can tell you what is available.

Some classes include substantial amounts of discussion, group work, or other activities, and most will have periodic quizzes and exams, so having the lecture recorded may not eliminate the need to attend in person.

Aug. 22, 2014 -- Roof tar fumes and safety


How safe are the roof tar fumes, really? I work in an adjacent building, and my coworkers and I are suffering daily from burning eyes and headaches. The attitude from EHSRM has been "just grin and bear it," but the MSDS sheet says it is "considered hazardous by OSHA."


From Tracey Martinson, Industrial Hygienist/Radiation Safety Officer of Environmental Health, Safety & Risk Management

EHSRM has done air sampling indoors and outdoors in the affected areas and all of the samples came back below the limit of detection for the benzene-soluble fraction of asphalt fumes. We chose to sample for the benzene-soluble fraction, as we felt that was the most likely to be carried away from the tar pots and into buildings (rather than particulates, which tend to settle out near the pot or get trapped in filters).

The material is indeed hazardous, and the exposure limit set by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists is 0.5 mg/m3 over an 8 hour day. OSHA does not have a Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for asphalt fumes. All of our air samples contained less than 10 mg asphalt fume (the smallest amount the lab is able to detect using NIOSH method 5042).

We took an air sample outside of Gruening over a 1-hour period. The sampling was stopped after an hour because it started to rain and the roofing workers stopped work for the day. Two other air samples were taken inside of Gruening (room 513B and 608A), areas where people had complained (verbally or in writing) about the fumes. These samples were taken over a 2 hour, 45 minute period.

As mentioned above, none of the samples contained detectable levels of benzene-soluble asphalt fumes, so they were all less than 10 mg per sample. Taking into account the volume of air collected for each sample, we obtained the following maximum concentrations:

513B Gruening: <0.31 mg/m3
608A Gruening: <0.29 mg/m3
outside Gruening: <0.53 mg/m3

OSHA has no occupational exposure limits to asphalt fumes. All of these levels were either below or at the ACGIH exposure limit of 0.5 mg/m3, but remember that the concentration values that we obtained are only estimates because we do not know the amount of fume collected on the filter because it was too small to be detectable. So they are inherently high and represent the worst-case scenario.

EHSRM has worked with Facilities Services HVAC to shut down air intake systems for affected buildings, in an attempt to reduce the odor. We also recommended through the Cornerstone (published July 2) that supervisors take into consideration the effect on their employees and work with them to find alternative work locations and schedules.

Aug. 22, 2014 -- Health insurance and double coverage


My spouse and I both work at UAF. My spouse has always "opted out" of health insurance, as we felt there would be no benefit to having both of us pay for the same coverage. However, a colleague of mine said that being double-covered greatly reduces out-of-pocket expenses. Is this true?


From Erika Van Flein, Director of Benefits

Double coverage is a popular arrangement because the idea of having most services covered at 100 percent (after the deductible) is appealing. However, most people don't derive enough benefit from the secondary coverage to justify the additional cost of coverage. If you are a light or moderate user of the health plan, taking advantage of the preventive care and screenings that are covered at 100 percent and maybe a couple of office visits during the year, the additional cost of coverage (from $2,437 on the 750 Plan to $1,456 on the HDHP) to have the additional 20 percent coverage after the deductible doesn't seem like a very good deal.

A better arrangement for most couples would be to have the higher earning individual cover their spouse, and set up a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA) to cover the anticipated out-of-pocket expenses. These accounts allow you to pay for your deductible, coinsurance, pharmacy copays (FSA) and amounts not covered by the plan with pre-tax dollars.

To make a more informed decision for your situation, add up your out-of-pocket expenses from the past year (after the deductible, such as coinsurance, pharmacy copays, etc.) and see if they exceed the cost of the additional health care charge for double coverage. Remember that the deductible is satisfied on both plans at the same time (so you only pay one), and costs exceeding the allowable charge are not covered at all on either plan.

Aug. 22, 2014 -- Flag circle near Bunnell


The flags in the circle near the Bunnell Building aren't ordered alphabetically, nor are they ordered by when each state entered the union. How are they ordered? (If the answer is that it's random, could they be ordered in some useful way?)


From Marianne Freelong, Customer Service Manager of Facilities Services

The flags are not in any specific order at this time. Facilities will address the issue as time allows.

Aug. 18, 2014 -- Coat hangers in the Murie Building


Would it be possible to install a coat hanger in the basement restrooms in the Murie Building? Come winter, it would be nice to be able to hang up a parka instead of putting it on the floor.


From Marianne Freelong, Customer Service Manager of Facilities Services

Thank you for the suggestion; a work order will be placed to install the requested hooks. If you have a facilities issue or suggestion, please contact Facilities Services directly at 474-7000.

Aug. 18, 2014 -- Salary compression


In the Sept. 21, 2009 memo from the CHRO, Beth Behner, introducing the new 1% salary grid, salary compression was mentioned as an unintended consequence of rolling the entire salary grid be the amount of the salary increase. For the last several years, the entire salary grid has rolled, enforcing this 'unintended consequence'. What happened to the approach of a combined grid roll and step definition change to implement the salary increase and avoid the salary compression at the low end of the step scale?


In 2008, the university was advised that the Alaska State Legislature would only fund across-the-board pay adjustments for staff; it would no longer fund the cost of the annual step increases. A Compensation Task Force was formed to review the impact of this change and to recommend appropriate changes to compensation practice and regulation. The Task Force included representation from governance, administrative management and human resources throughout the UA system. The group was tasked to come up with a salary structure that allowed progression throughout the salary range, alleviated pay compression and provided neutrality in terms of cost. The last step movement was Jan. 1, 2012. At this time we are analyzing if there is any compression within the compensation structure and where. We are also analyzing other ways to avoid compression in the future.

Aug. 15, 2014 -- Emergency lights in the Eielson building


Why are there no emergency lights in the Eielson Building? When the power goes out, it is completely dark and very unsafe, especially in the stairwells.

Luckily, I work with some nice people who lined the stairs with cell phone lights to help others get down without tripping.


From Marianne Freelong, Customer Service Manager of Facilities Services

Facilities Services checked on the emergency light situation after the outage. Both stairwells have emergency lighting. In the south stairs they are on every other landing, on the north side they are on every landing.

In the second floor corridor every other fixture has a C450 fluorescent emergency ballast, meaning that during a power outage one bulb in the fixture will be lit until the battery runs out. These were tested on Friday after the outage and all but one worked. We are in the process of repairing that one.

We found that there are no existing emergency light fixtures on the first floor, and we are working out a plan to rectify that situation.

Aug. 14, 2014 -- Eielson entrance doors


What is being done with the doors in the Eielson building? Also when will the second floor bathrooms be done?


From Karl Petterson, Senior Contract Manager of FS Design and Construction

The existing entrance doors at the Eielson building were failing due to heavy use. We are replacing them with new, heavy duty, storefront entrances. We expect the new entrances to be complete by early September. We have been coordinating with the building coordinators to minimize the impact to students when the fall semester starts.

The Eielson second floor bathrooms are being modified to comply with the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) requirements. It is anticipated they will be substantially complete by the end of this August.

Aug. 11, 2014 -- Come Home to Alaska Program


Does the Come Home to Alaska program work for parents and grandparents? For instance if I am a resident can my parents come to school here at the residential rate? What if a minor is a resident? Does it work for their parents and grandparents?


No, the Come Home to Alaska program does allow students with parents or grandparents in Alaska to pay resident tuition rates, regardless of where those students live. For an undergraduate taking 30 credits a year, the annual savings will exceed $13,000.

Visit us online for more information about the Come Home to Alaska Program.

Aug. 4, 2014 -- Signage change needed


Should the 'No Right Turn' sign be removed from Tanana Loop E, east bound lane, just before the drive to the new Energy Technology Facility? Just past this 'No Turn' sign is the sign indicating to turn right to get to the facility.


Thank you for the catch. This sign will be removed soon.

Aug. 1, 2014 -- Regents' retention offer


I heard tell that the Board of Regents recently approved a $320,000 bonus for President Gamble if he should agree to stay with the university. Considering the financial state that the university is currently in, including reducing funding to multiple key departments, I wonder how the board could justify such a decision?


From Pat Jacobson of Kodiak, chair of the Board of Regents

The Board of Regents in June approved an extension of President Gamble’s contract (June 1, 2013 - May 31, 2016) at the annual salary he’s had since 2011, $320,000. The contract does include a retention incentive of $320,000 upon completion of the full term. The board took this action for two reasons:

1) We strongly endorse President Gamble’s leadership. We are especially supportive with the Shaping Alaska’s Future initiative, a policy that lays out 23 specific effects (outcomes) the university system intends to achieve in the coming years, no small feat for a system as complex as UA. The board wants “Shaping” put into action for the benefit of students and our state. President Gamble knows the system and where we need to go and is the person we need to continue this most important effort to improve the system. See www.alaska.edu/shapingalaskasfuture for more.

2) The incentive recognizes that the current annual salary for the UA president is 25-28 percent below those of peer institutions in the Lower 48. Even applying the incentive over the contract period, his compensation will be below peers.

In challenging budget times, maybe even especially during challenging budget times, we need the right leader at the helm of our diverse system.

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