July 1, 2019

Dear UAF staff and faculty,

I have received many questions over the last few days about what the governor’s veto means and how it will affect our path forward. Of particular interest is how things will play out if there is not a veto override, which by law must occur within five days of the start of the special session, which begins Monday, July 8. That means the veto override must take place no later than Friday, July 12.

Although a veto override is possible, it is also possible that the veto holds. If this happens we will have many challenging decisions ahead. At the Board of Regents meeting last Friday, President Johnsen indicated that if the Legislature does not override the governor’s veto, the BOR will meet on Friday, July 15, to consider a vote on financial exigency. It is rare for a state university to make such a declaration, and UA never has, so we would be in new territory. Specific questions have also come about how the university would manage the dual appropriation, how we would ensure that we continue to support our current and future work with grants and contracts, and as programs would likely be reduced and eliminated, how we fulfill our commitment to students.

As I said in my communication Friday, the most important thing to do right now is to advocate for a veto override of the governor’s budget cuts. There are many ways to advocate, and I encourage you to continue to do so. Please follow university guidance to contact your legislators through your home email during a work break or after work hours to avoid concerns regarding use of state resources.

The president’s presentation to the BOR last Friday indicated that, in addition to advocacy to override the veto, we would be focusing on near-term cost reduction through limits on hiring, travel and new contracting. In addition, he directed chief human resources officer Keli McGee to review all executive-level positions in the system and determine which positions will be needed for the task ahead. Also included in the BOR presentation was that the systemwide administration would look to standardize and consolidate services such as IT and administrative services across all three universities.

On top of our advocacy and immediate cost-reduction efforts, the president said the administration will be preparing for if the governor’s veto is not overridden by the Legislature, i.e., a potential declaration of financial exigency by the BOR on July 15. If that happens, unfortunately, decisions about what campuses continue to operate, what services continue to be provided, and what degrees are offered, where, and to what extent e-learning would be used to supplement degree offerings will need to be made very quickly. The nature and pace of any programmatic action will depend on if the BOR declares exigency on July 15.

An important consideration as we move forward is to ensure that our federal grant and contract commitments are supported. In particular, we have been entrusted by the National Science Foundation to operate the Sikuliaq, the Toolik Field Station, and many other field and laboratory programs. These research and infrastructure programs, along with those of many other agencies and foundations, will need the support that is provided by HR, grants and contracts, procurement, and other services.

Our students also need to know that if the veto remains in place, there will be change. They are now asking our faculty and staff for advice. Please understand their position and reassure them that there are just not answers to all the questions yet, but that to the extent that information is available, we will post it, email it or otherwise communicate it to them so they can make the best decisions they can.

Take time this week to prepare emotionally and psychologically for the work ahead. We are pushing nonstop on overriding the veto, but if the veto stands, we will be working in a rapidly changing environment with few details. It will be one in which we don’t have the level of control, comfort, process or time that we are used to. I think it will also be one in which rumors and myths will seek to fill the unknowns. I will do my best to communicate the information I have when I have it.

Your university’s leadership has many years of experience at UAF as faculty and staff, so it will be fair for you to assume that they have your needs in mind. That said, as you have questions, email your leadership to ask. And as I have learned over the years when looking up one level in an organization’s leadership, remember that they too are doing the best they can in a very trying time, just like you.

— Dan White, chancellor
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