Budget update: March 20

March 20, 2019

Tori Tragis

— by Dan White, chancellor

Last Wednesday’s Cornerstone generated a flood of great feedback into the Box of Big Ideas . I appreciate the time taken by each and every one of you who submitted a big idea. Incidentally, while the Box of Big Ideas is wide open for big ideas, small ideas fit as well! I thought in this week’s budget column I would expand on three of the actions I addressed in last week’s column .

Residential use of three out of four lower campus residence halls located around Lola Tilly Commons will be suspended. This would be done as a cost savings measure and could be accomplished through efficiencies in other residence halls. As UAF is launching a first-year “live on campus” program for 2019-2020, we are keen to ensure that all students who live on campus have a vibrant and modern experience that optimizes activities and student life.  

In last week’s column, I mentioned moving out of ATCO units and off-campus facilities as a cost saving measure. One example that is being actively worked is moving the UA Museum of the North osteo-prep (bone specimen cleaning) facility into existing and high-performance space in the Arctic Health Research Building so that the current ATCO buildings it occupies could be sold or demolished to create short- and long-term savings. The UA Museum’s osteo-prep facility supports the eighth largest mammal collection in the Western hemisphere, and currently ranks third in terms of annual growth, outpacing the Smithsonian and American Museum of Natural History combined. The museum also hosts the largest collection of marine mammals in the United States, larger than the next three largest museums combined (including the Smithsonian). The osteo-prep facility supports millions of dollars in  NSF- and NIH-funded research  on a rapidly expanding range of Arctic issues.

One topic that has generated a great deal of internal and external-to-UAF interest is the possibility of moving Nanook hockey to a modernized Patty Center ice arena. While it is true that the budget is a driving factor in this discussion, it is also our understanding that the plant that creates ice at the Carlson Center is beyond its design life. We may need to take steps now to ensure the long term viability of UAF’s Division 1 hockey program and the ice where they compete. In our effort to do this, reduce expenses and grow revenues, bringing hockey back to campus may make sense. The Patty Center would require immediate- and long-term renovations to make it a facility to match Nanook hockey’s elite status. The current budget and ice uncertainty do not, unfortunately, afford UAF the luxury of time in this evaluation. It is important to note, however, that a potential move is a consideration being analyzed at this time.

It is heartwarming that I continue to be asked when and how people can advocate for the university. There are several upcoming opportunities of which I want you to be aware. I encourage you to participate in them and share these opportunities with your friends, colleagues and other university supporters.

As I have said before, the best thing you can do to advocate for the university is share why UAF is important to you, your friends, family members, and professional and personal networks. When contacting elected officials, please do so on your own time and use your personal email. It is also important to remember that serving as an elected official is a huge commitment and is often a thankless job. Be sure to thank the person you are speaking to for stepping up to serve Alaska and our communities. I encourage you to check out the advocacy resources available on my website if you need additional information.

A new advocacy program is underway from the statewide office titled “UA Strong.” I encourage you to tap into the programs that they are producing to leverage your efforts and those of other university supporters.

The House Finance Committee will sponsor community meetings in the following locations:

JUNEAU - Friday, March 22, 5-8 p.m. in the Capitol Building, Adams Room 519

KETCHIKAN - Saturday, March 23, noon-3 p.m., at the Ted Ferry Civic Center, 888 Venetia Ave

WASILLA - Saturday, March 23, noon-4 p.m. at the Mat-Su LIO, 600 E Railroad Avenue

BETHEL - Saturday, March 23, 2-5 p.m., at the Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center, 401 Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway

KENAI - Saturday, March 23, 5:30-8:30 p.m., at the Soldotna Sports Center, 538 Arena Avenue

ANCHORAGE - Sunday, March 24, 2-5 p.m., at the Anchorage LIO, 1500 W. Benson Boulevard

SITKA - Sunday, March 24, 2-5 p.m., at the Centennial Hall Assembly Chambers, 330 Harbor Drive

FAIRBANKS - Sunday, March 24, 2-5 p.m. at the Fairbanks LIO, 1292 Sadler Way, Suite 308

Additionally, Representative Grier Hopkins and Senator John Coghill will be holding a community forum Saturday, March 30, 2-4:30 p.m., at West Valley High School’s DeWild Theater.

I encourage you to attend these community meetings, write or call your legislators, and advocate for UAF in your personal and professional networks. The House Finance Committee will be making decisions about the university’s budget within the next few weeks. Thank you for your continued support.