Budget update: Sept. 18

September 18, 2019

Jeff Richardson

— by Dan White, chancellor

Thank you to everyone who joined us last week for Convocation. It was a nearly packed house in the Davis Concert Hall for a fun reflection on UAF faculty and staff accomplishments over the past year. There were well over 200 people in attendance and another 200 online who heard a fabulous opening performance by UAF’s music faculty Dr. Bryan Hall (Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster) and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Wow! Those gathered also witnessed UAF basketball athlete Sabrina Ungaro race to victory in the donning of a survival suit for our safety minute. I am sorry to say that UAF administrators participating were beaten handily. I was particularly impressed with the attendees’ excellence in propagating the wave through the concert hall as a practice for Commencement next spring. The full Convocation recording is available at media.uaf.edu. If you do watch it, pay special attention about midway for a “One Health” video produced by Arleigh Reynolds and Michelle Renfrew. It was a great day, and a great way to start this academic year. Thank you for participating, and thanks to the Core Cabinet for serving ice cream to the in-person participants afterwards.

Last Thursday and Friday, the Board of Regents met to approve the proposed FY20 budget distribution and discuss approaches to the future structure of UA. The approved budget distributes a combined $25 million cut in unrestricted general funds to the three universities and statewide. An additional $9 million is identified as internal reallocations across the system to fund strategic initiatives, market increases and Title IX. I will include a budget message in the Cornerstone next week with the final budget distribution. 

I would like to highlight two outcomes of last week’s board meeting. The first is a revision to a motion from June 30, 2019 clarifying that additional models for university structure should be evaluated. While the original motion called for preparation of a single accreditation model, the new wording requests preparation of options for board consideration that include single and multiple accreditation models. I will be communicating with the other chancellors and president on how this exploration will take shape. In the meantime, your best thinking is welcome. Please continue to share your thoughts in our Box of Big Ideas. Where it makes sense I will post submissions on the Chancellor’s website so that new thinking can be additive. The process of sharing, refining, vetting, reshaping and even restructuring ideas makes them better.

Also at last week’s board meeting, the regents passed a resolution approving system-level expedited review of university programs including all academic areas, libraries, organized research, athletics, and public service across the system. The president’s presentation outlined each of the review areas and a chair for the committee; his office will be naming members to the committees this week. Although there was a charge to these review committees identified in the board documents, we expect a revised charge forthcoming from the president’s office. This system-level expedited review is different than UAF expedited review, special program review, and our normal program review process. Each type of review is provided for in Regents’ Policy, but the purpose and scope of each review is different. Provost Prakash will be sharing more information about the difference between the different types of reviews later this week. The timeline on the president’s review of all programs is very short. Final reports are due from the chairs of each system-wide committee by October 10. I will post more information on my web site, including the participants and their meeting schedules, as soon as it is available.

Last Thursday, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner headline story was KUAC budget cuts. The cuts reflect reduced funding but also a shift in UAF support to KUAC from personnel salaries to infrastructure as an attempt to insulate KUAC personnel in the future from the ups and downs of the state budget. While UAF is cutting the state funding to KUAC that is used for personnel, it is taking a greater share of the facilities costs incurred by KUAC. Initial reports that UAF cut KUAC by 94% did not account for the significant facilities support UAF continues to provide KUAC nor the funding for the new transmitter. UAF continues to invest in KUAC, a service that is important to the many communities it reaches. 

I opened this semester by saying that while we are in a time of unknowns, there are some things we know for certain: we are committed to continuing our mission as educators, researchers, discoverers, and connectors. We are committed to respect, diversity, inclusion, and caring. We want your different thoughts, views, orientations, histories, cultures, languages, and talents. You belong here. Thanks for choosing UAF!