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State Budget Cuts Diminish UAF Morale


The University of Alaska is slated to be reduced 17 percent next year if Governor Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget is approved. Today UAF Chancellor Dan White hosted a forum on staff morale, attended by about 150 in person and more online. But  morale was a workplace topic long before this legislative session.

Five years of cuts to the University System have resulted in a lot of streamlining. The system has lost about 1,200 jobs statewide during the Walker administration. Several academic and service departments have been restructured since state funding was reduced after oil prices fell in 2014.

Last May, the Staff Council at the Fairbanks campus conducted a survey that showed the reductions affected morale. Jenny Campbell, the Staff Council representative, said like any workplace the survey showed areas where improvements are needed.

“Training, communication and trust.”

But she said UAF employees reported they were working through cutbacks, elimination of jobs and doubling-up of duties.

“The underlying theme was that every single staff member at UAF wants to be here, they want to be listened to, they want to help.”

Many staff members feel Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed 134-million-dollar funding cut for next year would devastate the university’s ability to educate students and conduct research. And a note here for listeners, KUAC is partially funded by the UAF. Mike Barnhill of the Dunleavy budget office assumes more than half of the cut, about 75 million dollars, will come out of the Fairbanks campus.

“The budget discussions these days do shadow our morale because at some point we’re thinking about what’s going to happen next? What’s going on?”

Provost Anupma Prakash told the staff everyone is responsible for accurate information about the governor’s proposals and what the legislature does with it.

“Be informed. Be engaged. There are so many myths going on. Just wrong facts out there. If you know, you’ll be able to talk with confidence about the university, about what is going on. Be the myth buster.”

The Alaska House Finance Subcommittee for the University of Alaska will be taking action on the UA system’s budget this week. Their hearings can be viewed on the Alaska Legislature website. One is at 5 p.m. Thursday, with voting on the UA Recommended Budget at 3:30 Friday afternoon.

Vice Chancellor Evon Peter wrapped up the forum on morale with a bit of advice:

“As we navigate through uncertainty, honor one another, be respectful of one another.