One budget to rule them all

By Molly Dischner
Sun Star Editor-in-Chief

There’s been a lot of attention focused on the tug of war between UAA and UAF lately. A story in last week’s edition of The Sun Star laid out the gist of the most recent legislative complaint: Alaska has three warring campuses rather than one university system. That critique came primarily from legislators from the Anchorage-area, and was countered by a number of regents, as well as Fairbanks legislators and UA President Mark Hamilton.

The Northern Light (the student newspaper at UAA) ran an editorial in early February that called for UAA Chancellor Fran Ulmer’s replacement to work harder to increase infrastructure at the Anchorage campus. The editorial argued in part that UAF had 269 buildings, while UAA has just 81, despite the larger population. That’s true, but comparing buildings to buildings skews the ratio somewhat because of UAF’s research arms. UAF has 159 main-campus buildings; UAA has 53.

But bickering over buildings per campus misses the point. I actually agree that UAA’s next chancellor needs to be pro-active in encouraging UAA’s growth. I also hope that UAA’s next chancellor will work hard to advocate for UAA. But I hope that come winter, their chancellor will argue for the Board of Regents entire budget. That’s what will best serve UAA in the long run.

Mixed messages from Anchorage and Fairbanks and the regents are part of the complaint about warring campuses. Funding is limited, and focused requests are needed. So I think it’s more important that all the chancellors – and the legislators and students –send the same message.

While it is partly the fault of the legislators who argue for a sports building that isn’t a priority, or grumble that a Fairbanks facility is at the top of the capita projects list, they aren’t the only ones to blame for the mixed messages about which campus needs what. Everyone who tries to circumvent the Board of Regents to advocate for their favorite piece of the pie makes it a little bit harder for the legislature to understand that the budget was crafted with a goal in mind: one university system that serves the state.

Editorials and letters saying that one campus needs more buildings than another won’t help any of the campuses develop. Students from each of the Major Academic Units are visiting Juneau this week to advocate for the entire university budget. Our time to argue for one piece or another was in the fall; right now, all we can do is advocate for a fully funded fiscal year 2011.

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