Last year, the University of Alaska (UA) was considering moving the School of Education from the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) to the main campus in Fairbanks. The community of Juneau, the administrators, the faculty and the students at UAS worked to prevent this change. Finally, in December 2016, UA decided that the School of Education would have its main campus here in Juneau. This occurred after the City and Borough of Juneau agreed to endow $1,000,000 to the program. The cooperation between UAS and the community achieved a goal beneficial to both. The open communication helped in attaining this goal.
The members of the UAS Alumni Association (AA) have supported UAS for many years through membership dues and participation in fundraising events. This membership included both stated and customary benefits.
In 2017, UAS operated in an entirely different manner in denying computer access to AA members. Suddenly, those members were denied access to the UAS computer system. This had been a customary benefit of membership for more than 10 years. Many were first aware of such change when they tried to log onto the system. UAS Library staff handed each one a copy of an unsigned and undated notice about such change. UAS changed the traditional benefits of membership during the membership term, did not send notification to the preferred email addresses of the members and did not post any notice of such change in the library computer labs used by students and AA members. The Director of Public Information at UAS was not even aware of such change!
The notice included a statement that public computers were available. This can be compared to driving to UAS and discovering that parking is now limited to faculty, staff and students (although the parking lots have many spaces available) and reading that public bus service was available.
Last week, the state announced a budget reduction of $8 million to UA. Various administrators met with faculty, students and staff to discuss the impact of such changes. The chancellor of UAS traveled to Seattle to meet with prospective donors. Where was the direct communication from UAS to the community here in Juneau?
Although changes in policy may be needed sometimes, open and complete communication is needed at all times.
In spite of the fact that UAS espouses the value of access and the core theme of community engagement, the actions of the University in recent situations did not put the words into action.
I suggest that UAS work to revive the communal, cooperative spirit that had existed for many years between them and the community of Juneau.
• Sara H. (Sally) Willson is a resident of Juneau, a current member of the UAS-AA, a former assistant professor at UAS and a former student at UAS.