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UAA to rank, potentially cull, programs

Posted: October 22, 2013 - 12:01am

ANCHORAGE — The University of Alaska Anchorage plans to analyze all programs and rank them for funding prioritization, saying the unprecedented move comes as UAA is faced with declining funding from the state.

The ranking analysis will be conducted by a faculty-led group during the course of this school year, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Programs will be sorted into five competitive, equally sized ranking groups, with the top ranked to be the first in line for funding and the lowest possibly facing elimination.

Kristin DeSmith, vice chancellor of university relations, said UAA has never audited itself on this scale before.

“Everything is getting looked at,” she said.

Not everyone is happy about the plan.

Nalinaksha Bhattacharyya, an associate professor who teaches business administration, said in an email to faculty members that the project is like “The Hunger Games,” a book series in which young people are forced to fight to the death against each other. Bhattacharyya sees the plan as a way to eliminate comparatively expensive tenured positions in favor of lower-paid, temporary adjunct instructors, with rankings used as justification.

“The only purpose of this model is to attack tenure,” he said. “Nothing else.”

The university has said funding from the state is expected to decline in the next fiscal year. The university needs to make tougher decisions about which programs to maintain, according to administrators.

“We don’t have the resources to continue the growth spurt we have had,” said Bill Spindle, vice chancellor for administrative services.

The university was a recipient of a decades long, legislature-funded boom that started about 2001, Spindle told faculty and staff members earlier this month at a forum on prioritization. The university expanded during that time with new programs that ranged from a Confucius Institute for studying Chinese language and culture to health care and engineering schools.

The state funds are drying up, Spindle said at the forum. Currently, for every dollar UAA receives from another source, the state provides $1.30, according to Spindle, who said the state wants to go to a dollar-to-dollar ratio.

Athletics, fundraising and other nonacademic parts of the university will receive the same scrutiny.

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