Report questions efficiency of university system

Posted: Sunday, January 23, 2011

FAIRBANKS — A self-commissioned report on the University of Alaska system advocates for decentralizing its administration, a move that would cost dozens of jobs at the system’s offices in Fairbanks.

The report was requested by new system president Pat Gamble, a former Alaska Railroad executive and U.S. Air Force general who took his position in June.

“We said, ‘Take the blinders off, look systemwide and give us your best shot,’” Gamble said.

At the same time the report pushed for less centralization of office functions, it questioned duplication and poor communication among the Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau campuses, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

“If you don’t have collaboration, the tendency is for each campus to go off and do its own thing. That’s where duplication becomes an issue,” Gamble said. “Right away, you can’t allow that to happen.”

The report, which was led by longtime educator James L. Fisher, said 80 of the 200 staff positions at the system’s central offices could be cut, though Gamble said university employees in administrative jobs shouldn’t be alarmed.

“We’re not going to take one piece of data from an outside team and blindly decide we’re going to execute that,” he said.

Gamble said a more limited review, conducted in 2008, also called for fewer administrative jobs in Fairbanks. University system spokeswoman Kate Ripley said the Fisher report didn’t clarify which administrative positions should be cut.

The report noted that the campuses offer duplicate courses and academic programs, like teacher education. Gamble said online courses and distance learning lessen the need for duplicate courses.

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