Saturday, February 21, 2015

Trying to Figure Out The Board Of Regents

 The University of Alaska Board of Regents are the policy body for the University.  They make the final decisions at the policy level - including hiring the president and approving the budget.  I've written about the university and the regents from time to time and that's made me realize the board needs to be more visible to the people of Alaska.

So I went to Friday's board meeting at UAA.  I haven't been to a board meeting - well, it's been so long that I don't remember at all.  So I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  It was relatively easy.  I knew a couple of key people there who could tell me what was happening.  I got to talk to three of the regents during breaks, and have a video tape of one (below).

There is lots of information (and then again, in some cases, not so much) online at the board's webpages.  For instance:
Board of Regents Annual Retreat January 22-23, 2014 Anchorage, Alaska

1. Approval of Bargaining Unit Agreement between the University of Alaska and United Academics AAUP-AFT/AFL-CIO (UNAC)
"The Board of Regents approves the collective bargaining agreement between the University of Alaska and United Academics AAUP-AFT/AFL-CIO (UNAC) for the term of January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2016. This motion is effective January 23, 2014."
That's it.

The Official Minutes tend to add a little more - like who made the motion and who seconded it and who voted yes and who voted no and the language of what was passed.  It's focused mostly on technical details, and it's light on substance. There's no sense of the discussion before the vote and how the discussion went.  You'd be hard pressed to understand the reasons for and against any issue.  The minutes spends more words  on how they went in and out of executive session, but doesn't explain the subject of the executive session, which seems to be counter to the Alaska Administrative Procedures Act requirements for Executive Session which says: 
"The motion must state specifically what will be discussed and must be approved by a majority vote. The motion must contain enough detail that the public (and if necessary a court) will be informed of exactly why the executive session is appropriate, without defeating the purpose of going into executive session. Only the item(s) identified in the motion may be discussed in the executive session. "  [emphasis added]
 This clearly requires more than the minutes tell us.
  • There are other items like Agendas (these tend to have links to all the documents used at the meetings - follow links to boarddocs),  By-Laws,  and  Policy and Regulation (lots of detail here - all the rules of the university).

There were two major items that caught my attention at Friday's morning meeting.  The first was the tuition increase of 5 percent across the board.  Two regents voted against it - Regent Fisher arguing (and these are from my quick notes as he spoke):
Since on the board, our headcount declined 8.4% and credit hours up 5%.  But budget has increased.  Two reports by national experts on operation of university.  Both told us we needed cost containment for administrative costs.  Even thought headcount and credit hour count went down, our administrative costs have gone up.  I don't think the students
of Alaska and their parents shouldn't bear the costs of our inability to contain costs.   
But otherwise, there wasn't much opposition and no students were there to protest.  A couple even said it was fine.  The president said the administrative cutbacks would come with the current round of budget cuts.  Here's the table that was in the agenda for the budget increases:

The second item of interest to me was public testimony about the eviction of the Tanaina Child Development Center from their space in the sports complex basement.  It's on hold, sort of, while a task force looks at options.  This is a topic I've been thinking about and wanting to post about.  I went to the task force later that afternoon and will do a separate post on that soon.

Here's the video of Regent John Davies I took.  While my camera work could have been better, he gives a good description of his background and what he thinks he can contribute to the board.

It's good I went yesterday, because they don't meet too often.  The next two meetings are:

  •  April 9-10, 2015 - Bethel
  •   June 3-5, 2015 - Fairbanks

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