The Faculty Senate of the University of Alaska Anchorage passed a resolution of no confidence in the president of the University of Alaska system. In January of 2016, UA President Jim Johnsen started implementing his Strategic Pathways plan, which is a process for streamlining the UA system and eliminating redundancies in response to significant reductions in state funding for education over the past several years.
Perhaps most relevant to NCTE and the teaching of English/language arts, one major action taken by Johnsen as part of Strategic Pathways and approved by the Board of Regents in December 2016 merged the UA system’s three colleges of education onto a single campus in Juneau, Alaska. It is not yet clear how this will affect teacher education across the state, but faculty are concerned about implications for accreditation, access to leadership, access to teacher education, and the quality of programs.
The resolution of no confidence passed with a vote of 28 to 9 (see Flaherty, 2017 and Hanion, 2017 for news coverage). The resolution cited a number of rationales, including Johnsen’s allocation of university funds for the Strategic Pathways process, lack of faculty inclusion in Strategic Pathways conversations, non-responsiveness to faculty concerns, and negative impacts on faculty morale and retention. Professor of Business and Public Policy, Frank Jeffries, who helped to develop the motion, stated that “Strategic Pathways violates virtually every tenet of best practices known to business.”
During the Faculty Senate discussion, several faculty expressed concerns about retribution for the motion, which was described as the “nuclear option.” They urged a more collaborative motion that would open up a dialogue with UA administration and the Board of Regents. Ultimately, though, the motion passed.
As past-Senate-president Tara Smith pointed out, faculty leaders have attempted multiple formal and informal interventions in the Strategic Pathways process over the past year with little impact.
According to MacTaggart’s (2012) analysis of 20 cases of no-confidence votes in university presidents, such votes tend to be motivated by three main issues: “arrogance and failure to communicate, resistance to change, and failure to pursue effective strategies to bring positive change.” It is clear from the Senate discussion that faculty are citing poor communication and lack of effective strategies as factors in this situation.
Gloria O’Neill, Chair of the Alaska Board of Regents, stated that she continues to have confidence in President Johnsen’s leadership abilities. Faculty Senates from the other two main campuses of the UA system (Fairbanks and Juneau) have yet to respond.
Flaherty, C. (2017, January 16). No confidence vote over Alaska system president. Inside Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2017/01/16/no-confidence-vote-over-alaska-system-president
Hanion, T. (2016, December 14). University of Alaska regents approved move to a single College of Education. Alaska Dispatch News. Retrieved from https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/education/2016/12/14/university-of-alaska-regents-approve-move-to-a-single-college-of-education/
Hanlon, T. (2017, January 13). UAA faculty votes no confidence in University of Alaska president. Alaska Dispatch News. Retrieved from https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/education/2017/01/13/uaa-faculty-vote-no-confidence-in-university-of-alaska-president/
MacTaggart, T. (2012). What confidence should boards give no-confidence votes? Trusteeship, 20(6), pp. 22-26.
Unviersity of Alaska. (2017, January 20). Strategic Pathways. Retrieved from https://www.alaska.edu/pathways/