Category: News

May 4, 2017 Cheyenne Mathews

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Until this semester, Nicholas Maurer didn’t think he should be allowed to vote, because he didn’t believe he helped his community enough. Maurer is 18, going on 19, and one of many young voters who declined to register or vote in elections. Then Maurer took Marsha Olson’s Fundamentals of Oral Communication, COMM 111 class, and he said he finally felt like he deserved the right to vote.

“I felt like at the time, because I didn’t work personally, I wasn’t contributing to the world by helping society out,” Maurer said. “For myself I didn’t feel I should vote until I was contributing something myself.”

For Maurer, that contribution came in the form of voter registration stations he did in his COMM 111 class. Maurer, and other students have said this class helps them feel engaged with politics, partly because they participate in voter engagement and registration stations. Since starting the registration stations, Olson said her classes have registered around 350 people on campus. Olson has been running voter engagement stations for the last three semesters, and she said their goal is to get college students, young voters who are typically absent at the polls, to register to vote.

“One of the big things we noticed on campus is there are no registration drives, you can register to vote, but it is not very well publicized,” Olson said. “One of the ways to get people to register, if it is not on their radar, is to put it on their radar.”

Bringing awareness to upcoming elections is also a goal of the voter registration stations. For the fall semester of 2016 most students were aware of the Presidential elections, but Olson believes local elections, like the Anchorage Municipality election that happened the first week of April, are even more important elections to bring awareness to.

Olson said she has her COMM 111 students run the voter registration stations so that they can become more involved in the process, but also so that they learn how to use their voice, a skill she believes is her job to teach in COMM 111. Olson got the initial inspiration from the musical, ‘Hamilton,and the quote “If you stand for nothing Burr, what will you fall for?”

“My whole job is teaching people to find their voice, I teach oral communication, I want people to be able to stand up, whether it is politically or personally, and [the quote] was really inspiring to me and made me feel like there had to be something we could be doing to encourage students to use their voice,” Olson said. “At the same time, I had a couple of students in class who made some comments about tuition increases, and health care costs, they were side comments they had made… but it resonated with me because what it showed was that their voice wasn’t being heard.”

Since starting the voter registration project, Olson has been able to see her own students, students like Maurer register and become more informed about political issues. Olson said her best success story to date was a woman from her first semester conducting the project.

“She registered and voted for the first time in the April election last year, which is a municipal election,” Olson said. “She had never voted before, and she was an immigrant to the country so she wasn’t born in the U.S. Although she was a citizen, she had never registered, and I think she was relatively new. The more we talked about it in class, the more she researched, the more important she realized that it was.”

Through her research, Olson’s student realized what role voting in elections played in citizenship.

“She came up to me right before the election last year and said, ‘You know I had no idea this was so significant a part of being a citizen and this was my duty. I have already researched every candidate and I know who I am going to vote for, and I researched the ballot measures, and I even told my husband that he has to vote this year, because he hasn’t been voting either. We talked about who we should be voting for and we’re going to go and bring our kid with us,’” Olson said.

As a student participating in the voter registration stations, Maurer said he couldn’t tell people to vote without being a registered voter himself.

“Right now, just by being able to get out there and try to help people to register to vote and to be working and serving myself, kind of becoming a more responsible adult– I felt like I was sort of contributing more around me,” Maurer said. “I feel like if I am going to be helping people to register to vote, then I should be doing my part as well.”

Rea Barcelon, sophomore, was also in Olson’s COMM 111 class, and she said the impact of her voter registration booth this spring was a positive one.

“I felt like it was pretty important, like not enough people do, a lot of people do want younger people to [go vote] but she’s actually putting in action to,” Barcelon said. “Putting into action is really important, because if no one is going to do anything about it, then nothing is going to really change. At least she’s trying to get it out there for her classes.”

Olson said she plans to continue the voter registration stations but that the stations will evolve to be more education based, and less focused on registration because of a ballot measure that passed last fall to tie signing up for the PFD and voter registration together. Overall, Olson has seen her voter registrations, and the research and work students in her classes do leading up to the stations, succeed in their goal of registering members of the UAA community and teaching her COMM 111 students to use their voice.

May 4, 2017 Sarah Tangog

Retirement at UAA is booming and UAA’s Human Resources Office is burdened with retirement forms.

“A lot of people will leave at the end of the fiscal year,” Michelle Yerkes and Randi Markussen, from UAA’s Human Resources offices, said. “This is the time of year where the majority of people will retire.”

Additionally, retirement trends may be increasing due to a decrease in faculty morale. According to a UAA Faculty Morale Survey taken in August of 2016, 43.94 percent of faculty morale has declined, and 28.05 percent of faculties do not feel positive about the security of their job at UAA.

Unfortunately, there are no retirement statistics set in place for 2017.

“We just don’t have [retirement statistics] at this point in time,” Yerkes and Markussen said.

Not just anyone can choose to retire, however.

“They have to be eligible,” Erika van Flein, director of benefits statewide, said.

There are two main plans at the state level for retirement: The Teachers’ Retirement System and the Public Employees’ Retirement System. Both require the age of 60 to become eligible. The TRS requires 20 years of teaching service, while the PERS requires 30 years of public service.

Both TRS and PERS also provide early retirement plans, which require being vested and the age of 55 to become eligible. TRS and PERS benefits include lifelong pension and health insurance.

“UAA employees who are in the defined benefit plans must reach retirement eligibility by either age or service, terminate employment and file an application for retirement with the Division of Retirement and Benefits. Retirement is effective the first of the month following all requirements being fulfilled,” Kathleen Lea, chief pension officer at the Department of Administration, said.

Retirement is the reward for both teachers and public employees after their years of service.

May 4, 2017 Chance Townsend
Burris and Bat-Erdene
Geser Bat-Erdene Alec Burris pose for a picture for their USUAA campaign. Photo credit: Alec Burris and Geser Bat-Erdene

The USUAA elections are over, and Alec Burris and Geser Bat-Erdene have won the positions of president and vice president for the 2017-18 academic year. This election also turned out to be highly successful, as it had higher voter turnout than the last three USUAA elections.

Burris is a freshman majoring in biology and has always had a deep interest in student government.

“I would travel the 45 to 1 hour drive from Wasilla to Anchorage so I could go to their bi-weekly meetings to see what their student government is like,” Burris said. “Once I learned that the current president wasn’t going to run, I felt that somebody needed to step up and run the organization, and that I knew it well enough to run.”

His running mate, Bat-Erdene is a foreign exchange student from Mongolia majoring in finance, and has been a USUAA senator for over a year.

“The opportunity to work with people who truly care about the university and work hard to achieve mutual goals is why I ran for vice president,” Bat-Erdene said. “Becoming a [vice president] is a great honor for me. I was truly happy that the students of UAA are very open-minded, and the fact that an international student was elected for a USUAA leadership tells how diversity is welcomed on the campus.”

Burris and Bat-Erdene are both deeply involved with student government around campus and are excited to start their new positions.

“I’m very excited to start delivering on the promises we made during our campaign,” Burris said. “We are going to try to start working on the issues with security cameras, working with the administration about Title IX, and looking at assessing fees.”

Sam Erickson, USUAA president for the 2016-17 academic year, believes that the two successors will learn by seeing him and vice president, Johanna Richter, in action.

“There is a relatively well-established process for transitioning leadership in USUAA, but in this case it’s made even easier since Alec has significant experience in the organization already… I’ll begin having him shadow me in USUAA meetings, introducing him at events, meeting administrative, faculty and staff leaders, and bringing him up to date on the projects I’m currently working on,” Erickson said. “Johanna will be doing the same for Geser, and the goal is to be able to completely turn over the organization. Obviously, I will still be around and able to give advice for the next year, but I am confident that Alec will be able to pick right up where Johanna and I left off.”

Burris and Bat-Erdene both look forward to serving the students of UAA.

“You can definitely [be] looking for student government to be active on campus,” Burris said. “Oftentimes we are in the background doing a lot of work that the students don’t see. I think looking forward you’re going to see us in the forefront, because we really care about students seeing that their student fees are being used to best of their ability. That’s what we are going to do for the student government.”

Burris and Bat-Erdene’s term as USUAA president and vice president began on April 28 and will continue through the 2017-18 academic year.

May 4, 2017 Chance Townsend
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Tom Case speaks at an event on UAA's campus. Case has served as the chancellor of the university for six years. Photo credit: Corey Hester

On April 12, UAA Chancellor Tom Case announced via email that he will retire this summer.

In the email sent out to students and staff on campus, Case wrote, “I am humbled to have done meaningful and rewarding work alongside passionate, dedicated people who believe in providing opportunities for students to change their lives for the better.”

In response to this resignation, UA President Jim Johnsen sent out an email regarding this announcement.

“It is with a great deal of sadness that I announce today that University of Alaska Anchorage Chancellor Tom Case plans to retire at the end of June,” Johnsen said in the email. “Tom has served the university with integrity, good humor and dedication…[I am] heartened by the joy he will have in retirement as well as by the excellent leadership team he has developed.”

Tom Case served as the Dean of College and Business for six years until he left for a break and returned in 2011 as the new chancellor. Case worked hard to expand the programs and facilities on campus, and oversaw the growth of the Seawolf debate team, ANSEP programs and oversaw the national success of intercollegiate programs.

“I’m going to miss the wonderful people here and the environment in which we all learn from each other and our students are afforded opportunities to make major changes in their lives,” Case said. “What I have done is help orchestrate the accomplishments of many, so I don’t take credit for my accomplishments… It’s been a team effort.”

Case’s retirement is effective June 30. Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Sam Gingerich will serve as interim chancellor.

“It’s really with mixed feelings that I do retire and leave,” Case said. “But I won’t be leaving UAA. I’ll continue to support UAA in every way that I can, I believe in this institution… I think it does have a great future.”

There will be a celebration for Case’s accomplishments and his retirement on May 8 at the Varsity Center Grill in the Alaska Airlines Center from 4 – 6 p.m.

May 4, 2017 Alexis Abbott

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In the current standing of the state’s financial crisis, higher education in Alaska has taken another economic toll.

Budget reductions, department cuts and program eliminations are just some of the challenges that have impacted the University of Alaska this year. A five percent tuition increase has been confirmed for next fall, and a potential additional raise in the spring of the 2017-18 academic year.

As far as a mid-year tuition increase, UA administration will do their best to “keep the increase in the five to ten percent range,” according to UA President Jim Johnsen.

A five to ten percent tuition raise translates to about a $400 to $800 increase per year for a full-time student.

“If we do not get the funding we need from the state, our ability to meet the high standards that students deserve will require additional revenue. We are working to increase private giving to UA, and if our budget from the state falls short, we’ll need to step up tuition as well,” Johnsen said. “Today, our tuition is 19 percent under the western states’ average, so even after a tuition hike, our tuition will still be very affordable for our students.”

Since 2015, Alaska’s state allocation has been cut nearly $50 million. In response, UA has looked for increased revenues from many sources, including tuition. Johnsen stated that a mid-year increase for academic year 2016-17 was controversial, so he set that option aside for 2017-18.

Stacey Lucason, student member of the UA Board of Regents noted that there has been tuition raises every year since being at UAA, and that she believes that it may be a pattern with inflation in the state.

Lucason said that the potential mid-year tuition raise will “likely” be discussed at the next Board of Regents meeting.

Next year’s five percent tuition hike will follow several years of tuition raises, most recently, a five percent raise for the 2016-17 academic year. Johnsen noted that with a reasonable budget from the Alaska legislature, that future tuition increases should not exceed ten percent.

After an already confirmed tuition raise for the fall semester, some students worry what an additional mid-year increase will mean for their education.

Bria Anderson, a junior dental hygiene major, admitted that she is concerned how future tuition hikes will affect her future at UAA.

“I find it discouraging that every year I am having to pay more and more to go to my state’s college. I already have to take out student loans to attend UAA, and consistent tuition raises make my situation more difficult,” Anderson said.

According to the College Board, the average cost for tuition for the 2016–2017 school year was $10,510 at private colleges, $8,340 for state residents at public colleges. The national average yearly tuition raise is just a little over three percent per year.

UA reported it’s full-time undergraduate tuition rate at $6,360, slightly more affordable than most out of state institutions.

Whether there will be a mid-year tuition increase in addition to the five percent for the 2017-18 academic year, will be determined in the near future by UA administration, Johnsen and the Board of Regents.

May 4, 2017 Alexis Abbott

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The Alaska Senate recently approved Senate Bill 103, the initiative to establish innovative grants for public education and nearly eliminate the Alaska Performance Scholarship. The bill easily passed the Senate in a 12-7 vote.

SB 103 would drastically reduce the highly successful APS by phasing out tier two and three scholarships by Feb. 1, 2021.

If the bill passes, only tier one of the APS would remain, and be available to Alaskan high school graduates with a 3.5 grade point average or better and at least a 25 on the ACT or a 1210 on the SAT.

The bill also proposes to eliminate the need-based Alaska Education Grant program, which helps many students afford education at the University of Alaska.

UA President Jim Johnsen expects the House to approve the bill and continue further through the legislative process.

“We are very concerned about any change that would impact these highly successful programs. We believe that ending the programs would be detrimental to growing our enrollment, encouraging young Alaskans to remain in Alaska for college and then build a career and life here,” Johnsen said.

The APS was created in 2011 to inspire Alaskan high school students to pursue higher education in state. In the 2015-16 academic year, 4,648 students at the University of Alaska benefited from the APS or AEG program.

If the House approves SB 103, 50 percent of high school graduates will no longer be eligible for the APS. That is roughly 1,200 students that will no longer earn the scholarship. Without the APS, many students will no longer have access to affordable higher education.

“As part of its mission to promote student access to and success in education beyond high school, the Commission is concerned that one of the key incentives for Alaska’s students to excel in high school and be prepared for postsecondary and workforce success may be eliminated,” Stephanie Butler, executive director of the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, said in a press release.

The Commission adopted a resolution in support of the Alaska Performance Scholarship and Alaska Education Grants.

“The investment in the next generation of Alaskans is an important one, not just for students, but for Alaska’s economy as a whole when we can provide our high school graduates with the incentive to remain in Alaska for college and career training and to contribute to a strong Alaska economy, fueled by an Alaskan workforce,” ACPE chair Joey Crum said.

According to ACPE, APS users have a 25 percent higher rate of Alaska residency after graduation, while 83 percent of users say they were influenced by the APS to attend school in Alaska. Butler also noted that almost twice as many APS students at UA are prepared for college work and need no remediation, compared to those that did not receive the APS.

The UA Board of Regents and the Coalition of Student Leaders each passed resolutions in support of the Alaska Higher Education Investment Fund, APS and the AEG. The fate of the APS and AEG is currently awaiting the House leaders.

April 23, 2017 Sarah Tangog
Photo credit: Jian Bautista

For many biology majors, a microbiology focus is not only beneficial, but recommended. Due to the high demand for microbiology in various biological fields, being educated in the subject will allow more opportunities for jobs around the globe.

“Most states already have some sort of a microbiology program. Microbes are intricately involved in our own lives: how we digest food, there’s research coming out about our own moods, antibiotics, antibiotic resistance in the medical field, to some of the stuff I do out in the environment,” Brandon Briggs, assistant professor for the biology department at UAA, said.

The need for microbiology in various fields is growing, the desire for a course in microbiology is becoming more and more of a necessity.

“[Microbes] really affect every aspect of our lives,” Khrys Duddleston, professor in the biology department, said. “A lot of what we learned, especially early on about genetics, we learned by studying bacteria. Because microorganisms are so easy to grow in the lab — many of them are, I should say — so you can grow them overnight, generate a lot of cells, you can carry out a variety of studies in which you can mutate their genomes.”

Despite the importance, Alaska is the last state to receive a microbiology course.

“We have a lower population in the state compared to others, we don’t have nearly as many universities as other states do,” Duddleston said. “As a consequence of that, I don’t think it’s too surprising then that we were the last state.”

Though the end goal is for UAA’s microbiology course to be a degree, it is still only a focus and will be available starting in the fall semester of 2017. Additional information has not yet been posted on the University Catalog.

April 23, 2017 Brenda Craig
After going viral via Facebook and garnering national attention, associate professor Thomas Chung's painting depicting Captain America, President Donald Trump and a young Hilary Clinton sparked debate regarding freedom of expression. Photo credit: Young Kim

With the stroke of a paintbrush, controversy rises over an art piece that was presented at UAA’s facility art exhibition located in the Fine Arts Building. The “Everything” piece was created by Thomas Chung, assistant professor of painting, who has been teaching at UAA for over three years and has had his current position since last fall. This painting has brought up the question of the First Amendment and whether or not this piece is appropriate for public display.

The painting was inspired by the Greek myth of Perseus and Medusa, which is often shown in artwork with Perseus holding the head of Medusa. Actor Chris Evans, who plays Captain America, is displayed in Chung’s piece holding a protest sign in one hand and the decapitated head of President Donald Trump in the other, referencing the myth of Perseus and Medusa. However, Chung explains how his piece wasn’t necessarily about Trump, but the ugly side of American society that Trump has revealed.

The protest sign Captain America is holding has a quote by Chief Seattle from a letter he wrote to the U.S. before his tribe’s land was taken by force. The quote states, “Man did not weave the web of life. He is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself.” Chung chose this quote carefully and if given opportunity for Trump to read his protest sign, this is what he would want it to say.

Hilary Clinton is also present in this painting, shown as her younger self, clinging onto the hero’s leg to represent how America views women. Chung wanted to make fun of how princesses are portrayed as weak and needing saving by an almighty hero.

In the background, there is a scene of a buffalo fall, a technique used to hunt buffalo by herding them off a cliff. On one of the dead buffalo, there is a graffiti tag that says ‘Make America White Again,’ a slogan that was seen around the U.S. after the election.

This painting was started as a way for Chung to express his feelings after the outcome of the presidential election.

“The painting ‘Everything’ came out of my feelings after the election last year, I felt that Trump stood for misogyny, racism, homophobia and xenophobia. When he was elected, I mourned for the death of my belief that we as a society had made progress in those societal attitudes,” Chung said. “His winning revealed to me a huge segment of the population that still believed in hate, and hated what I — and the people that I love — are.”

For about a month, the painting has been displayed without any complaints before it went viral after a Facebook post. This started a debate on freedom of expression and whether or not this painting should be protected under the university. Tom Case, UAA Chancellor, released a statement concerning the piece.

“We understand that some may not support this exhibit, but universities — including UAA — are a place for free exchange of ideas, diversity of thoughts and of opinions, and ideally, a place for conversation to occur around our differences and similarities. Fre​edom of expression is fundamental to our mission and we support our faculty and students in exploring their ideas through creativity, research and scholarship,” Case said.

Students are bittersweet about UAA’s decision to keep the painting up until the scheduled take down date, Thursday, April 20. It is questioned whether or not freedom of expression applies to professors.

“I do not believe this ‘painting’ falls under freedom of expression. Professors are not paid to make political statements, they are paid to teach. Freedom of expression applies to individuals, not universities that accept public funding,” Jarod Grice, mechanical engineering major, said.

While freedom of expression for students is important, some believe that outspoken political views, especially from a professor, is unprofessional.

“Personal politics do not belong in institutions of learning, period. It should be a place of acceptance and tolerance for people of all beliefs and political stance, respect given to all, not just the ones that those in power agree with,” Rachel Yoncher, psychology major, said. “It is their job to teach their students how to express what they feel and figure it out for themselves and give them the courage to do so, not to give themselves a platform to push their own.”

An issue with the university supporting the painting by keeping it up until the end of the exhibition is that some feel that this reflects UAA’s political beliefs.

“What’s most surprising to me is that UAA allowed this professor to display this painting, appearing as if UAA shares the same political views. It’s embarrassing to be attending a university that encourages staff to reveal their political affiliations to students,” Grice said. “Professor Chung can now be added to the growing list of incompetent professors employed by UAA, in a situation like this I can only say what I believe Donald Trump would say: ‘What a disgrace.’”

This is not the first time there has been controversial political artwork on campus. The “Everything” piece, along with other political pieces have been displayed and supported by the university.

“I would be really disappointed in UAA if they censored artwork, and this is not the only artwork on campus to focus Trump in a negative light, the same of Obama when he was in office. People have a political voice, and in true artist form you can see that expression all over the Fine Arts Building,” Kayla Anaya, painting major, said.

The discussion about the painting being displayed has brought up the topic of censorship. If UAA had decided to take down the piece, some question how that would impact future decisions on controversial work and conversations on campus.

“It does come down to the First Amendment and this should be a place where these kinds of conversations should happen, if I was asked to take it down, where do we draw the line? And what kind of a place would this be if the university could decide what’s appropriate and what’s not or what even a student can say or talk about?” Chung said.

College can be seen as a sacred place where discussions on controversial topics can take place in a safe manner. Expressing different viewpoints are encouraged for both professors and students to form their opinions in a respectful way.

“I won’t say if I personally agree or disagree with the paintings content, but it is the right of the professor and any student to display their beliefs in a way that doesn’t inflict physical harm on another, and when that happens, it is my right to engage in discussion about it, whether it be for or against the topic,” Clarissa Kyselov, anthropology major, said. “No one, including faculty on campus and the public off campus, should be allowed to take away that right or shut down an opposing viewpoint.”

UAA’s decision to keep the painting up has shown that professors and students freedom of expression is protected on campus.

“I hope what students take away from this is that no matter where they fall, college and UAA will be supportive, I know I can speak for this department that we will foster everyone’s point of views no matter what and I think that’s such an important part of this program,” Chung said. “If anything else, I hope that students just know that they should be brave if they believe in something that they can speak up about it here and they’ll be supported.”

Although the “Everything” painting was taken down on April 20, the discussion of the painting has gone national. Chung has been receiving nonstop emails and phone calls since his painting went viral. Through the death threats and name calling, Chung has also received great support for painting what he believed in. At UAA, academic freedom for professors and students is supported by the administration.

April 23, 2017 Alexis Abbott
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Photo credit: Jian Bautista

University of Alaska administration is currently working on implementing the third and final phase of Strategic Pathways.

The Strategic Pathways system involves the review, implementation and revisitation of methods to ensure that all UA programs support mission goals, are of high quality, are cost effective and enhance the student experience, according to University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen.

“Strategic Pathways is the process we are going through to understand how we can organize the University of Alaska to more effectively meet the state’s higher education needs while our budget is being cut,” Johnsen said.

Strategic Pathways focuses on adjusting and improving the University of Alaska through the statewide budget crisis.

Each of the three phases are analyzed by review teams, who present pros and cons of the process to the UA Summit Team. Johnsen takes the information presented and introduces it to the Board of Regents, who ultimately have the final say.

After each phase is approved by the Board of Regents and university administration, implementation teams establish goals, timelines and further details to best apply the strategies to the university.

Over 250 faculty, staff, students and community members have served on review teams and have come up with over 100 options in 22 administrative and academic areas.

Phase Three aims to achieve better coordination and leveraging in the social and natural sciences, arts and humanities and mine training academic programs. Administrative services such as finance, land and risk management and university facilities will also be of focus.

John Davies, vice-chair of the UA Board of Regents believes that the university will benefit from this long-term assessment of priorities, but only on the suggested 10-year timeline.

“This process can impact the decisions about how to allocate the near term budget cuts made by the legislature, but it is a longer term in focus and would better be implemented with more time to plan than is allowed by the necessity to deal with yearly budget cuts,” Davies said.

Sine Anahita, professor of sociology at UAF, says she has “faith” in Strategic Pathways.

“Strategic Pathways has identified the necessity to gather data about costs and benefits of changes, and drives us to make decisions based on data, not untested assumptions,” Anahita said. “Strategic Pathways has encouraged [members of the university] to be creative, both in designing the process and in determining the outcomes and the implementation.”

Anahita believes that the proposed methods in Strategic Pathways have great potential to improve the University of Alaska in the near future.

“I think that Phase One got off to a rocky start, where participants in the teams were mandated to secrecy. President Johnsen has indicated his willingness to improve the process at every step of the way, and Phase Two was much improved,” Anahita said.

Strategic Pathways provides potential benefits such as identification of areas for cost reduction and process improvement through collaboration, consolidation, outsourcing and automation. It also ensures a look at Statewide Administration.

Although Statewide has taken deeper cuts than the university overall, Johnsen believes there are always opportunities to improve support services to the campuses.

“[Strategic Pathways] is a process that brings people together to develop and suggest options for strengthening how we serve our students and our state during tough times,” Johnsen said.

Options involved in Phase Three were presented to the Summit Team on April 11, and will soon be reviewed by the Board of Regents. Feedback meetings will continue to take place through September, while President Johnsen says the implementation is expected to take place in the fall.

April 23, 2017 Alexis Abbott

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A local initiative called Protect our Privacy could limit public restroom use in Anchorage to the gender on birth certificates.

The proposed petition is to “protect the privacy” of citizens by requiring intimate facilities such as restrooms and locker rooms to be designated for and used only by people of the same sex.

The Protect our Privacy initiative committee sponsor, Kim Minnery, was not available for comment.

If passed, facilities owned by the municipality must follow the city-wide guidelines. The initiative also provides private employers and public accommodations the right to designate bathroom usage to those with the same sex.

A person’s sex refers to biological sex, as defined by the Anchorage Municipal Code.

The idea of the petition is to protect people’s physical privacy, which “includes the right not to be seen in various states of undress by members of the opposite sex,” as stated in the Protect our Privacy initiative.

The intention of the petition is to counter-act the Anchorage law that gave transgender people the right to use the bathroom that matched their gender identity. In October of 2015, the Anchorage Assembly passed a nondiscrimination ordinance to protect the transgender community. The proposed initiative would repeal part of this ordinance.

The Protect our Privacy initiative is a new and improved version of a petition that was introduced in January but was rejected for violating provision of local and state laws.

Anchorage Assembly member Forrest Dunbar sees the bathroom initiative as a step in the wrong direction.

“The nondiscrimination ordinance has been in effect for more than a year, and we’ve had exactly zero complaints or incidents. Transgender people are our friends and family — they’ve been dealing with these issues for much of their lives. Most of them discretely use stalls or just otherwise go about their lives. Let them be,” Dunbar said. “I don’t think any Alaskan wants to carry around their birth certificate and present it to business owners on demand.”

Dunbar stated that the passing of a repeal has the potential to be very harmful to the city of Anchorage.

Sarah Hyland, a former UAA student and transgender woman, believes that if the initiative passes, violence against transpeople in the Anchorage area will increase, and may even cause severe economic penalties.

“This issue has never been about bathrooms or privacy. It’s about legislating transpeople out of existence. Bathrooms have been a battleground for protection and privacy before…during segregation. These days the issue is always biased towards transwomen and not transmen because if you include them, many questions start to come up,” Hyland said. “If this passes the Alaskan community will have been duped into supporting hateful legislation over love and compassion by passing laws that are solutions to nonexistent problems.”

Hyland will continue to use restroom facilities for women.

Sarah Seifert, a resident of Anchorage and Fairbanks, thinks that limiting restroom usage will have a detrimental impact on all Alaskans.

“Alaska has always both embodied and treasured certain ideals — freedom, respect, beauty, nature, bravery, daring — the reality of what a law like this will entail and wreak on not only the most vulnerable and maligned members of our communities but also on the very people proponents of this initiative claim to seek to ‘protect’ flies in the face of every single thing we hold dear. But more than that, it puts a target on the back of the skull of every single one of us,” Seifert said. “This is not merely an issue of transgender rights, which is an important enough matter in its own right, this is about who we want to be — as Alaskans, as Americans, as neighbors, as friends, as family and, above all, as human beings.”

The Protect our Privacy initiative was filed in March, and if it garners enough signatures, it may appear on the Anchorage ballot in April 2018.

April 18, 2017 Max Jungreis



On Thursday, the Hilcorp Corporation ended a natural gas leak in Cook Inlet that has spewed methane into the surrounding waters for months after dive crews installed a clamp marine pipeline. The fix required several dives to the seafloor as workers repaired a damaged pipeline 80 feet deep. Thick sea ice prevented crews from fixing the 52-year-old installation for two months. The leak has generated controversy since it began, with environmental groups voicing concern for local wildlife and accusing Hilcorp of being unable to manage its own properties.


The Alabama state Senate has passed a bill that would grant a local church the ability to appoint its own police force. Briarwood Presbyterian Church is located at the fringes of Birmingham, located between Jefferson and Shelby counties. The church is massive, with more than 4,000 members and 40 ministries, including programs for preschool and K-12 education. The church released a statement stating, “After the shooting at Sandy Hook and in the wake of similar assaults at churches and schools, Briarwood recognized the need to provide qualified first responders to coordinate with local law enforcement who so heroically and effectively serve their communities.” Those in favor of the measure say that a police force is necessary in increasingly dangerous times. Those against it say the move is both gratuitous to religious forces and unconstitutional. The American Civil Liberties Union objected, issuing a memo saying that the bill will “unnecessarily carve out special programs for religious organizations and inextricably intertwine state authority and power with church operations.” Critics also say that violates the First Amendment, which says that Congress cannot make any law “respecting an establishment of religion.


North Korean leader Kim Jong-un celebrated his grandfather’s birthday this year, not with the usual parade, but with a display of far-ranging firepower. A massive military procession showed off the latest North Korean military equipment, including what analysts say were three different types of intercontinental missiles. Kim watched from a balcony as the missiles made their way through Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, accompanied by dozens of tanks and thousands of goose-stepping soldiers. It was the 105th birthday of Kim Il-sung, Kim’s grandfather and near-mythic founder of North Korea. World powers like China and the United States were concerned that Kim would ring in the anniversary with a nuclear bomb test or the firing of an intercontinental missile. The United States sent a naval strike group to the coast of the Korean Peninsula in a show of force. The move has led to heightened tensions between the two countries. Cho-ryong Hae, believed to be second most powerful North Korean official, said “We’re prepared to respond to an all-out war with an all-out war” and “We are ready to hit back with nuclear attacks of our own style against any nuclear attacks.”

April 18, 2017 Cheyenne Mathews

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Students living in the Residential Halls are required to purchase a meal plan for the beginning of each semester, and the plan includes a combination of dining dollars — money for Seawolf Dining locations — and meal blocks, which are used for one meal at the Creekside Eatery or $5 at dining locations.

For an estimated 409 students, $87,491 dining dollars and 16,478 meal blocks expired on their accounts, collectively, at the end of fall 2016, according to Financial Systems Administrator Brian deZeeuw. At this time for the spring semester, the total amount of money left over in the form of dining dollars is below the fall total, which deZeeuw said is a good thing. For the meal plan currencies that are left over, deZeeuw said that there is a substantial amount of meal plans that expire or don’t transfer to the next semester.

“Working at the University, we are very aware of the amounts students sometimes have to borrow to go to school,” deZeeuw said. “It’s personally frustrating to me to see all of that money left on the table.”

On March 29, deZeeuw sent out emails to students with a balance left on their accounts and provided them the link to eAccounts, a website that helps students keep track of any meal plan currencies, Wolfbucks or printer allocation on their Wolfcard. deZeeuw said he has no advertising budget, and so he is not sure how new students find out about eAccounts, or how to use that service to budget their meal plan, but that there are other ways students can keep track of the amount of meal currencies they spend or have left.

“Whenever the student buys anything, and the cashier swipes the card, it will generally show the remaining balance. … If they get a receipt it will be printed on there,” deZeeuw said. “They can call the [Wolf]card office anytime that we are open Monday through Friday. At the housing desk, there is a little machine on the counter that will show them both their dining balance and their meal point balance.”

David Weaver, director of University Housing, Dining and Conference Services said that a student not using their meal plan can be a sign that the student is facing some sort of hardship.

“I feel like there are some students, a small number of students, that aren’t using their dining plans because of some anxiety, because they have a bad roommate situation,” Weaver said. “Students who feel depressed… if the student’s not using their meals I think that’s a clue.”

The Spring 2015 semester had around 336 students with leftover meal blocks, and during the Fall 2016 semester, around 409 students had leftover currency on their plans, according to deZeeuw. Weaver said the majority of students with unused meal currencies have leftovers because they are new to budgeting resources. In the past, Weaver and his staff would reach out to students who hadn’t used their meal plans in the beginning of the semester to see how they were adjusting. Due to budget cuts, Weaver said that project has been put on hold so that staff can compensate for a larger workload.

“We are doing all the same amount of work plus more with two less people,” Weaver said. “Once upon a time, we would take and pull the list of students who hadn’t used their meals by like the third week of school to say, ‘Hey… we noticed you’re not eating on campus, is everything okay? Do you have allergies? Is there something we could do to help?’”

Alec Leighton, natural sciences major, was an incoming student last semester with a large balance of meal blocks that expired on his account in the fall. Leighton said he had around 60 or 70 meal blocks leftover on his account at the semester’s end, and the reason had to do with a lack of time.

“If someone had a lot of time it’s entirely logical for them to eat more or have the ability to eat more,” Leighton said. “However, if someone has a more constrained schedule, they’re probably not going to be able to get to the Commons that much.”

Leighton said he has been able to use more of his meal blocks this semester than the previous one because he has more time. Weaver said that it doesn’t benefit the University to have students leave meal currencies untouched because of how dining services are contracted out to NANA Management Services. NMS doesn’t benefit either, according to Weaver, because of how the bidding process makes potential contractors bid for the lowest price by factoring in how many meal currencies will go untouched. Weaver thinks it is unfortunate that so many dining dollars and meal blocks go untouched.

“It’s problematic, because students are paying for those and the University does not benefit when a student doesn’t use all of his or her meals, and I want the student to have the absolute lowest cost education that they can,” Weaver said.

Meal currencies for the 2017 spring semester expire at the end of the semester and do not carry over.

April 18, 2017 Sarah Tangog
Built in 1962, the Providence Alaska Medical Center operates as Alaska's largest hospital. There have been plans to develop more access points to combat the heavy traffic in the areas leading to both Providence and UAA campus. Photo credit: Jay Guzman

The congestion of traffic around Tudor, from East Northern Lights to Lake Otis Parkway, has had the city of Anchorage proposing a solution for years. However, due to differing priorities as Anchorage grows, the U-Med District Northern Access Project still lacks the funding it needs to proceed.

“When the mayoral office turned over to the current major, the current administration made it clear this was not a priority of theirs,” Stewart Osgood, project manager from DOWL, said. “It’s nothing now; it was a connection to provide relief to traffic congestion and circulation problems to the U-Med district.”

The project was proposed to alleviate the traffic by extending the road.

“The project is an extension of Elmore through Bragaw, connecting another north-south corridor between Providence Drive and Northern Lights Boulevard,” Sean Baski, project manager from the Department of Transportation, said.

Since 2003, the project was already in thought and analyzed to determine the best course to take in order to create a practical alleviation.

“Accordingly, the team examined potential connections between Elmendorf Air Force Base and the Glenn Highway to the north, and Tudor Road and Abbott Loop Road to the south. North of Tudor Road, there were two obvious choices: Boniface Parkway or Bragaw Street,” ZGF Architects, Inc. said in a U-Med road plan prepared in 2003. “The team concluded that either could satisfy regional transportation needs and that issues related to livability should determine the choice of routes.”

The confidence for the project is strong, but with no money, it still won’t be able to move forward.

“The project was a state-funded project; money was provided to the municipality of Anchorage, and then the municipality of Anchorage then passed those funds over to the Department of Transportation, and then we were developing the project, sometime in 2015-2016. The city administration removed their support from the project and since it was their project, the Department of Transportation then archived the project. Now it’s archived and no longer being advanced,” Baski said.

Despite this, there is a clear demand for such an extension in the road.

“I think the project has a clear purpose and need, and benefits the U-Med district and solves problems that are real in the U-Med area,” Osgood said.

“The University of Alaska Anchorage, APU, the different medical organizations in the area all supported the project, so there’s definitely support for the project from the business side and then also from area residents, but there’s definitely some area residents that did not support it,” Baski said.

Though the project may have reached its end, Osgood believes the project is important enough to be considered once again in the future.

“I do believe that the project will be back at some point because there is a clear need for it. And if the U-Med district will continue to grow, they will need construction of a larger infrastructure,” Osgood said.

Plans like the U-Med District Northern Access Project are proposed in order to create a safer traffic pattern. The goal is to decrease the congestion in traffic, and as the area grows, the goal becomes more relevant. With the U-Med road project at its final end, this goal is still nowhere near completion.

April 18, 2017 Alexis Abbott

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The Alaska Senate recently announced a series of bills that would cut tremendously into the University of Alaska’s budget and eliminate a statewide scholarship program. The money that funds the Alaska Performance Scholarship would go to K-12 education throughout the state.

The Senate introduced a new education plan, stating that there is an “enormous achievement gap for many Alaskan students and outcomes are not where they should be for students to be ready for life after high school.”

The goal of the proposed bills is to prioritize resources for Alaskan students in the 21st century.

The Senate Finance Committee created an updated FY18 operating budget that would cut $22 million from the university, a $5.7 million addition to the already proposed $16.3 million. The UA budget cuts have previously resulted in the loss of copious faculty, staff and programs — while cutting scholarship opportunities may add a loss of prospective students.

University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen referred to the legislative cuts as “devastating.”

Bills proposed by the Senate to alter state education include SB 96, 102, 103 and 104.

“The overall purpose of SB 96 is to provide the school districts with tools through offering grants that school districts can use. The bill will also create the virtual education consortium, which will allow school districts to offer classes virtually to students in other districts,” Joshua Banks, Senate Education Committee aid, said.

SB 102 regards funding for internet services for school districts, which would increase internet access and speeds in the state and in the rural areas of Alaska. SB 104 highlights the Board of Education and improvement of school curriculum.

The bill that caused the most controversy was SB 103, which involves eliminating the Alaska Performance Scholarship and Alaska Education Grant, and instead creates “innovation grants” within Alaska school districts. If enacted, the APS and AEG would be cut by the 2020-2021 academic year.

Students that are eligible for the APS after high school could receive up to $4,755 per year for up to four years to study at a participating in-state institution. More than 5,200 Alaskan high school graduates have benefited from the APS, according to Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education.

Since created in 2011, the APS has increased enrollment at the University of Alaska, and has encouraged many students to pursue higher education in-state. The APS costed the state about $11 million last year and helped a little over 3,400 students pay for school. Cutting the scholarship program could cost the UA system up to $10 million each year.

Out of the APS recipients that graduated in the 2015 academic year, 750 students earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, 150 earned an associate’s degree and 50 received certificates.

Alec Burris, recipient of the APS, thinks that SB 103 sends the wrong message to prospective college students in Alaska.

“I think that the Alaska Performance Scholarship is particularly important in our state because it allows students in financial need to attend college. In a state like Alaska, where a lot of our population is rural, it’s really important that they have those opportunities to gain the education they deserve,” Burris said. “This is just a good tool for students to attend school and get the education that they need.”

Despite the million of dollars that the state would save by eliminating these popular scholarships, many students may be encouraged to pursue their higher education out of state.

Ashleigh Goplen, junior health science major at UAA and APS recipient, said that the Alaska Performance Scholarship is the only thing that has kept her in Alaska.

“I think [the APS] is important because it keeps the academically strong students, who have options to go to other schools, in state, and then hopefully keeps them in state in the future for whatever career they transition into. It’s important for future students because it’s a huge motivator to do well in high school.” Goplen said.

The Alaska Education Grant requires less state funding than the APS but provides many students with the opportunity to further their education. The AEG provides need-based financial assistance to Alaska students, typically awarding grants of $500 to $4,000 per academic year.

If enacted into law, the high school graduating class of 2017 will be the last to be eligible for the scholarship and grant. The Higher Education Fund will be renamed “The Alaskan Innovation Education Grant Fund.”

The purpose of the new legislation is to provide the Department of Education and Early Development and school districts with grants to create academically innovative ways to improve education in the state.

These grants must first be approved by the Commissioner of Education and submitted to the legislature for state funding before the education budget is altered.

April 18, 2017 Lauren Cuddihy
Photo credit: Alaska Aces

April 8, 2017 marked the commencement of the Alaska Aces. The dreadful fate of Alaska’s longtime professional hockey team was decided due to the declining financial state of the franchise.

The fateful Friday night led to a sold out, standing-room only crowd of over 6,000 fans. It was one of the largest crowds the Sullivan Arena and The Aces had seen in a long time; the crowd and the opposing team gathered to bid farewell and extend the goodbye.

Long time aces fan and Anchorage resident, Zachary Langlais, planned to go to the game for weeks to be able to see the team play one last time, but was surprised when he went to buy tickets.

“I didn’t realize how quickly they had sold out. I even started to browse online and talk to friends to see if I could buy a ticket that way, but the tickets were much more expensive than usual, and I had to end up missing the game,” Langlais said.

The away team, the Idaho Steelheads, gave tribute to the Aces following the game by remaining on the ice after the game finished. They proceeded to gently hit their sticks on the ice, similar to a clap, to give respect.

The end of the game was an emotional experience for everyone who was there, coaches, players, management and fans all took the hit.

Terry Parks, co-owner of the Aces, experienced the emotions of fans for the past several months, as well as the night of the game.

“They were all so sad. We have had fans crying, they didn’t want to leave the game that Saturday night,” Parks said.

The team gathered together near the end of the game, with Coach Rob Murray and team captain Garet Hunt making the most emotional goodbyes. Coach Murray left his team, walking the duration of the ice for everyone to watch before making his final exit.

In addition to the entire team raising their sticks in a salute together, Hunt stepped away to the boards and handed his stick over the glass to give one fan a final memento from the team.

The team exited the ice briefly, but in the despair of the players and the fans, they returned to the ice for one last time. The players and the fans both erupted in a roar of claps, with announcer Bob Lester calling out a different chant than usual.

Most normal home games would be given the chant, “Here we go, Aces, here we go,” but on that Saturday night, Lester chanted, “There they go, Aces, there they go,” as their final departure neared.

“It was definitely a sad experience. I didn’t even get to be at the game but it was all over social media and many of my friends were there. I grew up with the Aces and it was just a part of my childhood that ended,” Langlais said.

It was a tough experience for many, especially knowing that the team could have had the opportunity to play even a few more times. The final game against Idaho would lead one of them to the playoffs, which ended with one goal in Idaho’s favor.

And that was the official end of the Aces.

Co-owner Parks explained that the team has technically ‘gone dark,’ which means players are no longer contracted to the Alaska Aces and can search to sign elsewhere. In addition, the Aces ownership now has the opportunity to recover some losses by selling their ECHL membership.

April 9, 2017 Alexis Abbott
Planned Parenthood's only location in Anchorage is found off of Lake Otis Parkway and East 40th Avenue.

A bill to cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood was recently passed by the U.S. Senate and is awaiting the next step — approval from the president. The 51-50 vote was tie-broken by Vice President Mike Pence to advance the ballot.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski was one of just two Republicans that voted against the restrictive bill. The measure will enable states to cut federal funds from Planned Parenthood and other women’s reproductive health organizations.

Despite the recent GOP health-care bill failure, congress is still in position to halt federal funding and Medicaid to health care providers all over the country. This could strip millions of women of affordable mammograms, contraception and pap smears.

Katie Rogers, communications manager for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands, says that Planned Parenthood is working hard to make sure Alaskan legislators are aware of the potential harm of defunding women’s health facilities.

“Since President Trump took office, we have been expecting these kinds of threats to women’s health care. We as an administration have chosen to be on a crusade to eliminate access for women and families when it comes to health care — so we’re keeping up the fight, and we’re staying optimistic and we’re going to continue to fight for our patients and health centers,” Rogers said.

Moira Pyhala, president of the Planned Parenthood advocacy club at UAA, expressed the importance of keeping affordable health care providers not only in Anchorage, but all over the nation.

“As a young, developing, person I used and continue to use the services that are provided by Planned Parenthood because they are one of the only health care options that are accessible to me personally. This is not only the case for me but for millions of women all over the nation,” Pyhala said. “I’ve met women all across the nation through Planned Parenthood, and their stories always end with ‘thankfully I had Planned Parenthood’. Without access to reproductive health, women (and men) do not have absolute control of their lives and bodies, and millions of low-income women would not have access to necessary care that they need.”

Phyla pointed out that if funding to Planned Parenthood were to be cut, thousands of Anchorage residents would lose access to not only reproductive health but access to sexual education — which could be detrimental due to Alaska having some of the highest rates of common STI’s compared to the rest of the nation.

Currently, Generation Action is working on building Planned Parenthood advocacy on the UAA campus while also addressing the issues that are currently in the state.

Tasha Hotch, Anchorage school board nominee, endorsed by Planned Parenthood votes Northwest and Hawaii for her longtime support, says that with the high rates of sexual assault and violence in the Anchorage community, that terminating Planned Parenthood would have a harmful impact.

“I think that [Planned Parenthood] is an affordable place where people without many health care choices go. Although I have heard people with insurance go there, and I have even gone there. Specifically for me, I am eligible for IHS services and could have gone to South Central Foundation, and although there are privacy laws, there are few things as embarrassing as everyone knowing your health care business, especially if it’s elective, such as exploring birth control options,” Hotch said.

Defunding programs like Planned Parenthood would take away what public health calls “safety-net health centers,” a last-chance offering for those who cannot afford full price if they had to, but who are covered by Medicaid. Many women and men may no longer have access to health-related care if the bill to cut federal funding passes.

April 9, 2017 Sarah Tangog


Thus far, 2017 has been a year that promotes voices and ideas throughout different communities. The March for Science is no exception, and many scientists are pushing to make themselves heard.

“As an ecologist and evolutionary biologist, former researcher, consultant and educator, I’ve been actively engaged in science for many years,” Ceal Smith, member of the March for Science Anchorage Team, said. “I attended the Women’s March, which was an inspiring and historical event for Anchorage, so when I learned about the March for Science in D.C., I immediately contacted the organizers and volunteered to help organize the March for Science in Anchorage.”

Smith isn’t the only one who was encouraged to join. Bryan Box, UAA graduate with biology major, also felt compelled. He specializes in forest ecology, and focuses on forest entomology.

“They gave me an out: I could heavily reword my manuscript to not include any mention on climate change, even though that’s the whole point of my research,” Box said. “All my friends who work at the [Environmental Protection Agency] and all my friends who work at the Department of the Interior started reporting the same thing, like, ‘Hey, we’re being told we can’t talk to the public, and that our data’s going to start getting shut down.’ So we all started getting super angry, naturally.”

Because the origins of the march are emotional, the march itself has received plenty of backlashes. One argument against it states that the march is too political and is based off of scientific policy.

“The aims and functions of the march have been drastically altered in the first two months of its existence, especially as the organizers began to receive critique from the scientific community,” Zuleyka Zevallos, sociologist research fellow at Swinburne University, said in an article for

Since then, the intent has become clear: the march is to focus heavily on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education, as well as differing branches of science in general.

“Science is absolutely fascinating, and it’s a method of thinking about the world,” Box said. “It’s not political science, you know, it’s not people-based. It’s pure logic. It’s elegant, beautiful, and I love it. I really do.”

The March for Science Anchorage is to take place April 22, at 10 a.m. Tony Knowles and Ethan Berkowitz are to be keynote speakers. It will start from the Veterans’ Memorial at Delaney Park and will end at the Anchorage Museum. This event is open to the public.

April 9, 2017 Max Jungreis



Chinese President Xi Jinping made a surprise stop in Anchorage Friday night after meeting with President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago. Mr. Xi met with Gov. Bill Walker, dined at the Crow’s Nest in the Captain Cook hotel and traveled to Beluga point before leaving in his personal Boeing 747. The stop is thought to highlight China’s interest in the Arctic’s natural resources. Over the last few years, China has passed Japan to become Alaska’s largest trading partner. In 2016, the state exported minerals, oil, seafood and other products, valued at about $1.2 billion. Gov. Bill Walker used his time with the Chinese president to pitch for a gas export project and recognize China’s status as Alaska’s largest trading partner. Xi expressed that he has flown over the state many times, and always wanted to visit.


On Friday, a federal judge approved a consent decree to overhaul the Baltimore police department against the wishes of the justice department. The decree would introduce major reforms to the troubled department, including new technology, training and community oversight. On Monday, the Justice department sought a 90-day delay to review police reform agreements, including Baltimore’s. Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressed concern at the decision, stating the decree was signed in a “rushed process” during the previous presidential administration. “While the Department of Justice continues to fully support police reform in Baltimore, I have grave concerns that some provisions of this decree will reduce the lawful powers of the police department and result in a less safe city,” Sessions said.

The Justice Department had previously found that the police department of Baltimore, a majority-black city, disproportionately targeted black people. The consent decree would seek to address this by requiring reforms like an additional 80 hours of training on protocol such as stop-and-search procedures and the upgrading of technology that keeps police officers accountable, such as video cameras inside police vans. At a press conference, mayor Catherine Pugh called the decision “a great victory for the citizens of Baltimore, as well as the Baltimore Police Department”.


The politician most likely to unseat Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro in an election has been barred from holding public office for the next 15 years. Henrique Capriles, governor of the Venezuelan state of Miranda, narrowly lost to Maduro in the 2013 election. The government released a list of issues it claims disqualifies Capriles from running, including failure to secure approval for various budgets and contracts. Capriles is an outspoken critic of the current president, frequently appearing at the large protests that have continued to grow after the Supreme Court attempted last month to remove from Venezuela’s legislature, a body stocked with Maduro’s opposition. In the last week, government forces have put down demonstrations with force, using tear gas, water cannons and clubs to repel protesters. “More than yesterday, more than today, tomorrow there are even more reasons for us to mobilize ourselves in all of the country,” Capriles wrote on Twitter.

April 9, 2017 Alexis Abbott
Irasema Ortega, a language education instructor, feels the cancellation of ESL classes will deter international students from enrolling at UAA. She believes that it will ultimately affect the college experience for students. Photo credit: Irasema Ortega

University of Alaska Anchorage’s English as a second language (ESL) program was recently announced to be canceled prior to this academic year.

ESL provides entry-level courses for students who’s first language is not English. Classes in the program give international and non-English speaking students practice including pronunciation, reading, writing and other critical skills.

For students that come from other countries, ESL courses are vital to ensure a successful transition into their college classes. The cancellation of ESL will affect current students as well as prospective international students who will need to find language assistance off campus.

Cuts to the ESL program may result in loss of tuition revenue and lack of diversity on campus. International students pay a higher level of tuition than Alaska residents or US citizens that attend UAA. Thus, the university will suffer a loss of tuition earnings and incoming foreign students.

Irasema Ortega, a language education instructor and investigator for Project Language Equity and Academic Performance believes that ESL classes are crucial for many students at the university.

“The level of English proficiency required for success at UAA and at many other institutions is greatly improved by ESL classes in each of the academic English domains,” Ortega said. “Cancellation of classes could potentially cause international students to consider attending other colleges and universities. This will result in a loss of cultural and linguistic diversity in our campus thus decreasing the richness of the college experience for all students who attend UAA.”

International students whose first language is not English must demonstrate proficiency in either the test of English as a foreign language or the international English language testing system before being eligible to advance to regular content classes. Without offering remedial classes, many students will have to make other plans prior to registering for courses.

Former ESL instructor, Jonathan Bower, felt the cut of ESL to be “discouraging” — having so many implications and impacts across the learning spectrum at UAA.

“This decision fails to take into account the true, day-to-day, on-the-ground rigors that any international student faces in pursuing an opportunity to study here. To my understanding, the ESL classes are customarily where our international students receive the basic tools needed for them to proceed through their degree or academic pursuits here. How can we expect them to understand critical thinking or college essay writing or core philosophies in our disciplines if they’re still trying to work out basic grammar and sentence structure?” Bower said.

Bower worries what effect the loss of ESL will have on international students at UAA.

“It concerns me that we may now see an influx of students throughout the disciplines who, lacking those basic skills afforded to them through ESL classes, may now also, in addition to basic grammar or sentence structure, be freighted with trying to comprehend critical thinking, traditional essay-writing, narrative structure, etc.,” Bower said. “I’ve lived in other cultures. I only survived in those places by first receiving certain, basic instructions and education in the language and writing before I could move on and attempt anything more complex or out of my league as a beginning student.”

Gesar Bat-Erdene, a UAA student from Mongolia, admitted that many international students face communication challenges that ESL helps them deal with.

“UAA has been known for it’s welcoming environment for international students. Cancellation of the ESL program will affect the performance of the students who need these classes the most, particularly, eliminating an opportunity to prepare for more advanced classes. In addition to the decreasing number of international students’ population in UAA, it will create less favorable conditions for new arrivals,” Bat-Erdene said.

In result of the university budget crisis, important programs that contribute to the success of many students are being eliminated. What international and non-English speaking students will do without the ESL program is to be tested following this academic year.

April 3, 2017 Alexis Abbott

Just before the scheduled vote to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s health care bill, House Republican leaders pulled what they thought would succeed the Affordable Care Act. The withdrawal of the American Health Care Act was proceeded by House Speaker Paul Ryan, by the request of President Donald Trump.

Trump’s decision to abandon the house’s new insurance system may have been triggered when it became nearly impossible for the vote to be passed.

Mick Mulvaney, the director of Office Management told the press the day before the vote that if it did not pass, Trump would move on and leave “Obamacare” in place.

Trump blamed the failure of the health bill on a lack of support from the Democratic party, and that the house was just 10 to 15 votes short of a new healthcare system. Ryan blamed the withdrawal on “growing pains” in the new administration.

Ryan referred to the proposed bill as a “fundamentally flawed” replacement.

“‘Obamacare’ is the law of the land. It will remain the law of the land until it is replaced. We will be living with ‘Obamacare’ for the foreseeable future,” Ryan said in a press conference following the withdrawal.

Ryan was not shy to share his disappointment following the failed attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act, and he said that the Republicans would not try to take over the current health care system anytime soon.

Just 216 votes of the 237 Republicans in the House of Representatives were needed to pass the proposed health law, but the amount of support fell shy of the president’s expectations.

Replacing “Obamacare” with a “new and improved” healthcare law was Trump’s large focus during his presidential campaign. After an unlucky attempt, he says he is “open” to working bipartisan on a new replacement for the ACA.

The Affordable Care Act has been in place for seven years since former President Barack Obama signed it in 2010. The goal of “Obamacare” is to give more Americans access to affordable, quality, health insurance and to reduce the growth in US healthcare spending.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the Republican bill would have resulted in an additional 24 million uninsured Americans in a decade. Republican tax credits would be based on age, not income like “Obamacare.” The bill would cut Medicaid, which provides benefits for low-income citizens, along several other insurance providers.

Anchorage Assembly Chair Elvi Gray-Jackson was gracious to hear the news that President Trump pulled the GOP health care bill.

“[‘Obamacare’] is helping a whole lot of people, not only in our community but across the nation. Withdrawing was the right thing for the Republicans to do,” Gray-Jackson said.

Gray-Jackson admitted that the Affordable Care Act helps not only her and her family but many of those in her community.

“Around 23,000 Alaskans would have been affected and would not have health insurance if ‘Obamacare’ would have went away. The fact that it is still here means that the folks in our community are going to continue to have healthcare without any interruptions,” Gray-Jackson said.

The healthcare setback could require Republicans and Democrats to work together in creating a solution and an improved legislature. With conservatives lawmakers in the majority, they will have to work with the president on creating a better and more sustainable health care act.

April 3, 2017 Cheyenne Mathews
Closed due to pedestrian safety and traffic concerns, students must use the skybridge to cross over what would be a short distance outside. Photo credit: Young Kim

In the atrium before the Engineering and Computation Building is a door that was once used as a main entrance into the ECB, and is now an emergency door. UAA engineering student, Roman Romanovski, has started a campaign to open that door to pedestrian traffic again. On March 23, Romanovski sent emails on his Facebook and Twitter page @UAAopenthedoor to every email he could find listed on Blackboard.

“I’ve been here long enough to know that [it] used to be a perfectly good entryway and walkway before the remodel of the ECB,” Romanovski said. “I enjoyed just walking across the street, I mean it’s a perfectly good door. It’s quite an inconvenience to go up and over and back down when you have a perfectly good crosswalk. It’s identified with signage, there’s paint on the road, it’s right there in front of the door. It’s always been there until the remodel. I think it’s the knowledge of, ‘Hey, you used to be able to go right across the street, no big deal.’ Now you have to go way out of your way.”

The door is now labeled as an emergency exit only, meaning that Romanovski, and other student pedestrians, cannot enter or exit through the door without triggering an alarm.

Kimberly Riggs is the facilities manager for the College of Engineering, and she said the door is no longer operable but other pathways were considered.

“The whole building was under renovation for a year… During the construction, there was talk of putting in an underpass, like a tunnel, underneath UAA Drive,” Riggs said. “We did the design, we completed the design, but there’s not funding for them currently to do construction on that part. However, the decision was made to close [the door] off because we have the skybridge, and to avoid having pedestrian traffic on the roadway.”

Riggs said the petitions asking for student support and signatures were new, but the pedestrian traffic through that door causes problematic traffic blocks.

“I personally don’t use that crosswalk ever, even when those doors are open, because I feel like it’s much safer and much better for traffic to use the skybridge, and I don’t mind taking the stairs,” Riggs said. “In my opinion, I don’t see a need for this door. I’ve seen traffic blocked all the way to Northern Lights and all the way back to the hospital because there’s no light when people cross the road every five seconds, [cars] have to stop constantly for pedestrian traffic.”

Director of Environmental Health and Safety Risk Management Support and Emergency Management, Doug Markussen, said student safety was best maintained when the ECB door was not used as an outlet for pedestrian traffic.

“That pedestrian crosswalk that goes across UAA Drive, there is not really an officially sanctioned crosswalk by the Municipality of Anchorage, so we’re trying to discourage people from doing it way before any of that took place,” Markussen said. “We much prefer them to use the skywalk… There have been efforts in the past to persuade people to not use that exit.”

Markussen said that the door was needed as an exit and entrance before the ECB underwent construction because of the bus stop right outside of the door.

“The only problem we had was that it was the direct access to the bus stop right out front,” Markussen said. “When they re-did the Engineering building…part of that project was to relocate the bus stop towards the parking garage, which kind of took away the need for the door to be the main entrance to the building anymore. In other words, most people are probably going to be coming in that building through the parking garage or from the bus stop around that end of the building.”

Markussen said there is no longer a need for the bus stop exit and that the road path was too dangerous.

“We’ve had incidents of people getting hit there, I know a bicycle got hit there once, a pedestrian got hit there once,” Markussen said. “There was one gentleman who called me up specifically because he was very irritated, trying to take is wife to the hospital, and it was right between class breaks and the students would not let him through.”

When the ECB was under construction, there was a conversation about building a tunnel underneath UAA Drive to offset the pedestrian traffic, but Markussen said there was no funding for the project. Julian McCarthy, natural sciences major, said he remembers when the door was an option for pedestrian traffic, and that he misses the option.

“Every morning I have to walk to the Allied Health Sciences Building for my morning class, and then right after that, I end up having to walk all the way to the ConocoPhillips Science Building, which is on the other side of campus,” McCarthy said. “I’ve always been kind of curious why that door’s blocked off because it’s a lot faster for me to walk straight through — which I was able to do one of my first few semesters here.”

Currently, there are a handful of signatures on the student petition, and 15 Facebook users are following @UAAopenthedoor.

April 3, 2017 Alexis Abbott

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Instagram is approaching updated censorship guidelines for all accounts. The update will blur out content that could be considered objectionable, letting the user choose if they would like to view the content.

In the past, Instagram has been accused of deleting “sensitive” content, which many users deemed unreasonable. The censorship update will allow users to decide what kind of content they wish to see.

The update is an approach to foster a safer, kinder community for the 500 million active users of the social outlet. Instagram will soon be censoring content such as animal testing, famine, humanitarian crises and nudity.

The blurring of certain content may affect a variety of users including brands, bloggers, photojournalists and photographers. Much of what popularly followed users share could be censored if found offensive by others.

“Soon you may notice a screen over sensitive photos and videos when you scroll through your feed or visit a profile. While these posts don’t violate our guidelines, someone in the community has reported them and our review team has confirmed they are sensitive. This change means you are less likely to have surprising or unwanted experiences in the app,” Kevin Systrom, co-founder and CEO of Instagram, wrote in a company blog post.

Instagram will also be adding a new security feature, enabling a two-factor authentication that will require a code every time a user logs in.

Anchorage-based photographer Jovell Rennie does not doubt that the new guidelines will cause backlash, but thinks that many users won’t necessarily be affected. Rennie is best known for a variety of local camera work, sharing Alaska and boudoir photography.

“I can’t imagine many photographers liking the fact that their images are blurred. I think it comes down to your motivations for using the platform. If you use it primarily for commercial exposure, reaching out to prospective clients, etc., then you might be pretty peeved about the blurring. If you use it for artistic expression, you might not feel as bothered,” Rennie said.

Shayne Nuesca, UAA student and photojournalist, feels that Instagram’s guidelines will result in feeds that are too curated.

“I don’t like the idea that I could be censored if I do decide to make a photograph about a more sensitive issue. When I see a photo that’s blurred, I automatically think that the photo might be distasteful. But most of the time, it isn’t and it actually adds a story to a larger narrative. I would hate to see organizations and photojournalists be labeled as ‘distasteful’ because their photos are censored. It’s really not fair,” Nuesca said.

To Nuesca, expressing yourself “safely” is more suppressive than expressive.

Whether Instagram’s new approach is successful or hurts a fraction of their users, letting consumers have the authority to choose what kind of content they wish to see could be a reasonable solution.

April 3, 2017 Max Jungreis

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On Thursday, Sen. Lisa Murkowksi broke with the GOP party line and voted against the defunding of planned Planned Parenthood. The move directly led to a rare stalemate in the senate, requiring a vote from Vice President Mike Pence to break the tie. Pence voted in favor of the motion. Murkowski said she voted against the bill because she could not support any measure that would remove health care options for women. This is not the first time Murkowski has split from her party over women’s health. Frequently, the senator has voted against her party on the issue. Repealing government funding rules “allows states to make that determination that they are going to further limit access to care for women, and I think that that’s taking us backwards,” Murkowski said. “So I voted against it.”

The Congressional Review Act resolution would repeal a rule known as “Title X” that barred states from withholding funding from clinics that provide abortions, such as Planned Parenthood. Taxpayer money cannot be used to fund abortion, but federal funds can be provided to organizations that provide abortions along with other services.


The White House has released financial disclosure forms from dozens of senior staff members. This includes the assets of figures such as Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Stephen K. Bannon. Bannon made at least $1.3 million last year, while the married Kushner and Trump may be worth as much as $741 million. Gary Kohn, former Goldman Sachs executive and current director of the National Economic Council, has assets valued at $252 million to $611 million. Kellyanne Conway, advisor to the president, is modestly wealthy compared to some of her colleagues, making $800,000 last year in consulting fees from groups such as the National Rifle Association and the Tea Party Patriots. Press Secretary Sean Spicer said of the released information “…I think it speaks volumes to the desire for a lot of these people to fulfill the president’s vision and move the agenda forward that they are willing to list all of their assets, undergo this public scrutiny, but also set aside a lot.” Spicer has stakes in the Coca-Cola Company, McDonald’s and real estate but reported no investments in chewing gum companies.


Last Wednesday, the Venezuelan supreme court ruled to strip congress of its legislative powers. By Saturday, the court had reversed the ruling. The dispute is political in nature. The court is allied with Nicolas Maduro, the left-wing president, while the legislature is broadly opposed. The ruling, which would have allowed the supreme court the ability to write laws, inspired daily demonstrations by anti-government protesters. Support quickly eroded, with figures normally loyal to the president declaring the move unconstitutional. International pressure mounted as well, with countries such as Mexico, Colombia and Brazil calling for a return to order. Eventually, even the president withdrew support for the ruling himself and the court reversed its decision.

March 28, 2017 Max Jungreis


Uber and Lyft might be coming back to Alaska. On Thursday, the Alaska senate passed Senate Bill 14, which allows those companies to operate in the state, with a vote of 14 to 5. The senate spent more than five hours debating the measure. Members of the Democratic minority expressed concern that the bill allows the state, as opposed to local municipalities, to make regulation decisions on the rideshare industry. To address these concerns the minority introduced 23 amendments to the bill, some of which were adopted; but Democrats still voted against it. Uber briefly existed in Alaska in 2014 but left after six months. The company, like Lyft, refers to its drivers as independent contractors and not employees. This led to a dispute with the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, who were concerned that drivers wouldn’t have worker’s compensation insurance. Ultimately, Uber paid the Labor Department a fine of $77,925 and left the state in March 2015. If SB 14 clears the state House, it will pave the way for both Uber and Lyft to begin operating in the Alaska again.

On Friday, the American-led military coalition in Iraq confirmed that it was investigating reports that hundreds of civilians may have perished in recent American airstrikes on Mosul, the northern Iraqi city at the heart of the offensive to drive ISIS out of the country. Residents report the fatalities may be as high as 200. If true, the civilian death toll would rank among the highest in American air missions since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. The sudden rise in reported civilian casualties has begun to raise questions about whether or not the observance of wartime rules of engagement is becoming lax under the Trump administration. On Friday, American military officials denied that there had been any change in how the US goes to war while admitting that American airstrikes had been stepped up lately in both Syria and Iraq in an effort to place pressure in the Islamic State. While American spokespeople say that they currently do not know who is responsible for the deaths, Iraqi officers tell a different story. Maj. Gen. Maan al-Saadi, a commander in the Iraqi military, has said that the deaths resulted from a coalition airstrike that his men called in to take out snipers perched on rooftops in a Mosul neighborhood. The general said his men were unaware the basements of the buildings were filled with civilians. Iraqi military sources have commented that it has become much easier to call in an airstrike since President Donald Trump took office.

The least free country in Europe is experiencing unrest. Police have arrested hundreds of protesters in Belarus and shut down the internet after thousands took to the streets of Minsk and other cities to voice their opposition to a “social parasites” tax on the unemployed. As of Saturday night, protesters were still attempting to protest in the streets of Minsk, Brest and Grodno where police deployed armored riot squads and water cannons to contain them. The protests represent the most marked expression of discontent since the Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, announced the new tax two months ago. The announcement served as a flashpoint for a larger movement discontent with the lack of free elections, free press and the authoritarian government. President Lukashenko, who has ruled since 1994 and is frequently described as “Europe’s last dictator”, declared earlier this month that he would suspend the deadline for payment until his government has reviewed the policy, but protests against his style of rule — much of it a lasting remnant of Belarus’s time as Soviet member state — has only continued to grow.

March 28, 2017 Sarah Tangog
Vincent Gregory, hoping to graduate this semester, stands in front of Native Student Services which he attributes a large part of college career success to. Native Student Services can be found in the Rasmuson Hall. Photo credit: Young Kim

Moving into a different environment can really change a student’s mentality, and for many Alaska Native students, this appears to be the case. The drop-out rate for Alaska Native students in UAA is an average of about 50 percent and has been so for the past six years.

Maria Williams, director of Alaska Native Studies, believes the main challenge is an issue of resources.

“Typical of most UAA students, the adjustment to college is challenging. How to use UA Online, Blackboard, how to register for classes, how to work with an advisor, how to take the ACCUPLACER, etc. These are often barriers,” Williams said. “Students often are not aware of Veteran Support Services or Native Student Services. The UAA Student Club is the Native Student Council — which is very active — but often, new incoming Alaska Native students are not aware of this club as well.”

Vincent Gregory, English major, agreed.

“The place that I would have to go to acquire the resources to get collegiate preparation would be… Anayak, 50 miles away from my village,” Gregory said.

Gregory grew up in Kalskag and started college at UAA in the spring semester of 2009. Though he agrees that there definitely isn’t enough outreach to the small villages, Gregory developed an additional theory of why the drop-out rate is so high.

“Culture shock is what I associate it with,” Gregory said. “It’s a jungle of concrete and steel versus a village that’s serene…”

He believes that in addition to a lack of outreach, Alaska Native students from villages go through too much of a change of environment in order for them to focus on school. Additionally, when asking for help, many aren’t given the help they need.

“In my example, when I was talking to my teacher, because I would ask them to be clear. They’d say ‘I’m not going to give you the answer.’ I’m not asking for the answer! I’m asking you to guide me so I can get it on my own,” Gregory said. “If you don’t show me the path, how do you expect me to walk it, you know?”

Though there definitely isn’t enough outreach available for many students, there are programs like the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program that gives students plenty of collegiate preparation. When told about the drop-out rate in Alaska Native students, Herb Schroeder from ANSEP replied that the drop-out rate does not exist in Alaska Native ANSEP students.

“ANSEP students, when they arrive at the university, are academically and socially prepared to be college students,” Schroeder said.

He believes that basing grades off learned skills and knowledge would greatly improve the drop-out rate and that education before college is as vital as a college education. College preparation is mandatory.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with many Alaska Native students. Though there are certainly programs and resources, the main disconnect appears to exist between either recruiting students or showing them what to do in order to know what to do in college. As soon as that disconnect is bridged, the drop-out rate is sure to decrease.

March 28, 2017 Alexis Abbott
The Denali Commission, introduced by Congress in 1988, overlook infrastructure and economics across Alaska operate in Peterson Tower located downtown. Photo credit: Jay Guzman

President Donald Trump recently sent out his first budget proposal to the U.S. Congress, that involves many federal funding cuts that affect Alaska’s fiscal income. The Trump administration calls it the “America First Budget.”

Due to the state’s evident financial problem, those in the congressional delegation have a lot on their shoulders, a requirement to inform locals.

Rep. Don Young’s response to the budget proposal was short and to the point.

“This budget isn’t going anywhere. The President has an obligation to propose a budget, but it’s Congress’ responsibility to write the budget and set spending,” Young said in a prepared statement.

Alaska’s three Republican representatives have been vague as to whether they support the proposed statement or not. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan have both released statements regarding what they do support, but also aspects that they will not be on board with.

If passed, the proposed budget would eliminate funding that is necessary for many corporations including the Denali Commission, the Essential Air Service and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

In addition to these services that provide a substantial amount of business all over the state, commerce funded by the arts, education, marine fisheries and weather service may be affected.

Trump said the reason for the budget trading was to “prioritize rebuilding the military” — and to possibly help fund the border wall with Mexico.

Anchorage Sen. Bill Wielechowski stressed the impact that Trump’s proposed budget would have on the state.

“Every year we’re in the top two or three in the nation in the funding that we get from the federal government, so cuts from the federal government will affect Alaska disproportionality over almost any other state in the country,” Wielechowski said.

Wielechowski said that the President’s budget would have a negative impact on many states, but considering the state’s current financial situation, Alaska would be adversely affected.

“Under the Obama Administration, our shrinking military has been stretched far too thin. The military has been forced to make aging ships, planes, and other vehicles last well beyond their intended life spans. The President will reverse this dangerous trend. From rebuilding our armed forces to beefing up our border security and safeguarding our nation’s sovereignty, this budget makes security priority one,” Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a recent budget blueprint.

Despite the hardships that Alaska could experience if the proposed budget passes, the state’s military could be positively impacted.

An outline budget regarding the military was released, stating the Trump administration would enhance defensive spending by $54 billion — a 10 percent increase, which would come out of the overall spending of the government.

March 28, 2017 Alexis Abbott

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Senate Bill 26 was passed by the GOP-controlled Senate with a vote of 12-8 which guarantees major changes in Alaska’s revenue. The bill will set the Permanent Fund Dividend at a cap of $1,000 for the next three years. Instead of relying on the current oil market revenue, SB 26 will allow some of the PFD earnings to make up some of the state’s $3.5 billion deficit.

Under the proposed plan, a little over five percent of the $57.2 billion fund would be drawn annually. The rest would be used to disperse dividends to Alaska residents, $1,000 for the next three years, and slightly more later on.

“I expect it will have no better or worse effect than past years when dividends were that amount. We need to see money circulating in the economy, but we also need funding for state services,” Sen. Natasha Von Imhof, who voted in favor of SB 26, said.

Sen. Tom Begich opposed SB 26 and believes it will have a detrimental impact on its own.

“This bill, as currently written, is near the top end of the Permanent Fund draw, severely reduces the dividend and comes with both a spending cap and promises from the sponsor of additional spending cuts,” Begich said. “Without an income tax, an earnings approach like this cannot lead us to long-term sustainability — it is simply a prescription for more devastating cuts next year that will likely fall on education and other essential government services.”

Begich said the bill that was passed was not introduced by Gov. Bill Walker, but rather a bill created in the Senate Finance Committee by the Senate majority. It replaced the bulk of the governor’s bill with SB 70.

“These cuts will only drive us even further into recession. Every economist has identified that cutting the dividend or the budget more — which this bill would force us to do — would be the most harmful thing we could do to our economy while in a recession,” Begich said.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, who spoke against the Senate, also did not favor the bill.

“A lot of my constituents have a real problem going on with their opponents on checks, so they can go pay billions of dollars on oil tax,” Wielechowski said. “A lot of my constituents have heartburn over the idea of giving up their permanent fund checks and have them go to some of the richest, wealthiest corporations in the history of the world.”

Wielechowski has a lawsuit that is awaiting hearing in the supreme court about whether or not there shall be a dividend.

According to Sen. Berta Gardner, minority leader of the state senate, the PFD is an economic engine and bolsters local business across the state. The PFD also keeps approximately 15,000 to 25,000 Alaskans above poverty line every year.

“The new statute says the first three years of the dividend will be $1,000 and will be guaranteed, and after that, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a free-for-all,” Gardner said. “Reducing the dividend effectively is a tax on every single man, woman and child. We may get there, but we believe it has to be a part of an entire package that includes changes to our oil taxes, so the oil companies are kicking in, and it includes broad-base tax.”

Gardner referred to the proposed statute as “killing the right to a dividend.”

SB 26 also includes a spending cap of $4.1 billion, a three-year review and requires the governor to report the budget fall every December.

March 20, 2017 Sarah Tangog
Buying a shamrock at a participating Kaladi Brother's location can help the MDA help those in need as well as further research. Photo credit: Young Kim

It’s been a common belief that muscular dystrophy has no cure. However, because of emerging technology, this may no longer be the case. A device called CRISPR is becoming more popular and may be the answer to curing not only neuromuscular diseases but also many genetic disorders.

Muscular dystrophy is the degeneration of muscles. It often prevents patients from walking, moving and using voluntary muscles. Eventually, certain muscular dystrophies may affect vital organs, such as the heart and the vocal cords.

Though there are nine different types of muscular dystrophy, most are linked to disorders in the DNA.

“They’re mutations in normally occurring genes,” Wayne Johnson, a family care administration assistant from the Muscular Dystrophy Association office, said. “CRISPR can be used to ‘fix’ that.”

CRISPR itself is a bacterial immune system and acts as a pair of genetic scissors.

“It is a system of RNA molecules and Endonuclease proteins that recognize viral DNA/RNA and destroy it,” James Wilson, biology major, said.

With CRISPR, scientists can either insert or remove a section of DNA, thereby, changing the way that gene operates. With muscular dystrophy, the gene — or lack thereof — that causes the disease will be the target gene to cure.

“The CRISPR machinery would be delivered via injection with viral particles to penetrate cells,” Wilson said.

The hope is that this therapy will “fix” the damaged DNA and spread onward to other cells.

CRISPR is a scientific discovery, and all scientific discoveries come with an ethical limitation. Though scientists and doctors should be wary of how they use this new technology. Overall, CRISPR is a beneficial treatment and may be the key to curing degenerative muscular diseases once and for all.

March 20, 2017 Alexis Abbott


The Anchorage Municipal Assembly set an ordinance to require health care practitioners and facilities, upon request, to provide an estimate of anticipated health care charges. The vote to pass the law was 9-1.

The ordinance advises medical providers to give patients a price estimate for health related services within 10 business days upon their request. The measure does not apply to emergency services.

An estimate of reasonably anticipated charges will include a brief description of procedures and services, standardized billing codes, facility fees and individualized charges.

Also included is a notice to consult with the patient’s insurer, letting them know they may contact his or her health insurer for additional information regarding cost responsibilities.

Assembly member Forrest Dunbar hopes that the new law will allow Alaskans to seek out better value and more accurately build their family budgets.

“I understand that healthcare billing is complicated and that varying insurance and individualized care means every case is different. Still, I think it is reasonable and necessary for healthcare providers to provide estimates of what they are going to charge their patients, even if those estimates aren’t always exact,” Dunbar said. “Without some frame of reference, it becomes impossible for patients to compare prices or even do their own family budgeting.”

Assembly vice chair Dick Traini also participated in the vote of the recent healthcare transparency ordinance.

“Everything you buy, you know the price of… You should be able to buy your medical care with a price up front. I think it will be successful when people realize that they have a choice, and they’ll start asking for their cost estimates,” Traini said.

Gabriel Garcia, professor of public health at UAA, supports the ordinance that requires medical providers to give cost estimates before working on patients. Garcia believes that this new law has a lot of benefits for the people of Anchorage.

“Markets cannot function efficiently without meaningful pricing information. An increasing number of people today are becoming more curious about the price of their health care, and they are beginning to understand that more expensive care does not necessarily translate to better outcomes. Healthcare prices vary significantly between providers for the same services,” Garcia said. “Knowing the cost of medical care can empower healthcare consumers and potentially lead to reducing health care costs.”

Failure to timely provide an estimate will result in a daily fine of $100 until the estimate is provided to the prospective patient. The total fine may not exceed $1,000.

The ordinance was passed and approved on Feb. 28 and will be effective 60 days after on May 28.

March 5, 2017 Max Jungreis

Photo credit: Jian Bautista

The Edge Update can be heard every weekday on KRUA 88.1 FM The Edge, UAA’s college radio station.


Alaska Gov. Bill Walker is asking the commander-in-chief to get behind a $45 billion Alaska gas pipeline megaproject as part of President Donald Trump’s plan to spend $1 trillion on the nation’s infrastructure. The request was parceled together in a letter with several other requests, including requests for federal tax exemptions, reduced federal oversight and billions in federal loan guarantees. All of which would remove roadblocks and help speed the project along. If approved, the Alaska LNG project would sell reserves of North Slope gas to Asian utilities. The letter was dated to Feb. 7. As of Friday, the administration had not responded to the letter.


A New York Times investigation has uncovered a secretive cyber-operation by the U.S. government that for years derailed North Korea’s missile program. Three years ago, amid growing concerns about the DPRK’s intercontinental missiles, President Barack Obama ordered the Pentagon to increase cyber and electronic efforts to sabotage test launches. Not long after, North Korea’s missiles began flying in the wrong direction, falling into the sea and exploding in midair. Those who support these measures describe them as the cutting edge of antimissile defenses, crediting them with delaying North Korea’s ability to launch nuclear weapons at American cities by several years. Others are skeptical, crediting the failed missile tests to shoddy manufacturing and incompetence. After extensive research, including interviews with several officials from the current and previous administrations, the New York Times concluded that the United States still does not have adequate technology to defend itself from North Korean nuclear and missile programs. They are enough of a danger that Barack Obama, as he left office, warned Trump that they would be the greatest problem of his presidency.


On Sunday, ten of thousands gathered in Paris for a rally to support Francois Fillon. As recently as last week, he was the frontrunner in France’s presidential election. Now, a scandal has thrown the election wide open, potentially spelling the end of the European Union. In January, judicial investigators decide to investigate the former prime minister on the potential misuse of public funds after a newspaper revealed he had employed his own family for decades at a cost of hundreds of thousands of euros. It does not appear that his family members did any work. The scandal has left Fillon’s party, the center-right Republicans, without a solid candidate. Polls now indicate the race will ultimately be decided between liberal Emmanuel Macron and populist Marine Le Pen. Of particular concern to observers is Le Pen, leader of the National Front, a party with roots in neo-Nazism. Although now cleansed of fascistic imagery, the NF still espouses shutting down mosques identified as radical, banning Muslim items of dress and almost entirely stopping immigration into France. Perhaps most impactfully, Le Pen wishes to hold a referendum on whether France should remain in the EU. If France were to leave, it would combine with the recent loss of Britain to spell the end of the union.