Category: News

March 5, 2017 Sarah Tangog

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There’s been much debate about whether or not the Confederate flag should be banned within the public setting. The argument stands that though it is perceived as an offensive symbol, Americans are granted the First Amendment rights and should be able to express their opinions however they want.

Earlier this semester, a picture was posted of several high school students from Chugiak High School holding a Confederate flag in the hallway of the school. This event has escalated a controversy about whether or not students have the right to express debatable beliefs and display controversial opinions in public — specifically in a school.

“It’s not a mystery what the Confederacy was about, or what it stood for,” Ian Hartman, a UAA history professor, said. “The Confederacy committed treason against the United States, fought a war against the United States government.”

The Confederate flag represents a strong symbol, it should be noted that students have the right to believe whatever they want to believe. The problem only occurs when other students are affected or intimidated by it.

Michael Votava, director of Student Conduct and Ethical Development, explains what would happen should a similar situation happen at UAA. The University’s mission statement and core values would be assessed.

“One core value is academic freedom and diversity. When you think of academic freedom, you think of the ability to present different ideas, and when you think of diversity you think of creating an inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome and included in the conversation,” Votava said.

Though students are encouraged to create their own opinions and stand up for their own beliefs, a safe learning environment is the University’s priority.

“If there were an incident on campus involving some symbol, was it done in a way that was disruptive?” Votava said. “We would have to really weigh the freedom of the individual to express themselves to how it would impact the members of our community.”

Overall, UAA’s stance on the matter is firm. Personal declarations of any symbol are okay so long as it poses no threat to fellow students. As soon as others feel threatened or unsafe in the environment, appropriate actions would have to be taken.

Fortunately, UAA doesn’t seem to have this problem.

“We don’t seem to have many incidents occur on campus that involve symbols that could be perceived by others as offensive. That doesn’t occur often on this campus,” Votava said. “It has always been one of my theories that UAA is one of the most diverse communities that I’ve ever lived in.”

Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. Everyone deserves to make up their own mind, but it should be noted that everyone deserves respect as well. Controversial symbols are controversial. Beliefs will differ about them and bias will certainly be apparent.

The bottom line is that UAA is a community that realizes their students are different and unique. It’s up to the students to build that bridge of respect between each other and, despite differing opinions, keep that bridge strong.

March 5, 2017 Alexis Abbott
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With the imminent end of the Alaska Aces, the Sullivan Arena must look towards other resources to fill seats and create revenue. Photo credit: Young Kim

The Alaska Aces ownership recently announced that this season will be the final one. This results in a major scheduling issue for the Sullivan Arena, as the Aces have contributed to nearly half of the arena’s revenue since the semi-professional team originated in 1989.

Sullivan Arena hosts a minimum of 38 Aces games per season, which leaves many future dates that will need to be rented.

The folding of the Aces was a decision developed over recent years due to the fact that Anchorage “can no longer generate the kind of revenue necessary to sustain a professional hockey team,” Terry Parks, a managing partner of the Aces, said in a recent press release.

Without a professional sports team to fill the seats of the arena, management of the Sullivan will have to find other teams, concerts or events to book dates.

Sullivan Arena is an SMG-managed facility and is owned by the Municipality of Anchorage. SMG also manages venues such as the Dena’ina and Egan Civic and Convention Centers.

Joe Wooden, general manager of SMG, was not available for comment.

Chris Lawrence, a student assistant in the UAA Department of Athletics, has been a lifetime Aces fan. Lawrence, like many other fans, was heartbroken when he first heard the news that the team was ceasing operations.

Lawrence started going to Aces games back in 2002 with his dad and has been a season ticket holder since 2004.

“The one advantage I can think of is having more open dates for concerts or other events that may have conflicted with weekend Aces games in the past. However, there are a lot of venues that the Sullivan Arena has to compete with in town to entice performers to use the facility. It is a shame the arena recently renovated the seats, speakers, scoreboard, boards and plexiglass and seeing the Aces leave so soon afterward,” Lawrence said.

Like Lawrence, many loyal fans will be looking for other ways to spend their winter nights. Despite the unfortunate outcome of the Alaska Aces, this could offer a great opportunity for UAA hockey.

“Attendance for [UAA hockey] has dwindled over the years as well. However, potentially you could see Aces fans go to UAA games to fill their hockey fix. You’ll likely see more people attending UAA games and if they are more successful on the ice, I feel additional people will possibly grow to support their local team as they did the Aces. This will likely take time, but this is one of the few silver linings from the Aces folding,” Lawrence said.

The Aces ceasing operations will be a major financial obstacle for SMG and the Sullivan Arena, but management remains hopeful that new developments will eventually take place in their facility.

March 5, 2017 Victoria Petersen

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A Title IX compliance review put forth by the U.S. Department of Education found the University of Alaska to be responsible for several Title IX violations including unclear procedures for filing complaints, investigations of several sexual assault complaints that were not completed or never even initiated, improper record-keeping and insufficient training of Title IX personnel prior to the 2016-17 school year.

“As a student first, I was greatly dismayed when I read the cases identified by the compliance review. While these may not be representative of every incident, there is no margin for error for a university in ensuring student safety, and the cases therein showed clear and too-frequent failure at multiple levels of the university,” Sam Erickson, USUAA president, said. “As a student government official, I have been aware of the ongoing compliance review since 2015, and while the difference between a review and an investigation may seem minor, in this case it is important.”

Erickson also noted that the responsibility to provide safety for others rests on the shoulders of not just those in leadership roles.

“As emphasized by the Voluntary Resolution Agreement that the system entered into absent any threat of sanction, I do believe that UA is committed to addressing this problem. However, that is no excuse for past failure, and it means that our job — as students, and your elected representatives — is to keep up the pressure, and to always remind the university that a safe educational environment is a right for all.”

The 32-page report that summarizes the results of the three-year review was posted on UAA’s website on Feb. 23.

For the 2013-14 academic year, UAA’s average case processing time was 97 days with the longest case taking 403 days. Case processing times did improve at the university level in the 2014-2015 school year.

UA President Jim Johnsen signed a voluntary resolution on Feb. 17 stating the universities Title IX procedures will be improved.

“While I commemorate the work that President Johnson is doing, it is important to recognize that the UA System has a lot of work to do when it comes to campus safety and sexual assault prevention. While I do believe that reopening these cases is essential, it is also incredibly disheartening that these cases have not been previously dealt with,” Moira Pyhala, a political science student at UAA and member of UAA’s Generation Action club, said.

The agreement focused on 12 areas of improvement, including the reopening of 23 sexual assault cases identified in the compliance report for having been mishandled.

“While it is unfortunate that the re-opening of these cases came only after pressure from the federal government, I am pleased to see the university taking another look at these cases. The mistrust as a result of widespread mishandling of sexual assault cases all across the US creates major mistrust between students and their universities; UAA taking steps to demonstrate their dedication to protecting students is a move towards rebuilding that trust. In the future, I hope that Jim Johnson —as well as future administrations — ensure that cases are dealt with properly in the first place,” Robert Hockema, a political science student at UAA, a member of the Generation Action club at UAA and a former employee of UAA Residence Life, said.

UA has already been implementing improvements in Title IX offices including an amnesty policy that seeks to protect students who report sexual assaults in cases involving drugs or alcohol, increased staffing and access to more information and training.

“I do believe that there are several other actions that the University of Alaska could implement in order to ensure the safety of their students, including making sexual assault prevention courses such as the “Bystander Intervention” training that the Student Health and Counseling Center puts on mandatory for students who live on campus, along with installing cameras in all of the UA campus parking lots,” Pyhala said.

Much of the work done to bring sexual assault and sex education awareness has been promoted through student-led clubs and organizations on campus.

“It is my hope that the university continues to support the work of groups who are working on this issues such as Generation Action-Students for Reproductive Justice, DVSA Coalition, Student Health and Counseling Center, and USUAA,” Pyhala said. “I would like to point out that most of the efforts to bring sexual assault prevention to light has been carried out by student-led groups. It should be known that as long as these issues exist, the students at UAA will still push for justice and that our voices should be heard when it comes to creating these policies.”

UA will continue to be monitored as new procedures are implemented and improvements are made. As per the agreement the university will be required to submit progress reports. If terms of the agreement are not met the agency may initiate administrative or legal enforcement.

March 5, 2017 Alexis Abbott

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The Trump administration recently announced a plan to change the current transgender bathroom policies, which would reverse federal guidelines that require public schools in America to allow students to use the restroom that matched their gender identity.

If the change is implemented, it will be up to individual states and school districts to enforce bathroom policies for transgender students.

Newly-elected Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, issued a statement acknowledging the responsibility for the U.S. Department of Education to protect all students’ rights.

“This is an issue best solved at the state and local level. Schools, communities and families can find – and in many cases have found – solutions that protect all students,” DeVos said in a Title IX statement.

The Anchorage School District released revised administrative guidelines concerning transgender and nonconforming students and employees.

The purpose of the guidelines is to foster a welcoming learning and working environment that is free from discrimination, harassment and bullying, regardless of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

Heather Marron, ASD spokesperson, said in an email that schools in the Anchorage area will remain accepting of all student’s identities.

“The Anchorage School District remains a safe and welcoming place for all students. ASD has transgender accommodation administrative guidelines in place and has for some time. These guidelines will not change. ASD embraces all students and remains committed to providing a safe, productive learning environment,” Marron said.

LGBT students will remain protected by ASD and under Title IX — the law that protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities.

Sarah Hyland, a former UAA student and transgender woman, shared the importance of protecting the transgender community, especially those that are school-aged.

“The entire argument to deny transpeople access to the bathroom demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what is involved in transitioning, and that it isn’t about transpeople using the bathroom, it’s about transpeople existing in public spaces,” Hyland said. “There are transpeople that avoid drinking fluids so they don’t have to use the public restroom or some that hold it so long they develop health issues like urinary tract infections. Imagine trying to plan your day around bathroom usage.”

Hyland stressed that the current political climate makes life more dangerous for transpeople, as she has frequently witnessed people being degraded for being different.

“How do we expect people to react when we tell them they aren’t worth protecting? That is the message we send when protections are denied or rolled back. We are all human beings and deserve the same rights,” Hyland said.

MoHagani Magnetek, a former TNL employee and transgender woman, advocates for the protection and equality of members of the transgender community who desire the right to be able to use the restroom without incident.

“I feel contrite for the young people across the nation who must go to school under hostile conditions. Shaming and ridicule are the least of concerns when children also have to face the very real possibility of physical violence. Transgender students are often easy targets for the misogynistic, sexist and violently prone members of our society,” Magnetek said. “Forcing our young people to utilize a gender specified restroom that they do not identify with is putting them at risk for harassment, sexual assault and murder. As an adult, I have accepted the risk of being in an unfriendly place, but for the young transgender children it is a more difficult challenge to confront.”

Hyland and Magnetek agree that the discrimination against transpeople is inhumane and that the presidential administration and public need to be better aware of who these people actually are.

Anchorage residents should not be fearful of inequality, as ASD is in full support of welcoming the transgender community and offering equal lavatory rights.

March 5, 2017 Lauren Cuddihy

The state of Alaska is not only considered an outsider due to it’s proximity to the United States, but also with its blatant lack of professional sports — a privilege that much of the Lower 48 takes pride in. Up until now, Alaskan sports fans have had the Alaska Aces to follow and create local support around, but as of mid-February the decision to terminate the future of the team has been announced as a shock to much of the state, sports fans or not.

The Alaska Aces, previously known as the Anchorage Aces prior to 2003, have been competing in the ECHL for the past 14 years and were a part of two other leagues before that. Established in 1989, the Aces have been proudly representing Alaska for a total of 28 years, including winning five regular season titles, eight division, four conference championships and three Kelly Cups.

The announcement to terminate the team was an unavoidable choice made by Aces officials due to economic reasons and a declining audience, but it still came as a shock to the public that leaves many unanswered questions.

Anchorage locals, such as former UAA student and avid Aces fan Jon Mobley, are very baffled by the decision, especially since the Aces are the one professional team the Alaskans have.

“I go [to] the games pretty regularly, probably at least twice a weekend when they play at home.. it was a surprise to me. There have been a lot of states that have lost their ECHL teams, but it doesn’t affect them as much because most states in the Lower 48 have basketball, football, baseball and NHL teams,” Mobley said.

The big question that remains is the future of the Sullivan Arena, considering the amount of lost revenue. In addition, the UAA hockey team could take a potential hit for this – positive and negative.

Officials such as the Aces Managing Partner Terry Parks explained that they looked into all possible scenarios to keep the team, but every possibility leads to even more problems. According to Parks, the Aces lost over $1 million in 2016, a substantial amount that would be extremely difficult to come back from especially with the prediction of similar losses in 2017.

For just this season, the Aces are down upwards of 2,000 spectators per game, as well as over $250,000 in ticket sales and $600,000 in sponsorships.

Aces owner Jerry Mackie explained that he is extremely saddened by the final decision and feels as if he’s losing a family member, but there was no other option.

Without the team, the Sullivan Arena may experience dire effects. The arena will obviously have a lot more openings for scheduling that can be filled in order to replace the lost revenue, but it is doubtful that all spots will be close to being filled.

UAA hockey will still rent out the venue, and so will special events such as concerts. However, the loss of the Aces is already creating a downward trend after the Great Alaska Shootout was moved from the Sullivan Arena to the Alaska Airlines Center in 2014.

However, even though Sullivan might see a negative outcome, the UAA hockey team might gain the Aces lost audience.

“It could potentially be a really great outcome for the UAA team; Aces fans could become bored of restless in the winter and possibly go to [UAA hockey] games to get their fix,” Mobley said.

Currently, the Aces are on a road trip competing out of state, but they will have their first home game back in Anchorage at the Sullivan Arena on March 15. Afterward, the team plays several more home and away games until their final home game on April 8.

February 27, 2017 Max Jungreis

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

Local:

On Friday, the state senate’s Republican-dominated majority proposed a bill to reduce the state’s deficit by reducing Permanent Fund dividends and limiting government spending. Senate Bill 70 would withdraw 5.25 percent of the Permanent Fund annually. The fund is currently worth $57 billion. Three-quarters of the withdrawn cash would pay for state services, while the rest would go towards dividends, which would be set at $1000 each for the first few years. After three years, the withdrawals would reduce to five percent. Projections by the Legislature’s budget analysts show the bill reducing the deficit from $3 billion to $900 million. SB 70 would also cap the state’s general fund level at $4.1 billion, allowing it only to grow with inflation. It remains to be seen whether this particular bill, one among a few tackling the state’s budget gap, will make it into law.

National:

Last Thursday, police officers in riot gear cleared out the Standing Rock protest camps, arresting the few stragglers who had refused to leave the day before. Authorities used bulldozers to raze the camp debris, much of it set ablaze by protesters the day prior. Some ran to Sacred Stone, the original campsite established 10 months in what was the largest environmental protest in history. The movement was sparked by the Dakota Access Pipeline, a $3.8 billion, 1,170-mile project by energy company Energy Transfer Partners. The pipeline would carry oil from the Bakken shale fields in North Dakota to Illinois. Energy Transfer Partners says the pipeline will be a safer means of transporting oil than truck or rail. Opponents said the project threatened sacred native lands and could contaminate water supplies from the Missouri river. The local Standing Rock Sioux tribe and thousands of Native Americans from across the continent gathered in camps to try and block the construction of the pipeline. The protest also counted as one of the largest gatherings of Native Americans in history.

Global:

On Sunday, Malaysia’s health minister announced that the exiled half-brother of North Korea’s leader had been killed by a dangerous nerve agent. The Feb. 13 killing of Kim Jong Nam at a Malaysian airport has sparked a dramatic heightening of tensions between the two countries, not helped by the fact that assassination appears to have utilized a banned chemical weapon, VX nerve agent, in a crowded public place. Although North Korea’s government has steadfastly denied any involvement in the incident, the Malaysian government has requested that local North Korean diplomatic officials turn themselves over for questioning. The Malaysian government has stated that four North Koreans provided two women with the poison to carry out the attack. The four men then fled the country; the women were arrested. One of them, Indonesian Siti Aisyah, claims that she was believed she was being paid to pull a harmless prank.

February 27, 2017 Alexis Abbott
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Photo credit: Jian Bautista

Alaska’s crime rates have grown through recent years, but results from the most recent FBI crime report show a decline in criminal activity in Alaska’s five safest cities.

SafeWise, a source for home security and safety news, used statistics from the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting program to rank cities in Alaska according to safety.

The ranking included 24 cities in the state but closely focused on the top five safest.

To identify the five safest cities, SafeWise analysts reviewed FBI crime report statistics from 2015 and state population data. All cities with fewer than 2,000 residents or those that failed to submit an annual crime report were not included in the evaluation.

Sarah Brown, community outreach manager at SafeWise says that the analysts that conduct the city-ranking research do so in a team effort to ensure the data is analyzed accurately.

“The way SafeWise analyzes our data is useful because it gives you a normalized number that is based simply on crime rate. People often dispute the number because some areas don’t rank high simply because of property crime, however, an increase in property crime leads to an increase in violent crime,” Brown said.

The ranking began with an analyzation of reported violent crimes, including assault, murder, rape and robbery — and property crimes, which include burglary, arson and theft in each city. SafeWise calculated the likelihood of these crimes occurring out of 1,000 citizens in each city.

Cordova was ranked the safest city in the state of Alaska. Next followed Unalaska, Haines, Wrangell and Sitka.

Based on FBI statistics, the crime rate in the top five cities is nearly half the national average — with 15 crimes reported per 1,000 residents.

According to SafeWise’s research, the city of Cordova had two violent crimes and seven property crimes reported per 1,000 people. Unalaska had two violent crimes and 11 property crimes.

Haines reportedly had three violent and nine property crimes, while Wrangell had 43 violent and 13 property crimes. The fifth safest city, Sitka, had just one violent crime and 16 property crimes reported per 1,000 citizens.

Mary Weaver, a senior at UAA who is originally from Sitka, shared how small and comfortable her hometown is, and that she is not surprised that it was ranked one of the safest cities in the state.

“Coming to Anchorage from Sitka for me, was a little bit of a culture shock. I always had to remind myself to lock my car, because Sitka is such a small town. When I moved up here, my mom would always yell at me for leaving my purse in the front seat… She would say that somebody will break your windows,” Weaver said. “For the most part, we’re a community that is pretty strong and safe.”

Although the data focused mainly on the top five safest, SafeWise ranked another 21 cities in the state.

Following the top five came the North Slope Borough, Palmer, Nome, Valdez, Seward, Petersburg, Homer, Ketchikan, Bethel, Dillingham, Fairbanks, Kodiak, Soldotna, Juneau, Kenai, Anchorage, North Pole, Wasilla and Kotzebue.

Ellen Carlson, a sophomore at UAA who commutes from Wasilla, was surprised to see her hometown ranked 23rd most dangerous out of 24 cities.

“I actually feel really safe in Wasilla, usually. I mean, the farther out in the boonies you get, the more concerned I am. But in Wasilla, I’m usually fine… People leave you alone and are decently friendly most of the time,” Carlson said. “I feel a lot less safe in Anchorage.”

Gov. Bill Walker signed a criminal justice reform bill in July of last year, to modify the state’s criminal justice system. Alaskan law’s are aiming to enhance public safety, curb corrections spending and reduce the state’s prison population.

February 27, 2017 Victoria Petersen
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President Jim Johnsen held an open forum last September discussing Phase 1 of the university's Strategic Pathways plan with students and faculty. Photo credit: Jay Guzman

In a speech describing the state of the university, UA President Jim Johnsen announced Feb. 16 that the University system was going “strong” despite a decline in state funding and enrollment.

Johnsen expressed optimism in the university system, noting that strong leaders in the UA board of regents and his implementation of Strategic Pathways are increasing productivity and money management since a lack of state funding.

“President Johnsen’s address had the incredibly difficult job of honestly stating the needs of the university at a time when those needs, primarily more money, are at direct odds with the ability of the state to provide,” Sam Erickson, USUAA President, said. “However, I do believe that being honest about the real challenges faced by UA, such as the deferred maintenance backlog of close to $1 billion, was the best move, enabling a transparent plea to be made to the state based on the realities of funding needs when the university system has already absorbed cuts of almost 14 percent.”

For a university system that has seen nearly 10 percent of UA’s degree and certificate programs eliminated or suspended, a $52.7 million budget shortfall and the elimination of 923 university jobs in the last three years, UAA students are finding it hard to agree with Johnsen’s state of the university statements.

“I’d probably disagree. It seems like UAA struggles a lot financially. I’ve gone here the last two years and have seen a really high increase in tuition. It’s sad to think that Nordic skiing was almost taken away from UAA strictly from budget cuts. I think it’s pretty obvious UAA isn’t really doing that well considering there is constantly something else the are trying to get rid of,” Andrea Brainerd, a UAA health sciences student, said.

Johnsen mentioned a possible five percent, or $16 million, cut to UA funding when the legislature passes their budget for the next fiscal year. Cuts to UA funding are not included in the current budget at this time.

“I don’t think we’re doing that well, but I think we’re doing well considering that we haven’t been doing so well in recent years you know? Like, we’re in a bit of a weird spot and we could be doing a lot better. But we could also be doing so so so much worse,” Hannah Dorough, UAA English student, said.

With possible cuts in the future, university leaders are devising ways to save the UA system money, while maintaining a “strong” quality and efficient education.

USUAA’s Juneau advocacy trip was successful in gaining support from legislators and spreading the word of UA’s need for state funding.

“If Alaska is ever to transition to anything beyond a mere extraction-based economy, UA will play a vital role. We sink or swim together, and the job now falls to us as students and student advocates to press that point home,” Erickson said. “USUAA’s Juneau advocacy trip was already met with significant success and support from many of the new class of freshman legislators, but we won’t stop there.”

Erickson is urging students to call legislators and notes that the best way to get legislators to fund what’s important is to make calls and tell them.

February 27, 2017 Alexis Abbott
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Photo credit: Map courtesy of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources

The restart of the 2017 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has been confirmed to move to Fairbanks. The Board of Directors on the Iditarod Trail Committee voted to move the restart location from Willow due to poor trail conditions in critical sections in the Alaska Range.

This will be the third time in the 45-year history of the Iditarod that the race has been moved to Fairbanks due to low snow and poor trail conditions. The first move was in 2003, and the second in 2015.

Before making the final decision, the Trail Committee staff and crews monitored trail conditions closely, finding that the Southcentral area saw just enough snowfall, while areas like Rainy Pass and the Dalzell Gorge did not. The final determination for the race restart was made on Feb. 10.

“While some snow did fall east of the Alaska Range over the past couple of weeks, other critical areas along the trail received little snowfall, if any at all, including the trail into Rainy Pass. Additionally, trail conditions leading up to both Ptarmigan Pass and Dalzell Gorge are still considered unsafe at this time for the teams participating in this year’s race,” Mark Nordman, Iditarod Trail Committee Race Director said in a recent press release.

There are 73 teams registered to race in this year’s Iditarod, while more than ten have withdrawn from the race. Last year’s top-ten finishers will also be competing.

Joanne Potts, assistant to the race director, says that moving the race was not an easy decision to be made, while the crew was heavily criticized for moving twice before. The Trail Committee wants to ensure the best possible race every year, even if that involves moving the restart.

“Now that it’s beginning in Fairbanks, the whole race has changed. There are different checkpoints, new routes and mushers have to changes their plans a little bit,” Potts said.

Despite changes in the race, the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage is still scheduled to take place on Saturday, March 4, and begin at 10 a.m. The restart will begin in Fairbanks on Monday, March 6 at 10 a.m.

February 27, 2017 Sarah Tangog
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The UAA Maintenance and Operations fleet vehicles parked on stand-by beside the Gordon Hartlieb Hall. Photo credit: Jay Guzman

Living in Alaska issues a major landscape obstacle for UAA students and staff, snow. It obscures lines on sidewalks, roads and parking lots, making it difficult for drivers and pedestrians to see.

The UAA snow removal system is simple. Run by Glenn Brown from the Maintenance and Operations Department, each day is planned several days ahead. Though there are two separate crews who work to plow the snow, most of the removal is done at night, “when campus is effectively closed,” Brown said.

Brown looks at the weather patterns to see what equipment will be needed for the upcoming days. On dangerously icy days, environmentally friendly gravel and salt products, both liquids and granules, are used. Usually, mechanical equipment is sufficient. All the snow plow vehicles are maintained regularly and repaired when needed.

In the event that new vehicles need to be purchased, the crew gets in touch with Fallon Harkins, associate director for Parking Services, manages the budget for the snow plow plans. However, equipment seems to be the only thing money is spent on to remove the snow.

“There is no cost to snow plowing,” Brown said.

Brown and his crew work around the clock to clear the roads, trails, and entrances to all the buildings at UAA. They also clear the main roads to the dorms and residential housing for students, though the trails and sidewalks snaking throughout the dorms are out of their jurisdiction.

Though there is no monetary cost to plowing snow, significant time and effort are certainly spent. Sometimes, even weekends are given up when the weather is especially snowy.

It’s quite a price to pay to keep our roads clear, and our staff and students safe.

February 20, 2017 Max Jungreis

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

Local:

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution, sponsored by Alaska Rep. Don Young, to repeal regulations limiting hunting practices on federal wildlife refuges in Alaska. The measure is a Congressional Review Act, an obscure legislative tool that allows Congress to repeal federal regulations finalized in the last 60 days with a simple majority. Young has stated that he sees this as a battle over federal control, not over wildlife management. Those who oppose repealing the current rules say that doing so would allow unfair and environmentally harmful practices. Representatives have expressed concerned that the new legislation would simply make it easier to kill wolf pups and bear cubs. The bill passed 225-193 after debate. Currently, the legislation stands a fair chance of making it to the president’s desk.

National:

Despite being explicitly warned not to do so by the foreign ministry of China, a U.S. aircraft carrier has begun patrolling the hotly contested South China Sea region. Under international law, nations have sovereignty over waters extending 200 miles of their coast. China, however, claims to have sovereignty over a vast swath of ocean that descends thousands of miles south of the Chinese coast and borders several countries. To strengthen its claim, China has spent the last few years building artificial islands in the region and stocking them with troops, leading to heightened tensions with the countries that wish to share the area. The U.S. has responded by sending military ships and planes near disputed islands, calling them “freedom of navigation operations” to ensure access to shipping routes. Observers worry that the brewing conflict has the potential to become a global crisis.

Global:

Russian president Vladimir Putin declared Saturday that his country would begin recognizing passports and other identity documents issued by the separatist rebel pocket territories of eastern Ukraine. Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, characterized the decision as humanitarian. Over the last few weeks, tensions between the separatist and pro-government forces have boiled over into violent clashes with a mounting death toll. Ten of thousands have sought refuge in Russia since the conflict began in 2014, when Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. Pro-Russian rebels later began uprisings in the East. Since then, 9,700 people have died.

February 20, 2017 Alexis Abbott
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Many people would benefit from the availability of Uber in Alaska, but before they can legally come back to Alaska, certain legislation must pass. Photo credit: Young Kim

A potential renew of Uber pushed by assemblyman Bill Evans has left local cab companies concerned how business will keep up. Evans filed an ordinance last week that contracts regulations for local ride-booking companies including Uber, Lyft and Anchorage taxi-cab services.

Uber briefly operated in Anchorage in 2014 but the State of Alaska ceased operations of the ride-sharing service for failing to comply with the law. Local taxi services do not follow the same regulations as Uber and similar ride-booking companies, leaving Anchorage cab companies worried how competition will affect future business.

Michael Thompson, president of checker cab in Anchorage, says the uneven regulations between local companies and Uber create an unfair environment for ride-booking in the city.

“If Uber had to follow the same exact rules that we do, I would be fine with them coming back up here…Or if we were allowed to follow the same rules as Uber does, I would be fine with it. We’re both taxi companies but they get a pretty big advantage with the way the rules are set up,” Thompson said.

Thompson mentioned some of the regulations that vary between Uber and local companies including mandatory inspections every three to six months, federal background checks and having a camera in the vehicle at all times. These are all rules that local taxi services are required to follow, while Uber is not.

Those that are employed by Anchorage cab companies feel uncertain about Uber coming back without having to operate by the same guidelines.

“It’s going to take business away. The economy is kind of on the downhill right now, the way the city and state has been losing jobs like crazy, we’ve been seeing a decline in business. Adding another transportation company to share the same amount of business is going to hurt,” Thompson said.

A comparison of Uber versus local ride-booking companies is a topic of conversation among supporters of the renew. The convenience of Uber’s smartphone app, ride costs and modernized cruising are just some of the benefits of choosing to ride with Uber instead of calling a taxi.

Fatir Dhillon, a mechanical engineering major at UAA, is a big fan of Uber and is in full support of the push to bring the ride-booking company back to Anchorage.

“I really like the idea of Uber coming back. I feel like it is going to help a lot of people save money, especially college students like myself,” Dhillon said.

Dhillon stressed that using Uber would save him time and money, but it would also provide a more enjoyable experience than riding in a local cab.

Mia Sison, an English major at UAA, also supports the renew of Uber in Anchorage.

“I think having Uber up here would be a great idea. I honestly don’t even know why it didn’t last long before. I definitely prefer Uber to regular cabs and taxis,” Sison said.

Although many Anchorage residents are in favor of the return of Uber, Evans’ ordinance must first be passed by the Anchorage Assembly. If passed, a change in state law is required before Uber or Lyft companies can operate in the municipality.

February 20, 2017 Victoria Petersen
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Photo credit: Levi Brown

A bill seeking to raise the per-tire user fee from $5 to $50 on winter tires is sparking emotion for Anchorage commuters. The user fee has been in place since 2004 at $5.

Alaska Senate Resources Committee chair Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, proposed senate bill 50 in an effort to help fix Alaska’s rutted roads.

“Every week when I’m home I drive from Anchorage from my home on hillside to Eagle River to pick up my five grandchildren. My husband and I play with the kids every Saturday. So we drive to Eagle River pick them up and then take them back home in the evening,” Giessel said. “The Glenn Highway between Anchorage and Eagle River is dangerously rutted.”

Giessel looked into factors contributing to ruts on Alaska’s highways.

“The major contributing factor that I found in research is studded tires. This is a high velocity, high volume strip of asphalt, and all these factors create ruts,” Giessel said.

Ruts create a danger for commuters all year-round.

“You have difficulty maintaining control. It’s not just in the winter, in the summer when it’s raining and the ruts fill up with water then hydroplaning becomes an issue,” Giessel said.

Not everyone is convinced that an exponential raise in the per-tire user fee is the answer to Alaska’s road problems.

“I gather that the reasoning behind the increase is to help fix the bad and rutty roads that are caused by the studs. I would be accepting of a slight increase by maybe $5, $10. With the original proposed amount, the amount of studded tires in circulation will drop significantly, so only the richer folks could afford them,” Matthew Newkirk, UAA logistics student and studded tire user, said. “In that case, banning studded tires altogether would be preferable over the significant increase, so that no one is contributing to the ruts.”

Others are worried that, while a user fee increase may decrease ruts, low-income families will hurt from the legislation.

“A tax on the tires is really just hurting poor families. For most people, and I think it’s hard for the wealthy elite of this state to understand, getting into a serious car accident is a huge financial burden. Even coming up with the money for a deductible can be a financial nightmare. For low-income families even dealing with tire change season is a financial burden… We need these low-income families to have access to transportation during the winter,” Kieth Greinier, Anchorage resident, said.

While some Anchoragites use all-season tires or summer tires year-round, some residents think studded tires are essential for winter driving safety and should not be taxed so heavily.

“I have studded tires which I’ll be replacing this year and seeing this tax hike makes me upset, especially since I feel studded tires are essential, especially with the type of road conditions we have in Alaska,” Harrison Jennings, UAA music student, said. “They’ve saved me in situations where if I didn’t have my studs, I would’ve easily gotten into an accident, or worse.”

All the money from the user fee goes specifically towards Alaska’s Department of Transportation to fix rutted roads.

A hearing for senate bill 50 will be held on Feb. 23.

February 20, 2017 Brenda Craig
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Photo credit: Levi Brown

Controversy has sparked in the marijuana community. On Feb. 9, Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office raided all marijuana retailers in Alaska of CBD oils. Cannabidiol, known as CBD, is a non-psychoactive substance that gives the medicinal properties of cannabis without being high. CBD is extremely low in tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical that causes a euphoric high, which allows consumers to get the medical purposes of marijuana without the effects.

According to the Alaska Marijuana Regulation, the CBD products were from out of state and were not packaged and labeled correctly, which violates the state’s law. Sara Chambers, director of AMCO, wrote in a press release that marijuana retailers selling the CBD products did not go through the states testing and packaging requirements. This led to AMCO confiscating all the unapproved CBD oils from licensed marijuana retailers.

The removal of CBD oils has left many Anchorage residents confused on the situation when federal law allows oils with low THC concentrations.

“Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office are majorly suspect for taking away the vape kids means of getting high, especially when CBD oils are federally legal,” Jeremy Locke, Anchorage resident, said. “They should have worked toward getting the amendments to the law, or at least reimbursed the retailers.”

Many individuals rely on CBD oil to self-medicate and because there is no protection on the oils, they are left without it.

“CBD oil provides many wonderful medicinal effects associated with it and AMCO is denying patients medication that, in many cases, affects their quality of life significantly,” Zach Lestenkof, civil engineering major, said. “I think the AMCO seizing CBD oils is ridiculous and I believe there should be legislation to protect the sale of CBD. I believe that current legislation should protect marijuana concentrates as well as industrial hemp oils.”

Before the raid, Sam Ingram, lead register at Alaska Fireweed, was selling CBD oils to customers looking to ease their pain.

“I’m not trying to sound like a doctor or give medical advice because we aren’t allowed to do that, but it really helps people and it’s a shame they took it off the shelves,” Ingram said.

CBD oils come in various forms and have numerous medical advantages that can replace over the counter and prescription medicine.

“These products can vary from lotions, salves, edibles, sprays, or tinctures. People use these products for a variety of medical conditions, CBD helps those suffering from anxiety, seizures, arthritis, diabetes, depression, PTSD, and a plethora of other common conditions,” Lestenkof said.

Along with the salves, lotions, edibles and other topical consumption methods there is also CBD oils, which rely on extraction using solvents, pressure and low heat. CBD oil can be taken directly via “dabbing” inside of a pill, mixed into foods, Lestenkof mentions.

Other methods that are more discreet are using CBD tinctures that are alcohol based extracts that can be dropped onto the tongue. However, one of the most common methods for consuming CBD is vaporizing that can help an individual get the medical benefits faster than the other methods.

A lot of people believe that AMCO could have handled the situation differently without leaving marijuana retailers and residents confused. Without warning, marijuana retailers were not aware that CBD were not illegal in Alaska and were not given the chance to take the oils off the shelves.

“I think AMCO should have attempted to contact shop owners rather than raid shops and give little to no explanation. I understand that current legislation doesn’t protect the regulation of industrial hemp oils but I don’t believe AMCO handled the situation the right way,” Lestenkof said. “Rather than raiding shops, they should have notified them that CBD oils were not yet legal for sale in Alaska and instead should have pushed for the current legislation to be altered allowing the sales of CBD oils.”

It is unsure when and if CBD oils will return to marijuana retailers. Before it is decided whether or not CBDs will be legal to sell, there will be a board hearing determining the decision.

“Retail establishments cited by AMCO will appear before the Alaska Marijuana Control Board to determine the disposition of the products inventories by the state,” according to AMCO’s press release on Feb. 10. “The board hearing will be closed to the public, but a record of the board’s decision will be made public.”

Although CBD oils are not for sale in local cannabis retailers, the raid did not affect health food stores because of the lack of resources. Until the board hearing, the fate of CBD oils is unknown in Alaska. AMCO will be providing further information on the agency website about the sale of CBD oil.

February 20, 2017 Alexis Abbott

The transcript study recently conducted by the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP), researched college readiness at the University of Alaska. The study examined the number of students in need of developmental coursework arriving at all UA campuses in the past ten years.

Since the results were released, the University of Alaska and State Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) issued an official statement stating that they are stepping up to strengthen alignment between their two education systems. Their goal is to dramatically improve educational attainment in Alaska in hopes of improving economic ambition.

In September, the UA Board of Regents and the State Board of Education committed to work together on building a better education culture in the state. The transcript study found that 60 percent of students from Alaska’s largest high schools arrive at the University of Alaska needing remedial classes.

As many as 70 percent of students from Alaska with honor roll GPAs need remedial coursework when beginning college. That means those high percentage of students are paying for high-school-level classes.

Herb Schroeder, professor of engineering at UAA, vice provost for ANSEP, says that curriculum needs to be realigned between the university and K-12.

“We knew that this was a problem, particularly from students coming in from rural schools, but we were shocked to find out that it was a statewide problem for students of all ethnicities,” Schroeder said. “What is happening is that high schools are giving students diplomas and telling them that they are ready for college and they are not.”

The data taken from students for the survey totals 15,016, where just over 60 percent require developmental coursework.

The UA transcript study stated the importance of the results – students are passing college-level courses in high school only to retake them when they come to the university, the state is paying for students to take these courses more than once and students and their families continue to pay for the college courses after the students previously passed the classes in high school.

A link is needed between the university and the transition students make after high school.

“Mentally and physically, I think I was on the fence. I was excited and intrigued about being a college student but at the same time, I was nervous and unsure. That was probably due to the fact that I wasn’t academically prepared and felt rushed to become an adult…I ended up switching majors twice and figuring out what I wanted to do after three years of wasted money and effort,” Mariah DeJesus-Remaklus, a UAA journalism student, said.

Many students feel pressured to go to college immediately after high school, even when they are not scholastically ready.

“College hit me like a truck, breaking me mentally and crushing me emotionally. I wasn’t prepared for the feeling of not being good enough academically. Previous schooling came easily and good grades were handed out freely with minimal effort in work, whereas college is plain hard,” McKenna Smith, an undeclared freshman at UAA, said.

Better college preparation will soon be instilled in Alaska’s 54 school districts around the state. The goal of the UA and DEED is to implement a quality control system that provides improved qualification for furthering Alaskan student’s future education.

“You have to have some kind of quality control, so students are actually learning what you think they’re learning. You can’t just give them a grade because they show up for class,” Schroeder said.

Learn more about the UA transcript study at ansep.net.

February 13, 2017 Cheyenne Mathews

The Creekside Eatery in the Commons is no longer offering morning breakfast hours, and dinner hours have been shortened. Scott Evers, the area manager for NANA Management Services said that spring semester will offer the weekend services instead of weekday options of breakfast, lunch, dinner and late nights.

“Fridays for this semester, we are offering three different meal services: brunch, dinner, and late night. It was several things,” Evers said regarding Friday breakfast no longer being offered. “We have now revamped the whole commons. We did that in a very short amount of time. There are a lot of classes that are not offered on Fridays and we felt that we were going to try it out as a pilot program to see how it was perceived. We are still waiting for feedback with the students to see if we still want to go this way.”

When asked about how students were informed about this switch from morning hours of 7 – 10 a.m. to brunch which will be 10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., Evers said Seawolf Dining explained everything on their social media.

Seawolf Dining’s Facebook page did post on Jan. 27, the day the Eatery first closed breakfast, at 8:58 a.m., almost two hours after their normal hours.

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The day of the transition, the Seawolf Dining web page had not been updated to reflect the new hours, and in a fifteen minute period around 9 a.m., six or more students walked into the Eatery to be turned away. When asked about this, Evers was surprised. When staff at the Eatery were asked about the transition on Jan. 27, they were surprised about the transition and the web page not being updated as well.

David Weaver, director of Housing, Dining and Conference Services, said that the change was prompted by a lower rate of students living on campus.

“This academic year, we have the fewest students on meal plans in quite a few years,” Weaver said. “I believe this is related to the State’s economic crisis, higher than normal unemployment, people leaving Alaska and tuition price increases prompting students to live at home with parents, and take fewer classes, or time off from school to work. Because of fewer students on meal plans supporting dining operations across campus, we’ve had to make some tough choices. One was to switch Friday meal service at Creekside from breakfast and lunch to just brunch.”

Weaver also said that not many students utilized last semester’s Friday breakfast hours.

“To be honest, very few students swiped into breakfast on Fridays before 10 a.m., so I hoped it would not impact students much at all,” Weaver said.

Ian Mills, economics major, was one student in residential housing that did like to swipe in before 10 a.m., but Mills said that was before the breakfast option was cut. Mills said he was especially surprised by the cut because he never saw flyers advertising the close.

“Well, lots of weekends I like to get an early start, I don’t sleep in very long, and it was nice to be able to eat something before I went out and ran errands or studied or whatever it was that I was trying to do,” Mills said. “That’s kind of hard now that the Bear [Necessities] is closed all mornings before 10:30 [a.m.] and the Commons is closed before 10 [p.m.]. It’s really kind of late for breakfast at that point.”

Mills noted that even though the commons has been renovated, that some of the renovation promises, like the TVs advertised on design plans, never came to fruition.

“They told us that they were putting TVs on all these posts and we see how that turned out. The posters that are up by the door advertise TVs on the posts. Six flat screen TVs were advertised in the remodel,” Mills said. “It’s kind of frustrating, because we paid, we kind of entered into an informal contract with them under the expectations that we would receive the same services we’ve been receiving for the same price we’ve been paying for those services, and they decreased the amount of service we are receiving, and they didn’t decrease the price we are paying.”

Creekside Eatery’s reduced hours on Friday followed a Seawolf Dining decision last semester to take away the Union Station’s ability to accept dining dollars.

February 6, 2017 Max Jungreis

Local:

Alaska lost 9,000 jobs last summer, according to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The period of loss was between July and September, some loss is normal during this time, due to seasonal industries, but low oil prices have vastly increased it. Worst off is the oil and gas sector, which now employs 26 percent less than it did in the third quarter of 2015. Job loss statewide has increased every month since late 2015. Alaska has the nation’s worst unemployment rate.

National:

Puerto Rico’s governor has initiated a referendum to determine whether the U.S. island territory will join the union or leave it for good. The non-binding referendum will be held on June 11 and gives voters the choice to choose between statehood and independence/free association. If the voters choose the latter, a second resolution will be held to choose between the two. Free association means that Puerto Rico would become a sovereign country while maintaining its economic ties to the United States, with the option to dissolve those ties at any time. “Colonialism is not an option for Puerto Rico,” Gov. Ricardo Rossello said. “It’s a civil rights issue … The time will come in which the United States has to respond to the demands of 3.5 million citizens seeking an absolute democracy.” Those who back statehood say that the nearly $10 billion in additional annual federal funding would help solve the island’s $70 billion public debt. In addition, statehood would help make Puerto Rico more equal. While its inhabitants are U.S. citizens, they are not allowed to vote in presidential elections, and their representative in congress are not allowed to vote in most matters. Puerto Ricans have voted on this question as recently as 2012, but no previous referendum has returned a clear majority capable of motivating the U.S. Congress, which has final say on any changes in the island’s political status, into voting on the matter.

Global:

As recently as last week, Francois Fillon was the frontrunner in France’s presidential election. Now, a scandal means anyone could win. Late last month, 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. This is not illegal; in fact, the practice of employing family members is common among French officials, but it does not appear that his family members did any work. The scandal has taken the name of his wife, a central figure in the allegations: “Penelopegate.” Fillon’s party, the center-right Republicans, are now left without a solid candidate.

January 30, 2017 Victoria Petersen

Adam Tanner, University of Alaska Fairbanks Snedden Chair and writer in residence at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University, will be presenting his newest book, “Our Bodies, Our Data,” to UAA and the Anchorage community.

Tanner was first exposed to data journalism when he was working as a foreign correspondent. Working in locales such as Russia, Germany and Eastern Europe, Tanner became aware of state-led data collecting by the communist regimes he worked in.

“When I visited East Germany right before the fall of the Berlin wall, which was in 1989, they had secret police agents follow me around on one day. They produced an extensive file about me, more than 60 pages for one day, about what I was doing,” Tanner said. “Those were the early instances where I became aware about personal data gathering.”

Learning more about data collecting, Tanner was inspired to write a book in 2014 called “What Stays in Vegas.” This book examined data collecting in regards to marketing in the United States.

“I was very interested in how businesses are collecting ever more information about us all, mostly for sales and marketing to try and sell us things. Now in researching that book I came to find out there’s also a big trade in our medical information and that trade is much harder to understand,” Tanner said.

Discovering the trade in medical information in research of his first book, Tanner decided to dedicate an entire book to health industry data collection.

Tanner’s goal is to highlight a lesser known data collection in the health industry, something many Americans may not even be aware of.

“Many of us know that if you use Google or Facebook or these great free internet services there’s a price to pay. the price is you’re giving up information about yourself and then they are advertising to you in return. But at the same time far fewer people realize that your medical information is also for sale,” Tanner said. “It’s quite an interesting story about how a multi-billion dollar business emerged in recent years and decades, mostly without the public understanding.”

Tanner hopes the presentation ignites discussion and understanding on current health industry policy changes.

“In order to decide what’s best for the country, what’s the best policy, we need to understand what’s going on,” Tanner said. “If people don’t know there’s a hidden trade in patient data then it’s hard to have this intelligent public discussion. I think it’s interesting for people to learn how extensive this trade is and then we can talk about the best safeguards and practices when it comes to medical information.”

Some may think this medical information trade doesn’t affect them, but Tanner notes that the industry-wide data collecting affects people all around us and may affect others down the line if current policies don’t change.

“Imagine that you’re totally healthy. You go to the doctor hardly ever, you’ll have a cold once in awhile. You might think this is not so important for me, but so many of us know people who suffer from mental health issues or have had some sexual health issues or other kinds of problems. It could be a classmate, relative or old friend,” Tanner said, “For those people information about their health if it’s widely circulated, could be damaging to them. It could lead to problems getting employed, problems getting life insurance, it could lead to embarrassment. Even if it doesn’t directly affect you now, these kinds of issues are important to people you know and have met and are all around you.”

Tanner will be presenting from 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m., Feb. 6 in UAA Consortium Library room 307. During the week, Tanner will be switching places with UAA’s Atwood Chair Julia O’Malley. Tanner will take over O’Malley’s classes for the week while O’Malley will be taking over Tanner’s classes at UAF.