Regents convene in Anchorage UAA students offer testimony

RegentsAfter a slow start Thursday morning in UAA’s Gorsuch Commons, the 11-member University of Alaska Board of Regents opened the floor to public testimony.

Vice president of the UAA Political Science Association, Ceezar Martinson stepped up to urge the board to reconsider its policy on concealed handguns.

“It is our belief that the current policy as it has been laid out is illegal according to Alaska’s constitution,” Martinson said.

Regent Kirk Wickersham responded, saying that UA General Counsel Michael Hostina had provided a legal analysis for the policy, referring to a 13-page report sent by the University of Alaska to Senate Bill 176 sponsor Sen. John Coghill in March.

SB 176, which aims to permit concealed carry on all University of Alaska campuses, was originally proposed by Coghill intern Hans Rodvik, a UAA political science student.

The testimony that followed Martinson’s asked for greater restrictions in Regents’ policy.

UAA Smoke-Free Task Force member Yesenia Camarena presented feedback her group has received in support of a smoking ban, as well as the results of an opinion poll in UAA’s spring general elections in which 53 percent of students supported a smoke-free UAA and 47 percent did not.

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“We hope that the Board of Regents will support us in our efforts, as well as the efforts of the other UA campuses to go smoke- and tobacco-free,” Camarena said.

UA President Pat Gamble said that although an institution-wide smoking ban would be very complex, he believes overall productivity would go up in the absence of smoking.

UAA Chancellor Tom Case said that the Anchorage campus will be going smoke-free “sooner rather than later,” but that no definite timeline has been set.

On the second day of the Regents’ meeting, USUAA President Stacey Lucason came to testify about one of the two controversial motions passed by the board in April’s Kodiak meeting.

Lucason has concerns that the motion requiring common general education requirements and outcomes across the three universities could restrict the schools in how they tweak courses based on schools’ individual needs.

USUAA Senator Parker Dahl addressed another motion calling for common course schedules, explaining that holding regular Friday courses as UAF does could be detrimental — citing his own success with three-day weekends allowing him to train to attend out-of-state debate competitions.

Student Jonathan Taylor brought up another section of the same motion, calling for common academic calendars. Taylor proposed 13-week semesters with a shorter winter and summer semester. This type of schedule received the most votes in an email poll sent to students by Faculty Senate in April.

While most of the motions passed in last week’s meeting were housekeeping items — like approving project change requests that allow $45.6 million to be spent on UAA’s new engineering building — some of the motions were significant.

Prince William Sound Community College will be dropping “community” from its name, becoming a community campus of UAA, much like Mat-Su College or Kenai Peninsula College. Gamble has stated that the reasoning has to do with overburdensome accreditation for the college.

Also, Gamble’s contract has officially been extended through May 2016, with an annual salary of $320,000, the same figure he has earned since 2011.

The UA Board of Regents meets next Sep. 18-19 in Juneau.