UAA Faculty Senate reaffirms lack of confidence in UA President Jim Johnsen, recommends suspension

The UAA Faculty Senate recommended to the University of Alaska Board of Regents that UA President Jim Johnsen be suspended from his position within the University of Alaska system.

Jim Johnsen was appointed by the UA Board of Regents to serve as UA president in July of 2015. Photo courtesy of the UA website.

UAA Faculty Senate Resolution 100419-2, titled “resolution recommending suspension of President James Johnsen,” was approved on Oct. 4 during the Faculty Senate meeting. The resolution passed with 33 votes of approval, three opposed and one abstention.

The UAA Faculty Senate provides a forum for addressing university-life issues (curriculum, student success, institutional organization, and professional development) and represents faculty as part of UAA shared governance, according to the UAA Faculty Senate’s website. Their meetings the first Friday of every month at 2:30 p.m., meetings are held in the UAA/APU Consortium Library room 307.

Though this is a new resolution to go before the Faculty Senate, it is not the first time that the senate has questioned confidence in Johnsen. In January of 2017, a similar UAA Faculty Senate resolution was passed in which a vote of no confidence was communicated to the UA Board of Regents on the leadership of Johnsen.

“Therefore, be it resolved that the University of Alaska Anchorage Faculty Senate has no confidence in the leadership of University of Alaska President James Johnsen,” the 2017 resolution stated in summation.

After listing reasons for turnover and lack of faculty input in a UA program titled “strategic pathways,” the 2017 resolution was approved.

“Now, therefore be it Resolved:… That the University of Alaska Anchorage Faculty Senate reaffirms its January 2017 vote of no confidence in President James Johnsen,” Resolution 100419-2 said. “Be it further resolved that the University of Alaska Anchorage Faculty Senate recommends that the Board of Regents suspend President James Johnsen.”

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After an extended legislative session of budget issues for the University of Alaska, Johnsen and the UA Board of Regents determined a course for the restructuring of the entire university system, with a goal of bringing the entire system under a single accreditation, creating a “New UA.”

UAA stakeholders, students, staff and faculty have spoken in a variety of forums, such as town hall meetings and legislative hearings, to show their opposition to this course of direction for the UA system.

Results from a recent UAA faculty survey were shared with faculty on Oct. 2. The results show a significant lack of support in confidence in the leadership of Johnsen.

A UAA faculty survey on UA leadership reveals that many members of the UAA faculty have little to no confidence in UA President Jim Johnsen’s leadership. Graphic courtesy of the UAA Faculty Senate website.

The first question on the survey asked: “On a scale of one to five, with one being no confidence and five being complete confidence, how much confidence do you have in the leadership of President Johnsen?” Of 277 participating UAA faculty members, 176 members rated their level of confidence in Johnsen as a one, amounting to 63.54% of the total participants. The average score for the question was a 1.58 rating.

Resolution 100419-2 was submitted to the Faculty Senate for approval following a communication from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, or NWCCU, to the UA Board of Regents, Johnsen and the chancellors of UAA, UAF and UAS.

The communication from the NWCCU, written by NWCCU President Sonny Ramaswamy, outlined concerns over activities by the UA Board of Regents and Johnsen as not meeting the requirements of their resources and capacity standard, specifically two sub-standards outlining shared governance within an institution and the need to involve voices from stakeholders, students, faculty and staff within the institution.

Included in the communication was also a request for an Ad Hoc report to be prepared either individually by each of the UA institutions or collectively by Oct. 31.

The UAA Faculty Senate has sent a response to the NWCCU, outlining their position and stance on the state of UA.

The resolution approved by the Faculty Senate asserts that Johnsen was indeed failing to meet the standards outlined in the NWCCU communication.

“WHEREAS: President Johnsen has repeatedly and willfully ignored the need for inclusive dialogue and decision-making input from the chancellors, shared governance and community stakeholders in violation of NWCCU Standard for Accreditation 2.A.2, and Standard 2.A.1,” the resolution said.

Reasons within the resolution included the need to involve all the necessary voices, such as students, faculty and staff, in decisions for the UA system and failing to adequately meet the NWCCU standards addressed in Ramaswamy’s letter.

Another reason outlined in the resolution for Johnsen’s failure to meet the standards was attempting to control the communication of the chancellors in speaking for their universities, such as the explanation of Chancellor Sandeen being told not to attend an Anchorage Assembly Town Hall on UA restructuring.

Media coverage from KTUU Anchorage revealed a document sent from Johnsen to the UA chancellors on Aug. 1. Within the document, Johnsen directs chancellors in their support and expectations of the single accreditation restructuring process.

“I know you will unequivocally support the Board’s decision and all efforts toward implementation,” Johnsen said in the document.

The memorandum finished by providing instruction to the chancellors not willing to conform with his expectations.

“If you are unable to support the Board’s decision or implementation efforts, or cannot commit to our approach or these expectations, please advise me in writing immediately so that we may arrange for a smooth transition. Thank you, Jim [Johnsen],” the memorandum said.

During the Oct. 4 meeting, the UAA Faculty Senate worked together to amend Resolution 100419-2 to adjust for changes in language, to remove portions and to ensure the resolution outlined a clear and defined purpose.

This week will contain two meetings of the UA Board of Regents in Fairbanks.

The UA Board of Regents held an emergency meeting in Fairbanks on Oct. 7, more details can be found on their website.

On Oct. 11, the Board of Regents’ subcommittee will have a special meeting on restructuring the University of Alaska.

For more information on the UAA Senate Faculty and past motions and resolutions visit its website.

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