UA Statewide Briefs

The University of Alaska Board of Regents wrapped up a two-day meeting in Juneau on Feb. 7.

They approved schematic designs for a roofing and siding project at the Kuskokwim Campus in Bethel. The project, one of the university’s top maintenance priorities, involves removing the existing roofing and exterior fascia boards and replacing them with new materials. The board approved funding for the $4 million project last year.

They also approved a three-year contract for 324 members in the Alaska Community Colleges’ Federation of Teachers, one of three university unions.

Board members also approved a reorganization of Cooperative Extension Service, moving it to the provost’s office from the College of Rural and Community Development. The CES director will serve in a vice provost position, elevating the status of CES within the campus structure. The regents’ requested budget includes $350,000 in increased funding for CES. Gov. Sarah Palin did not include the funding in her budget, but board members and many CES supporters hope lawmakers will amend the budget to provide the increase.

Regents also approved the naming of a tract of land at UAF, Troth Yeddha’ Park. Troth Yeddha’ is the Athabascan name for “the site where the wild potato is gathered.” The area is to be considered a tribute to Alaska Native culture and history on the UAF campus. While it will serve as a gathering place for Native students, it also will allow uses by other diverse groups, such as Fairbanks Shakespeare Theatre.

The site historically was where elders held council regarding the state of affairs of Native nations in Alaska’s Interior. When the elders learned that Troth Yeddha’ was to become the site of the Agricultural College and School of Mines, the forerunner to the University of Alaska, they placed an eagle feather on a pole to let the Athabascan people know that the ridge would no longer be used for meeting or picking wild potatoes but for a new, formalized type of education.

UAF’s Native students, particularly those from rural Alaska, have remarked on the need for an open space to serve as a gathering place honoring their heritage. The idea behind Troth Yeddha’ is to help bridge the gap between the reality of urban college life and the rural, traditional homes left behind. While limited improvements are envisioned in the future, UAF officials said the intent is to leave the area largely in its natural state. Alaska Native leader and elder Walter Soboleff, 99, personally came to the board meeting at the UAS campus Thursday morning to speak in favor of Troth Yeddha’.

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-Compiled by Tara Sims