University unified for education funding in Juneau

UA delegates convened in Alaska’s capital to advocate on behalf of the university.

Members of the Union of Students of the University of Alaska Anchorage stand on the steps of capitol building during the Monday spent in Juneau.
Members of the Union of Students of the University of Alaska Anchorage stand on the steps of capitol building during the Monday spent in Juneau. Photo credit: USUAA.

Over March 16-19, six UAA students traveled to Juneau for an annual advocacy trip with UA student representatives from sister schools UAS and UAF, as well as other satellite campuses. This year it was open for any UAA student to apply.

The trip’s purpose is to bring awareness about the benefits of UA. In past years, the university budget was a common concern, but it was the driving point of this year’s trip after Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed cuts to the university’s funding.

In Juneau, the group of students gathered during the weekend to plan and go over what to talk about with senators and representatives of the Alaska State Legislature for a brief amount of time on the approaching Monday and Tuesday.

“We being [in Juneau], providing not only our personal stories and how university made our life different, how it affected us, how it’s important to us and that is backed up with different facts and evidence, it makes a difference and year after year students prove that investment in the human capital is the best long-term investment that any economy can do for itself,” USUAA President Geser Bat-Erdene said.

UAA’s delegates included Bat-Erdene, Joey Sweet, Clare Baldwin, Quacyya Cuaresma, Teresa Wrobel and Alex Jorgensen.

A rally also took place in front of the capitol building on the Monday spent in Juneau. The students held signs that said “education is the key to success” and “Alaska stands tall for UA.”

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“I really think [the trip] was successful… [having] a unified voice made a difference,” Dawson Mann, president of the Associated Students of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said.

However, the trip to Juneau is not the end of advocating for education and the university’s funding, but rather just an annual opportunity.

“As student government, we’ve been trying to come up with different ways of advocacy to ensure that not only our students are aware of the situation and do their part in making their voices heard, but working with all members of the public education,” Bat-Erdene said.

With that came a new advocacy group, “Alaska Public Education Matters,” which encourages members of all areas of public education to come together, attend events and have a cohesive, “strong” voice. They have already released a couple of videos with more information on how the cuts affect education in Alaska and one specifically directed to the legislature, titled “It’s On You.”

“I urge all students to reach out to their legislators and make their voices heard… We are happy to help students contact their representatives, even if they never have before,” Joey Sweet, student regent on the Board of Regents, wrote in an email.

Sweet mentioned that there are cards students can sign their name on to reach legislature at the USUAA office in the Student Union if they want to get involved.