USUAA passes resolution of no confidence in UA President Jim Johnsen

USUAA passed a resolution stating their lack of confidence in UA President Jim Johnsen at their general assembly meeting on Oct. 25. 

“Therefore, be it hereby resolved, that the Union of Students at the University of Alaska Anchorage has no confidence in President Jim Johnsen’s leadership and firmly believe his vision for the university system is not in the best interest of the student body we were duly elected to represent and protect,” according to the final version of Resolution #20-05: Vote of No Confidence in UA President Johnsen.

Additionally, the resolution urges the UA Board of Regents to seek out new leadership and suspend Johnsen from his position in the UA system.

USUAA student leaders passed a resolution declaring no confidence in UA President Jim Johnsen at a general assembly meeting on Oct. 25. Photo by Jason Herr.

Resolution #20-05: Vote of No Confidence in UA President Johnsen was written by USUAA members Rose Kruger, sergeant at arms, and Alex Jorgensen, speaker of the assembly, and passed unanimously with 10 votes of approval.

The student resolution follows a similar declaration made by the UAA faculty on Oct. 4.

Votes of no confidence in Johnsen’s leadership extend back to 2017, when both the UAA and UAF Faculty Senates submitted votes of no confidence and the UAS Faculty Senate submitted a letter of concern, USUAA’s resolution said.

Following a summer of hardships for the UA system, including budget cuts, a declaration of financial exigency by the UA Board of Regents and the possibility of a single accreditation restructuring plan, Johnsen’s leadership has been questioned by UAA students, staff and faculty in various forums.

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A town hall meeting hosted by Anchorage Assembly members that represent U-MED, the midtown area of Anchorage including the UAA campus, was held on Aug. 29 to discuss the future of UAA. Johnsen was originally listed as attending, but did not attend outside of a previously-recorded video played for the audience. Gathered audience members questioned Johnsen’s absence during the meeting.

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.

Johnsen was also scrutinized by the public for limiting the chancellors of UAA, UAF and UAS in their own opinions of UA decision. Johnsen offered a “smooth transition” to chancellors who disagreed with restructuring efforts, highlighted in an August memorandum written by Johnsen and released by KTUU.

“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.

A letter sent to UA officials on Sept. 26 by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities addressed concerns for the UA system not meeting key standards. The NWCCU stated that UA was not meeting two sub-standards required by the commission, one of which addresses inclusivity in decision making.

“[Institution governance] decision-making structures and processes make provision for the consideration of the views of faculty, staff, administrators and students on matters in which they have a direct and reasonable interest,” the NWCCU Standard for Accreditation 2.A.1 states.

A survey sent to UAA students in October by USUAA asked questions concerning students’ opinions on topics such as the restructuring, Johnsen’s leadership and if student voices were being included in decision-making for the future of UA. 

“Do you feel that student voices have been adequately included in university decision making?” the USUAA survey said.

Of the 614 students that participated in the survey, 453, or 73.78%, answered no. 

Similar surveys were completed by UAA faculty and staff, asking participants to describe their level of confidence in Johnsen on a scale of one to five, one being no confidence and five being full confidence.

“Eighty-eight percent of UAA faculty respondents, 74% of UAA staff respondents and 58% of UAA student respondents had ‘little’ [a score of two] to ‘none at all’ [a score of one] confidence in the leadership of President Johnsen,” USUAA’s Resolution #20-05 said.

A video of the full USUAA meeting can be viewed on their Facebook page. USUAA meetings are open to the public and are held on Fridays at 3 p.m. in the Lyla Richards Conference Room, or Student Union room 103.

The UA Board of Regents will meet again for a full board meeting on Nov. 7 and 8 in Fairbanks. The meeting will be live-streamed on the UA Board of Regents website at www.alaska.edu/bor/live/.

The board’s in-person public testimony session has been moved from its original date and will now be held at 8 a.m. on Nov. 8 in the Butrovich Building room 109 at UAF. 

UAA student feedback, questions and concerns can be sent to [email protected]

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