Faculty Alliance pursues faculty regent position

Faculty Alliance, the statewide organization that represents faculty from the University of Alaska, is working to establish a faculty regent position to the Board of Regents. The 11-member board does not currently have a faculty regent, and Faculty Alliance is working with state legislators to sponsor legislation that adds the position to the board.

“The [Faculty Alliance] supports the creation of a faculty regent because faculty develop and deliver the curriculum that is the core of the UA mission and a faculty regent will enable the University’s governing body to more effectively serve the goals defined within that mission,” Lisa Hoferkamp, chair of the UA Faculty Alliance, wrote in a memo to the board from Nov. 20.

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Photo credit: Jian Bautista

In response, UA President Jim Johnsen wrote that he believes, “a number of problems would be created by requiring an employee-regent” in a memo from Dec. 11.

“The conflict of interest is a problem too,” Johnsen said. “We have no employees of the university who are regents. So you’d end up with whenever there is in issue that has a direct bearing on the employment or other matters that directly affect that particular person, that employee group, you immediately have a conflict of interest.”

A student regent serves on the board for a two year term, and Hoferkamp said the faculty senate position is similar to the student.

“The [Faculty Alliance] believes the issues raised by President [Jim] Johnsen that are based in conflicts of interest have already been resolved by the BOR as evidenced by the successful inclusion of a student regent as well as regents with strong personal and professional ties to the UA system and the State of Alaska,” Hoferkamp wrote in an email. “Furthermore, numerous university boards across the nation include faculty regents thus providing a model for a UA faculty regent.”

Sharon Chamard, president of UAA’s Faculty Senate, said one alternative to having an employee on the board is to have a retired faculty member fill the position.

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“Perhaps a way around that would be to have someone who had been a faculty member. I think the issue is not necessarily that this person would represent faculty, although that is part of the desire. I think for me, one of the benefits of a faculty regent is there’s a person who understands the culture of universities,” Chamard said.

On the Board of Regents, there is a student representative that serves a two year term. Johnsen said this position is different than a faculty regent because the student is not employed by the university.

Chamard said she supports the establishment of a faculty regent because of the insight a professor could bring to the board.

“I think it’s very important. Universities are kind of interesting places organizationally, and I think it’s important for a Board of Regents to have that insight from someone who ideally works in a university still, one of our universities, or perhaps had in the past,” Chamard said.

The members of the Board of Regents have diverse career backgrounds, from business, education and politics to Alaska Native corporations.

“The regents have really tried hard not to be representative of a particular constituency. They think of themselves as regents of the university for the entire state,” Johnsen said. “My first concern expressed to the Faculty Alliance has to do with the foundation of their interest in a faculty regent, which is that this person would represent the faculty.”

In his memo, Johnsen outlined ways faculty have been included in the governance process including faculty participation in Strategic Pathways and faculty involvement in advisory councils like the Summit Team, the IT Council and the Research Council.