UA accused of anti-development

A state representative created a
political uproar last week when she
criticized the political views of UA
students and faculty.
When UA president Mark
Hamilton presented his case for UA’s
budgetary needs to the House Finance
Committee meeting on Feb. 5, Rep.
Anna Fairclough (R- Eagle River)
caused a stir when she suggested that
the university was anti-development.
“If I ask university staff, the people
who are educating our future leaders,
if they support the Chukchi Sea
development, the Red Dog Mine or the
Pebble Mine or any type of industry
along those lines, a stereotypical
response is they are in opposition,”
Fairclough said. She went on to say
that students who walk through her
offi ce door held similar views.
Fairclough said she believed
that they did not understand that
development pays for the University.
Hamilton defended the university,
calling the faculty one of the most
conservative in the country. He also
said that he hoped that students would
“mature with age.”
Hamilton’s previous testimony
almost seemed to be a preemptive
answer to Fairclough’s question when
he stressed the importance of UA’s
community college aspect.
“In the last 10 years [of] 100
programs, 85 are two year and below,”
Hamilton said. “It is appropriate that
we have the majority of our effort going
toward providing the work force.”
UAA Chancellor Fran Ulmer
echoed Hamilton in a written
statement.
“UAA is Alaska’s largest
source of workforce training.
Our graduates are vital to
Alaska’s future development,”
Ulmer said. “They are teaching
our children, building our roads,
helping explore and develop oil
and gas, providing for our health
care needs and being productive
citizens.”
Fairclough later wrote in
an email: “When students or
faculty come to the legislature
and ask for additional funding
(in past years, to my offi ce)
there has not been recognition of
where the money comes from.
We need to have a conversation
about where our state receives
revenue and make choices based
on an understanding of the costs
associated with those choices.”
Fellow fi nance committee
member Les Gara (D-Anchorage)
said he disagreed with
Fairclough’s view saying that the
state would receive very little
money in any of the projects
mentioned by Fairclough in
Committee because the Chukchi
Sea is federally owned. This
leaves most of the royalties to the
federal government. Hard rock
mining taxes that are collected
from Red Dog Mine and from
the proposed Pebble Mine are
low. UA does not currently
collect any money from the Red
Dog Mine.
In a phone interview Friday,
Gara said that two of the
legislators who made remarks
along the lines of Fairclough’s
voted against the oil tax law
reform which has made the state
more money than any of the
projects mentioned would. He
said that just because people do
not like some new development
does not mean they are against
continued production on the
North Slope.
“The great thing is [the
university] encourages people
to learn and develop their own
points of view,” Gara said.
After the public outcry last
week, Fairclough backed down
from her initial statement.
“Mining taxes produce a
minimal amount of revenue to
the State of Alaska compared
to production on the North
Slope,” Fairclough said. She
stressed, however, that resource
development provides 85-90
percent of the state revenue.
Fairclough also said she felt
that the university system and
other state institutions should
not be held accountable for the
political views of students and
employees
“I do not base funding
decisions on whether a group
agrees or disagrees with me.”