UAA’s agreement with Tanaina comes to an unexpected and sudden end

On Jan. 27, 2015 Tanaina Child Development Center was issued a notice to vacate their space in the Wells Fargo Sports Complex. Tanaina has had an agreement with UAA since 1989 to provide a place for the UAA community for their kids while they work and take classes. Since the beginning of the agreement the space has been provided rent free to the organization.

With the release of Governor Walker’s Alaska state budget, UAA administration soon realized that there was no money in the budget for new construction.  With that in mind UAA administration has had to make special considerations of how they will accommodate the ever-growing university. Safety concerns for the children at Tanaina and Tanaina not having a strong relationship with the College of Education also played a role. The Chancellor’s Cabinet made the call to terminate the agreement with Tanaina to make space for actual university organizations.

“We had a sit down and we have several organizations particularly Student Affairs and the Community Technical College that are in desperate need to get over where that space is,” said Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services, Bill Spindle, who serves on the Chancellor’s Cabinet.

Before the release of Governor Walker’s budget, UAA had plans to keep Tanaina at the Wells Fargo. Over the summer the building will be undergoing serious renovations that will require all organizations there to temporarily move out.  In the original plans Tanaina’s space was to be updated to better meet their needs.

“We had told them (Tanaina) last fall that they were going to have to leave during the summer… Originally that was our intent just a temporary thing,” said Spindle.

Therefore, Tanaina has had temporary space lined up for the summer months, but are uncertain where they will go at the end of summer. Tanaina has been meeting with the cabinet to try and extend the agreement to provide them more time to find a new long term space off campus.

“I know in the meeting tonight there were a lot of parents and alumni and former Tanaina parents, who really felt the center should stay where it is, but I think that’s a pretty difficult reality. I don’t think the administration is going to accept that, but I also don’t know if that’s necessarily a good move for Tanaina. It’s not an ideal space for little kids,” said Scott Hamel, president of Tanaina Child Development Center, in an interview after the public forum held by Tanaina on Monday February 1.

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Extension of the agreement is unlikely though as the space will be going either to the Community Technical College or Student Affairs and renovations would need to be done for those departments. These renovations would best be done during the already planned renovations for the Wells Fargo Sports Complex.

“… We just don’t have the space we need and really Tanaina needs to be in a better place and a bigger space. We thought since they had to leave in the summer anyways it was just time to break it off. Not that we don’t want to help them and not that we don’t think child care is an important additional service, but not right there and not right on campus,” said Spindle.

Spindle made it clear that despite the meetings with Tanaina, there will not be an extension of the agreement and that the meetings have been about helping Tanaina move on. The cabinet has been trying to provide Tanaina with the tools to find a new location such as financial planning and advice from the College of Business at these meetings.

Despite Spindle’s confirmation that the meetings have not been about extending or creating a new agreement with Tanaina, Tanaina will be hosting a march to raise awareness on February 10 at 3:30 p.m. The march will go from Tanaina through the spine to the chancellor’s office. USUAA has also supported a bill to keep Tanaina on campus.

“We supported a resolution basically supporting the Tanaina Center and asking UAA administration what they’re doing and kind of demanding – politely – an explanation,” said USUAA senator Samuel Erickson, “It covers the history that UAA has with Tanaina… and then questions why the decision was made so quickly and then encouraging UAA administration to explain the decision and possibly consider other alternatives. It’s as strong as we can get within our authority as a student organization.”

Tanaina in addition to their efforts to remain at UAA are also coming to terms with the reality that even if allowed to stay their future at UAA would be shaky.

“I think we’re exploring other options for other locations because moving to a new location that’s more sustainable and able to grow would allow us to have a more stable organization. If they (Chancellor’s Cabinet) were to just change their minds tomorrow certainly we (Tanaina) would be looking over our backs all the time,” said Hamel.