University of Alaska to furlough top leaders, including president, chancellors

The University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. (Courtesy University of Alaska)

The University of Alaska announced Wednesday that it will furlough all senior administrators across the system during the upcoming fiscal year, including the UA president, chancellors and deans.

It’s one of the ways the university system is slashing spending as it wrestles with a three-year, $70 million state funding cut, including a $25 million cut in the fiscal year that starts July 1. That’s on top of new costs and reduced revenues caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m trying as hard as possible to minimize the impact of the budget reductions on our line faculty and staff across the university system,” said UA president Jim Johnsen.

UA says the furloughs, put in place by Johnsen, will impact 166 employees and are expected to save the university system $554,000.

The length of furloughs will be based on employees’ positions: Johnsen, university chancellors, provosts and chief officers will each lose a total of 10 days pay. Senior administrators, including faculty administrative leaders, will be furloughed eight days. Johnsen said the employee groups were selected because of their pay scale.

UA has also furloughed 120 lower-level employees whose jobs can’t be done from home during pandemic-related campus closures.

“Everybody is going to be contributing in one way or another to meeting these budget reduction requirements,” Johnsen said.

UA Faculty Alliance chair and UAA professor Maria Williams said the executive and administrative furloughs do not go far enough. She suggested a 10% salary reduction for those groups as a way to a avert broader cuts, including the deletion of academic programs.

“If we sunset these programs we’re also cutting ourselves off at the knees because we’re also going to lose future student tuition revenue,” Williams said.

Related: UA chancellors unveil proposals for cutting degree programs

Johnsen said, “The notion that if a few executives take some pay cuts we’re going to save the day is not realistic in this climate.”

UA regents are expected to consider future cost-reduction measures at their meeting in June, including decisions on program cuts. UA last implemented executive furloughs in 2016.

Related: It’s not just coronavirus concerns at UAA, there’s also worry over degree program cuts

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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