The UA Board of Regents at UAS

For the UAS Whalesong
As you no doubt have heard, the UA Board of Regents met in Juneau Sept. 17-18, bringing news of future budget changes and tuition adjustments, and to celebrate the naming of the John R. Pugh Residence Hall. I had the opportunity to sit in on both days and observe ongoing discussion on several topics.
UAS was celebrated for outstanding attitudes and new approaches to learning, especially student initiatives and participation in and out of classrooms. I didn’t publicly testify for or against anything but instead listened to several individuals who gave heartfelt testimonies on the topic of tuition, and what increase would be acceptable.
A student representative from UAA voiced the idea of creating base prices for all lower division and upper division classes respectively. It seemed like the Board liked the idea, but as the topic of the budget came up, the uncertainty of the proposal became more palpable. This meeting was only talks of what could happen and preemptive planning, as the budget has not yet been approved.
Day two saw more passionate public testimonies from members of UAS, student and faculty, especially towards Native Alaskan studies. Kolene James, who runs the Native and Rural Student Center, Wooch.een, and the Campus Inclusivity Alliance started off the testimonies alongside Professor Lance Twitchell and student David Russell-Jensen.
They voiced their concerns for the school system and what steps need to be taken for both Native Alaskan students and teachers. They made a point that there needs to be a bachelor degree for Native Alaskan studies specifically.
Our campus is currently taking steps forward to fix certain issues at hand, but these three    speakers brought to light more problems and what we as a community can do to fix them. As Native Alaskans, they have the best idea of what it means to fight for their culture and keep it thriving in our small University.
Professor Twitchell gave a heartfelt speech in Tlingit to not just only the Board of Regents, but also the ancestors before him, in order to include those that couldn’t be present. He voiced his concern for the Native Alaskan Studies program and the urgency for it. He stressed the importance of keeping the program strong and growing. He also emphasized the continued problems with  racism that face Native Alaskan students and faculty, as well as what can be done to fix them.
I was able to speak with David Russell-Jensen later in the day, asking what he hoped the Board takes away from their speech. He said he hoped for more diversity within UAS faculty and for stronger Native Alaskan Studies independent programs statewide. If anything, he wants to see Alaskan Native courses become General Education Requirements, because people should learn about Alaska from more than the European perspective, especially if they will be working in Alaska after college.
The Board of Regents has hopefully been given much to think about before they approve the  budget in November, and we as students hope that they will make good decisions for our campus.

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