UW System President Candidate Has History of Measured Cuts

Perhaps there is hope. UW needs someone who has experience with something like this given the oncoming budget crisis.

Last week, the UW System Administration office announced Johnsen as the only finalist to replace outgoing UW System President Ray Cross. The decision was met with some skepticism by faculty and staff members who felt they weren’t included in the selection process.

Others expressed worry over Johnsen’s recent role in cutting dozens of academic programs at the University of Alaska due to budget constraints, a fix that’s already been proposed by Cross as the UW System stares down financial challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday, the University of Alaska Board of Regents approved eliminating about 40 programs, including theater and sociology at the University of Alaska Anchorage and chemistry and earth science at University of Alaska Fairbanks.

During Tuesday morning’s call with stakeholders, Kathleen Dolan, a UW-Milwaukee political science professor, asked Johnsen how faculty and students would say he supported liberal arts education at the University of Alaska System given the cuts.

Johnsen suggested the outcome could have been worse. Last July, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy proposed cutting the budget of the university system by 41 percent before that number was negotiated down to 20 percent over three years, Johnsen said.

Each of the system’s seven campuses then completed their own program reviews led by chancellors and provosts with students and faculty included in the process. They examined things like quality, access, cost and market demand before proposing programs to be eliminated. Several rounds of reviews were completed before any decisions were made, Johnsen said.