Sen. Gary Stevens gives impassioned plea to save University of Alaska, but not enough votes to block governor’s vetoes


Alaska’s legislators did not have the votes needed on Wednesday to overturn the governor’s line-item vetoes.

The largest cut was to the University of Alaska, which could devastate the university system, and have trickle down effects on Kodiak College.

Kodiak Senator Gary Stevens spoke passionately in defense of university funding during Wednesday’s joint session of the House and Senate in Juneau.

Stevens was a University professor history and humanities, and taught at Kodiak College. He said that after 25 years of teaching he knows a lot about the university.


Kodiak Senator Gary Stevens at joint session of Alaska Legislature In Juneau supporting funding for University of Alaska. Photo: Screen grab from KTOO Gavel Alaska In Juneau.


“These are devastating. These are unprecedented. Undoubtedly we will wind up with an enormous raising of tuition, for my grandchildren, I’m sure and anyone else’s children and grandchildren in this room. Furlough notices have been sent out to 2,500 employees. Tuition will be raised. Programs will be cut. Faculty will be laid off.”


Stevens stated he has no conflicts of interests with the university and its budget, having retired more than 20 years ago.

With devastating cuts looming, the university has declared what’s called a state of financial exigency, which allow the university to take unprecedented action. Steven’s explains.


“There’s a clause called financial exigency.  When I was at the university it was always a scary thing to hear. That means that if things get so bad that tenured faculty will be laid off. Having been a tenured faculty, a full faculty member, that would have scared me at the time. Tremendous blow to the institution, and to the reputation of our university. These damages are permanent, will be permanent if we allow this to pass. They are irreparable.”


Stevens said Alaska employers depend on university graduates to fill jobs. Many fear the cuts to programs and classes will prompt students to leave Alaska to attend school, and not return.


“68 percent of two-year graduates and 46 percent of four-year graduates remain in our state.  This 41 percent cut places all of these things at risk. It threatens the leadership of our university in serving the energy sector, the seafood sector, natural resources, health, transportation, education, all of those sectors of our Alaska economy. This at a time, Madam President, when we disparately need nurses and teachers in our state.”


There is still time on the clock for the legislature to override the governor’s vetoes, the absolute deadline to block the cuts is Friday.

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