Blindsided by a ‘Devastating’ Veto, Alaska’s University System Pleads for a Lifeline

Republican Party officials have celebrated Mr. Dunleavy’s actions in recent days, among them the state chairman, Glenn Clary, who said last week that the governor understood that the state must live within its means.

“Alaska’s economic future is in good hands with our governor and his staff,” Mr. Clary said.

As the Legislature begins its special session on Monday, university leaders plan to mount a demonstration outside the capitol in Juneau.

Mr. Edgmon said he was seeing increasing public pressure for lawmakers to restore the university’s funds and avoid cuts that would reshape the institution. He supports overriding the veto, but said it was not clear whether it would be possible.

“We’re close, but we’re down a handful of votes,” Mr. Edgmon said.

Anticipating that it will have to implement the budget cuts, the university system has already issued furlough notifications to its staff, which would require employees to take 10 days off without pay. Mr. Johnsen has also announced restrictions on hiring, travel and procurement.

University leaders plan later this month to declare financial exigency, a step that would let them expedite the process of eliminating programs and laying off employees, including tenured professors. One challenge in doing so, Mr. Johnsen said, is that the university system cannot leave students hanging, and must provide them with a path to finish their degrees.

Ms. Williams said that while the university system may need to undergo changes, the extreme nature of the cuts will be detrimental. She said she was concerned that the turmoil would lead to an exodus of key faculty and staff members from the state — and potentially an exodus of prospective students as well.

“Obviously, this governor doesn’t value education,” said Scott Downing, president of the faculty senate at the university’s Anchorage campus. “The scope and size of these cuts is unconscionable.”

In the meantime, university leaders and supporters have been lobbying lawmakers by phone, by email and in person. On Monday, they plan to gather at the capitol in Juneau and begin a final push for a veto override.


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