Status of Cooperative Extension Service offices

Question

I was appalled to receive this memo (pdf) after 5 Friday afternoon. I  assume that this administration who finds itself in the middle of managing a difficult organizational situation, cares about its people and their morale, would take the time to personally inform its employees, or at least schedule a video-conference, that they were forwarding a recommendation to close their office. I am hopeful this was an anomaly.

Response

CES, like all of UAF, is facing a large FY17 funding reduction, and it has no choice but to make some substantial changes. This memo states that Vice Provost Schlutt will make a recommendation to the chancellor to close the Anchorage and Sitka offices. It does not indicate that there has been a final decision, which is the chancellor’s responsibility. The chancellor has not yet made a final determination on most proposed vertical reductions, including this one, because there is no final decision from the Legislature on UA funding, and there are many other uncertainties, such as the implementation of Strategic Pathways.
As CES faculty and staff are aware, the Extension Restructure Committee (Roxie  Dinstel,  Juella  Sparks and Michelle Pope) has been working on CES reorganization for about six months, and there have been several internal CES communications about this assessment process. The committee has been making every effort to devise a plan that will enable CES to continue to fulfill its mission throughout the state. However, given the deep cuts in funding, CES must eliminate some locations and services; it is simply not possible to maintain them all as they are now. Closing the Anchorage and Sitka offices was assessed as being the best of a group of difficult choices. The cost of the Anchorage lease is high ($249,165), and the recommendation to close the office is based on the fact that those funds could be better used to retain faculty and staff and CES programs and services.
Note that there has been no decision about the retention, or not, of particular CES employees. First, at this stage, the closure is a recommendation, not a final decision. Second, some employees will be offered positions at other locations.
I understand that CES employees, particularly those who are located at the offices recommended for closure, are concerned and upset. I agree that there are better ways to communicate difficult news than Friday afternoon emails. However, in this instance, rumors were spreading rapidly, and it seemed better to communicate the truth than to let speculation continue.
— Susan Henrichs, UAF provost