Welcome to the Grapevine

The Grapevine is administered by the UAF University Relations Department and was designed to dispel rumors, clarify misconceptions and clear up misunderstandings about UAF topics of a general nature to improve communication between the administration and the UAF community.

University Relations does our very best to get timely answers to your questions. Ideally, we try to post an answer within 48 hours of receiving the question. Occasionally, it can take up to several weeks to get an answer depending on the availability of the individuals who have the answers and the number of people who may be involved. If you feel your question has not been answered in a timely manner, please resubmit the original question or leave your name and contact information so we can update you on our progress.

Thank you for your suggestions.

Submit your question or suggestion here.

As always, building and facilities issues that need attention should be forwarded to dispatch@fs.uaf.edu or reported directly to 474-7000. Unsafe conditions should be reported to Environmental Health, Safety and Risk Management here.

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Question

I have a follow-up question to one asked some weeks ago. The previously asked question was the following: “If a student is removed from a class to protect her safety due to continued sexual harassment by the class instructor is the university required to make accommodations so the student can complete her course work?” Why would a class instructor who is repeatedly sexually harassing a student not be fired immediately? Why is UAF tolerating such behavior from faculty, staff or students?

Response

When a complaint of sexual harassment is reported to the university, there is an obligation to review the complaint. The university will take immediate steps to stop the behavior, provide remedies and other support to the reporting party (complainant), conduct an unbiased investigation and take steps to prevent reoccurrence. For more detailed information about rights and resources provided complainants, please visit www.uaf.edu/titleix/.

Even if employees are accused of serious misconduct, they are generally entitled to a fair and impartial investigation into their conduct and due process under the Alaska and U.S. constitutions. If an employee were accused of the serious misconduct alleged below, he or she would likely be put on administrative leave or reassigned to a position with less risk to the university pending the outcome of an investigation. Based on the outcome of the investigation, the employee may be disciplined, up to and including termination. That allows the university to protect its community while also providing our employees with due process.

— Margo Griffith, Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity director and Title IX coordinator
— Brad Lobland, Human Resources director

- 37.5-hour work week

Question

Has UAF considered going to a 37.5-hour work week as a cost-saving measure?

Response

UAF’s Planning and Budget Committee evaluated this option and found that it was not a solution that would work universitywide, as it generated no savings for employees funded through grants and contracts (and could in fact reduce  indirect cost recovery). It could also have disparate impacts for exempt and nonexempt employees, and could be untenable for offices with required service hours. Instead, individual departments have the ability to work with their employees and UAF HR to adjust contracts on a case-by-case basis.

— Briana Walters, senior business analyst, Office of Management and Budget

Question

Will there be a tuition hike for the spring 2018 semester?

Response

At its next meeting, Nov. 9-10, the UA Board of Regents will consider increasing student tuition by 5 percent in academic years 2019 and 2020, except at Kodiak College and Prince William Sound College. At those two community campuses tuition would increase by 10 percent in AY2019 and 9.5 percent in AY2020. The larger increase for KOC and PWSC will bring tuition into equilibrium with tuition rates assessed elsewhere by the university over the next two years.

For the past three academic years tuition has increased by 5 percent annually, which has helped offset declining general fund allocations from the state. Tuition and fees for a four-year program at UA are about 88 percent of the average cost for a 4-year program in the western United States. Between now and November, President Johnsen will be engaging students through listening sessions and soliciting feedback on the proposed tuition increases.

A student tuition forum will be held on the Fairbanks campus Wednesday, Oct. 18, from 5-6:30 in the Wood Center multilevel lounge.

— Monique Musick, public information coordinator, University of Alaska

Question

Which level of findings of fact will the UAF Title IX office apply in Title IX cases? The findings of fact and conclusions should be reached by applying either a preponderance of the evidence standard or a clear and convincing evidence standard.

https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/qa-title-ix-201709.pdf
See Question 8.

 

Response

For decades, the University of Alaska has used the preponderance of the evidence standard to decide employee and student discipline matters. “The preponderance” means that it is more likely than not that alleged conduct occurred. In 2011, when the Department of Education mandated that all schools use the preponderance standard in Title IX matters, that mandate did not change how we decided responsibility. While the Department of Education’s September 2017 Dear Colleague Letter and Q&A allows for some flexibility regarding which standard of proof schools use, UAF continues to follow our historical practice and UA Board of Regents Policy 01.04.090(A)(8), which establishes that the preponderance standard will be used in Title IX investigations, as it is with other employee and student discipline matters.

— Margo Griffith, director, Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity, and UAF Title IX coordinator

Question

What is the plan for assessing the success of the Strategic Pathways process? Is it posted somewhere?

Response

Strategic Pathways is designed to guide our system for the next few years. Some 230 people took a critical look at 22 key areas, including finance, engineering, teacher education and procurement.

The work resulting from the phase 1, 2 and 3 team options may not produce immediate results. The long-term goals of the process are to focus on cost-effectiveness, quality, access, community impact and fiscal sustainability, the success of which may take years to be fully realized.

Although we are still in implementation mode, here are some improvements to date:

a.      We are reducing management schools from three to two.
b.      We are reducing three education schools to one.
c.      We are reducing three procurement centers to one.
d.      We are reducing three academic calendars to one.
e.      We have established a common set of general education requirements, making it easier for our students to transfer across the system.

Other areas of review are going through a needs assessment for further fact finding before going into the implementation phase. We are training our people in Lean Process Improvement, and streamlining and automating clunky administrative processes and systems.

As we continue to progress with implementation plans, information will be shared via the UA Board of Regents’ meeting agendas and materials and the Strategic Pathways website.

— Roberta Graham, associate vice president, UA Office of Public Affairs

Question

For five years, the Anvik Trail between the Taku and Ballaine parking lots and the intersection of Tanana Loop and North Tanana Drive has been used by vehicles. I’ve seen Facilities Services, UAF police, contractors and the occasional private vehicle drive up and sometimes down the hill. Most recently, the UAF shuttle has begun using trail to service the route between the Taku hut and the rest of campus. Over the last month, the trail surface has deformed and ruts have developed in several sections.

Except where there is an actual need, I think motorized vehicles should exit Taku and Ballaine via Farmers Loop and re-enter campus via North Tanana Drive or Alumni Drive. If there is a problem with that intersection, then we should be addressing those issues with either the DOT or the FNSB as appropriate. Using a trail as a shortcut for vehicles is not a long-term solution and I would like to see UAF take steps to restore the Anvik Trail to non-motorized use only.

Response

Thank you for your submission. At this time the section of the Anvik Trail you are referring to is posted for “Authorized Vehicle Use Only.” The trail will be improved once things dry out next spring. During spring breakup the shuttle bus will use Alumni Drive.

— Darrin Edson, superintendent of operations, Facilities Services

Question

Why was Starvation Gulch moved to an 8 p.m. start? This was an unfortunate change since many people were at the Blue and Gold game supporting our hockey team. By the time the game ended and we walked over to the bonfire it was almost completely burnt.

Response

After conducting a risk assessment on the Starvation Gulch bonfires, a committee came up with ways to mitigate some of the risks and situations that occur at or around the event. One of our strategies was to start the fires earlier in the evening. We understand hockey fans were disappointed by the scheduling conflict, and we will look for ways to coordinate the weekend’s activities.

— Cody Rogers, associate director, Wood Center

Question

What exactly does a soft closure mean for me as an employee? Can a supervisor require employees to work doing a soft closure? How does this help the university as a whole?

Response

“Soft closure” is for departments that have the option to close their office or reduce their hours of operation. A “hard closure” is a required closure that offers few exceptions. (Departments with health and safety responsibilities, such as fire and police, are in this exempt category.) While employees are encouraged to participate in the soft closure, there may not be forced leave. Employees may choose to work even if the department is closed during that time.

Employees who use their leave help their departments manage their costs because of how that leave is budgeted for. Taking leave is also an important part of balancing our personal and professional lives, and helps our workforce be more efficient and creative.

This academic year’s winter closure will be Dec. 25, 2017, through Jan. 2, 2018. Additional soft closure days may be observed Dec. 20-22, 2017, and Jan. 3-5, 2018.

Four days of the winter closure period are paid holidays: Dec. 25Dec. 26Jan. 1 and Jan. 2.

Three days of the winter closure period are considered a hard closure: Dec. 27Dec. 28 and Dec. 29. Employees will need take annual leave, leave without pay, faculty time off or a furlough day.

Employees who choose to participate in soft closure dates (Dec. 20-22Jan. 3-5) will need also need to take annual leave, leave without pay, faculty time off or a furlough day.

Holiday pay for those eligible will not be affected regardless of the type of leave taken.

Department supervisors and unit leaders determine who is required to work to maintain UAF operations during soft closure periods. Additionally, as Jan. 3 is the first day of Wintermester, offices that provide direct services to students should be reasonably staffed on that day and should consult with Summer Sessions before planning closures.

Once the business hours for a department have been determined and announced by the supervisor, employees should coordinate with their supervisor regarding leave options and schedules. Employees should be aware that retirement eligibility (PERS and TRS) may be affected if leave without pay exceeds 10 days in a calendar year.

If you have additional questions, please contact Human Resources at 474-7700.

— Brad Lobland, director, Human Resources

Question

The bathroom between the Great Hall and the library has been closed for repairs for weeks now, and will supposedly be closed until November. I sometimes use the all night study room outside the Rasmuson Library, and there’s no other bathroom anywhere close by once the library has closed. So if I’m studying there late at night as students are meant and expected to do, what bathroom do I use?

Response

Wood Center, Gruening and the engineering building have restrooms open until 10 p.m., but unfortunately there is nothing open all night until the Fine Arts restroom project is finished, which is expected to be in early November. 

Question

There have been several questions regarding the stocking of the vending machines over the last year +, so I’ll add to it — why is the snack vending machine in the Nook empty? If the current contractor can’t seem to keep the vending machines stocked, will the university consider going to a new vendor?

Response

Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. Vending machines should be replenished on a regular basis. However, it can take the vendor a couple weeks to determine activity levels in each location at the beginning of the semester. The current vendor does keep a fill schedule and is quick to respond when we have contacted them regarding technical and stocking issues. There is a vending contract in place and we have no reason to consider a new vendor at this time. 
 
We have contacted the vendor and requested they re-evaluate their fill schedule at this location. In the future, please contact Dining Services at uaf-dining@alaska.edu to report an empty machine, and the office will contact the vendor to resolve the matter immediately.
— Jennifer Macomber, contracts coordinator, Dining Services

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