Last Friday after reading this Compass article from Governor Palin and this back patting editorial from the Daily News editors, I wrote and submitted the following piece.
The Daily News editors may be prideful that fiscal conservatism means the State university system only got 4 percent of what they asked for, I find it shameful. While it is somewhat heartening they recognized UAA’s basic need for a new arena, it is disappointing that they used a metaphor poorly to make their point that the state isn’t responsible for getting it going. “Like a family with a one car garage and 4 cars?” A family that needs more space for their cars is a mostly specious comparison though. It may be accurate in the sense that there isn’t enough space in the garage for all the vehicles, but it doesn’t recognize that without the garage space, 3 of those cars will find another garage in which to park. For many of Anchorages best and brightest young people, parking at home isn’t an option they consider. Why? Because there are better garages in virtually any one of 49 other states. Shouldn’t we be trying to keep that 4 car family together?
The bottom line here is whether UAA can build itself into a garage where those other 3 cars want to park. There are two primary factors young adults use when selecting a school: education and environment. Since its inception and integration with Anchorage Community College the University has tried to steadily increase and expand it’s educational opportunities. Sadly though, the environment has remained the much the same. The experience of being a student at UAA is largely unique (in a bad way) among State-sponsored educational institutions in this great country.
Most (if not all) other state schools in this country (including UAF) provide a worthy environment in terms of those experiences important to collage aged students. In order for UAA to take the necessary steps to create a campus where students want to be, they must dramatically improve the culture and student experience (environment) as well as those important educational options. Involvement with the schools sports programs is one important aspect of that cultural experience. Take a look at almost any other state university and you’ll see student populations engaged and energized by their schools sports programs. Not at UAA though.
What happens when the best and brightest go elsewhere for the all-important collegiate experience? They stay there and instead of coming home to build the future Alaska, they put their talents to work somewhere else. Population growth in Alaska is largely a factor of outsiders moving here versus the next generation staying and participating in that future. In my mind, that means we Alaskans will simply become a conglomeration of emigrants who’ll eventually have no unique Alaskan identity. It is a shortsighted and inaccurate view to think we can’t afford to improve UAA. It’s shortsighted because a failure to invest in the future guarantees a future that only includes things from the present. It’s inaccurate because there is 39 billion Permanent Fund dollars (growing at a rate of 1.5 billion dollars a year) waiting to be invested in Alaska’s future.
Many other state and national governments have in place and/or are adopting Permanent Fund-like programs from their oil revenues. That’s a testament to Alaska’s leadership in managing the future. One thing though that most of those “Funds” have (and we don’t) is some recognition that investing in publicly funded post-secondary education is an important factor for guaranteeing positive future growth. They’re committing those funds to that important investment. But hey, we own a Mall in Virginia, right?
UAA’s planned arena is one part of an important larger effort to improve student culture and will become a valuable asset to the community at large. To advocate that such a role is the responsibility of the private sector is beyond my comprehension. Like every other state’s citizens it is our responsibility to fund our state universities. Alaskans need to speak out and demand our Permanent Fund begin investing locally in our future. The Permanent Fund is fully capable and our legislators need to direct them appropriately.
The paper has two primary ways in which it takes and publishes views from the community. The first is the "Letter to the Editor" (225 word limit) and the second is the "Compass" section (675 word limit). Today, after calling and leaving a voice message, I received the following notice via email from Matt Zencey the Editorial Page Editor for the ADN.
I got your phone message. Frankly, this would need too much editing
and rewriting to be suitable for a full length op-ed in the Daily News.
You're welcome to condense it to a 225 word letter, focusing on your
main points: You think we're wrong; state funding for an arena is
appropriate because A. it will help UAA retain talented Alaska students by
improving the campus environment and B. we can afford it because we have
the Permanent Fund.
Your letter can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editorial Page Editor
Anchorage Daily News
So that's that. I could have just posted that instead of submitting it to the ADN but most of it you've probably heard me say here before. I thought I made my points within their guidelines. It is 669 words; their limit is 675. Outside of that, their guidelines allow them a pretty wide variety of reasons to decide against printing. I didn't respond to Mr. Zencey's email.