The Alaska State Legislature has an opportunity to override the governor’s line-item veto of more than 40% of the funding for the University of Alaska System. The budget vetos and what they might mean for university campuses, units, faculty, and students—in addition to other state programs—have been widely covered by national and local media. This week, AUPresses wrote to key legislators urging their vote to restore necessary funding for the Alaskan higher education system.
July 8, 2019
Dear Alaska Legislator,
I write today to register our concern, as an international community committed to the highest caliber of research-based scholarship, about Governor Dunleavy’s line-item veto of the University of Alaska system’s budget and to urge you to vote to override it.
“There is really no strong state without a strong university,” University President Jim Johnsen has stated. As the Association of University Presses—representing more than 150 university presses around the world, including the University of Alaska Press and many other public university presses in the United States—we wholeheartedly agree. The catastrophic cuts that the Governor has made inevitably will curtail essential research at the University, programs like the University Press will be devastated, ultimately denying your constituents and citizens throughout the state the benefits of such programs.
Please allow me to elaborate on how the University of Alaska Press, based in Fairbanks, strengthens and serves the whole state’s citizens as part of a vibrant university community.
The University of Alaska Press, along with all university presses, is at the center of the global knowledge ecosystem. For more than 50 years, it has published works and performed services that are of vast benefit to a diverse scholarly network—researchers, teachers, students, librarians, and the rest of the university community—in Alaska. Its work also reaches out to a broad audience of readers, and ultimately to the larger world that depends on informed and engaged peer-reviewed scholarship published to the highest standards. The importance of such work is significant, particularly in states such as Alaska, where the vitality of the culture, history, economy, and ecology outstrips commercial publishing opportunities.
In particular, the University of Alaska Press champions the distinctive local cultures and landscapes of its home state and region. The Press is recognized as the premier scholarly publisher of books relating to Alaska, the Pacific Rim, and the circumpolar North. Its extensive and award-winning history list examines the state’s remarkable past, encompassing early exploration, gold rush, and World Wars. Just one example is Wildcat Women by Carla Williams, recognized with the 2019 Alaskana Award by the Alaska Library Association for capturing an important and little-known facet of the history of the state’s oil fields. The Press has rediscovered and kept classic works in print, including Jack London’s Burning Daylight, and translated important texts from early Russian and European explorers. Its Native American studies publications include works by and about Aleut/Alutiiq/Unangan, Athabascan, Inupiaq, Tlingit/Haida, and Yup’ik peoples. The Press encourages cultural expression by publishing original works of poetry, fiction, literary nonfiction, and photography. Its children’s books explore and help teach about Alaska’s unique history, inhabitants, and landscape. Its most popular field guides and natural history works contribute mightily to residents’ and visitors’ understanding and enjoyment of the flora, fauna, and geography of the state.
Nearly 80% of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities system members have university presses, strongly suggesting that a press makes a fundamental contribution to its parent institution’s service to its home state. The entire system, of which the Press is an integral part, is an engine of economic opportunity, local innovation, and cultural celebration. We hope that the state legislature will restore the University of Alaska’s funding, enabling the university and a strong University of Alaska Press to lead all citizens “North to the Future,” as the state motto—adopted the same year that the University of Alaska Press was founded—declares.
Association of University Presses