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50 Years of Ketchikan Campus - A Mixed Review and History
by Robert D. Warner


September 21, 2004

As UAS Administrators gloat over the "50th Anniversary of Ketchikan Campus," they seem to forget that this is a mixed history at best.  While Ketchikan should be proud of its decision to become the second city in Alaska to start a community college, since 1987 most local autonomy over the campus has been lost.
From 1954 until 1987 the community cooperated with the University of Alaska to operate Ketchikan Community College and provide post secondary education to its citizens.  In 1969 the college was proud to open the doors to its first campus building, the A.H. Ziegler Building, on land donated by Ketchikan Pulp Company. I had the privilege of attending the official dedication of this building by Sen. Robert H. Ziegler (D-Ketchikan) in September 1972. 
Prior to 1969, classes were held in several small and old buildings in downtown Ketchikan and in local schools.  The Ziegler Building was a new facility with several classrooms, a vocational lab, office, and full service library.  A second classroom building named after William Paul was opened in 1973.  A vocational center opened at the downtown waterfront site in 1976.
With a small, but dedicated faculty and excellent directors, including Dr. James Simpson, Carroll Fader (acting), Dr. Rodney Enos, and Dr. John Menzie, Ketchikan Community College expanded its classes and services to the area. Classes were also held in Craig and Metlakatla. A milestone was reached in the early 1980's when the college earned separate accreditation as a full service community college.  Prior to that time,  campus accreditation was part of the statewide University of Alaska system.
Unfortunately, Ketchikan Community College itself became history in 1987.  It was abruptly eliminated by the University of Alaska under a unpopular, costly, and likely unwise restructuring plan. Vocal protests from the community landed on deaf ears and were ignored.  Using the ruse of a state fiscal crisis, the campus was merged with campuses in Sitka and Juneau to become a secondary campus of what would be called University of Alaska Southeast. 
Important local autonomy was lost during this merger along with the hard earned local accredition.  In addition,  today, Ketchikan no longer has a voice on the University's Board of Regents.
Since 1987, Juneau based administrators make and dictate important decisions for Ketchikan Campus.  Ketchikan lost its right to approve the appointment of the campus director that was granted under the Alaska Community College Act.  This was rather graphically documented in the early 1990's when the UAS Chancellor ignored complaints and failed to change inept local administration. 
The campus had already lost Dr. John Menzie when he was terminated after speaking out against the restructuring in 1987. Dr. James Simpson faced a similar situation as early as 1975 when he warned the community about Juneau based administrators taking control over the campus. Between 1991 and 1997,  there was about a 150 percent turnover in full time faculty and classified staff and a sharp decline in both full time and part time students. Several full time faculty positions and programs were eliminated while the size of administration increased. The question remains, was this part of a UAS scheme to remove employees dedicated to the community college philosophy?
What is the future of the Ketchikan campus?  What about the next 50 years?    This writer believes that the campus is essentially "dead in the water" until it can be liberated from the Juneau based UAS administration and can make its own decisions again. Today UAS spends far too much on administration and far too little on teaching and learning.  Next year, students and/or parents will be forced to absorb another 10 percent fee increase as the size of the UAS administration keeps on growing.   
One issue is certain; Community Colleges are progressive, productive, and economical institutions of higher education.  The entire country knows this; community colleges thrive in most every state except Alaska.  Community Colleges excel in both technical/vocational education as well as lower division academic programs.  Their focus is on teaching and learning rather than "research" and "committee work" which often dominate "university" activities.  This writer believes that high level University of Alaska administrators actually feared the success of community colleges, and pushed for their elimination in 1987 under their ruse of saving money. 
I believe that Ketchikan Community College served our community well from 1954 to 1987, but UAS has a poor track record in Ketchikan and leaves us with a second class campus. Our students and community deserve better!
Robert D. Warner
Faculty, Ketchikan Campus, 1972-1997
Ketchikan, AK - USA

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