Letter of Concern, An Idea

Posted by Chris Stiegler on May 23, 2015

May 25, 2015


Dear Mr President and Mr. Chancellor


We understand that this letter arrives to you unsolicited, but it has come to the attention of our crew that you and your colleague – President Don Bantz and Chancellor Tom Case, are each considering developments in and around your campuses. In light of these plans we would like to make some suggestions that may reinforce your neighborly relationship, not only with one another, but also with the local residents and wildlife. Thank your, first and foremost, for taking the time to read through this letter. In consideration we will make my points brief.


As we know, you are both aware that you share a great many things. Your locations in downtown Anchorage serves to foster a more urban, yet wooded campus setting for your student populations. Each of your institutions is near to and accessible by the same roads. Both of your institutions are seeking to expand the infrastructure near to your campuses; one in a move to expand facilities, while the other seeks to develop the neighboring areas for other reasons. With all of these commonalities, our crew feels compelled to put forth a rather simple solution: combine forces to preserve the resources you share in an effort to better serve your students, faculty, staff, and neighboring communities.


The simplest means of combining efforts is to actually join forces. This task may at first appear unfathomable, it is in fact a simple idea. APU should operate as a conservatory under the umbrella of their larger neighbor. UAA should work with the board of APU to consider economical and ecological ways of developing the landscape to improve their campus while remaining minimally invasive. A restructuring provide a less expensive and less invasive means of developing your community and your campuses. It would also diminish the risk of these developments, as increasing campus size and infrastructure only ever guarantees more maintenance and more upkeep, while they promise so much more.


With head-counts of under four hundred and upwards of twenty thousand, each college provides an atmosphere that caters to a particular student. That said, conservatories are often housed within larger institutions and have thrived in such circumstances. If, in fact, APU became a small, dedicated part of UAA, a broader spectrum of curricula could serve the student population while allowing key courses to maintain their 10:1 student/faculty ratio. The community of UAA could benefit by offering the smaller class size to the students that wish for that kind of interaction. Not to mention other amenities like the Jim Mahaffey Trail System and the Consortium Library which both currently serve your student populations.


While we understand that each of your institutions has a different financial structure and a different strategic plan, both of your institutions rely on the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities for your accreditation, which would make the structuring of your merger systematically easier. Both of your institutions want to attract new students, remain competitive in an intensifying market, grow endowments, and continue their mission as educational institutions. A merger of this sort would not diminish these agendas.


In closing, I would like to introduce myself a bit by saying that I have been very close to a fair number of colleges and universities as both a heavily invested student at the University of Delaware and also as a faculty member at the Maine College of Art, the Southern Maine Community College, and the University of New Hampshire. I have seen the functions of large state schools, private colleges, and local educational hubs. What I have come to understand is that Presidents all have the same agenda, grow the worth of their students’ degrees. Combining efforts is a way to diminish the competitive field, provide more access for students, increase the holdings of the institutions, and ultimately give the community a beautiful, unified campus center within a dense and bucolic wilderness.


Please note that both you and your colleague – President Don Bantz and Chancellor Tom Case – have received the same letter. It has also been published in conjunction with Seeking the Source, an interdisciplinary surveying of the Chester Creek Trail, which both of your campuses abut.




Chris Stiegler

Visiting Professor of Art History

Maine College of Art



Seeking the Source