Office of the President

2010

Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010 - UAOnline & registration

QUESTION

From Anonymous student

Why does UAOnline always go down for hours while students try to register? It is very frustrating

ANSWER

Between approximately midnight Sunday, Nov. 7, and 2 a.m. on Nov. 8, UAOnline assisted students in successfully registering for over 10,000 classes---a number 10 times greater than just two years ago. Unfortunately for those students staying up late to register, demand placed on the system caused it to become excessively slow.

There has been a steady increase in class registration activity over the past several years. Initial class registrations are up 10 times those of 2008.

Each year our technical staff analyzes past registration openings in an attempt to better estimate upcoming demand. They’re also on-site to monitor and attempt to resolve any issues during registration in real time. Unfortunately, these efforts were just not enough this year.

For two hours, twice a year (first two hours of registration for the spring and fall semesters) our resources are being overwhelmed. OIT and UA management are reviewing the available fix options. In the end, the most viable option may not even be IT driven. Many universities and colleges across the country manage their registration processes through staggered times to deal with the same problem we are having. We are looking into that option for UA as well. Clearly, something has to be done.

Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010 - Non-discrimination policy

QUESTION

From Kate Wattum, Public Affairs

For the last 15 years the University of Alaska has provided health insurance to financially interdependent partners and taken other steps to show that it doesn’t discriminate against individuals based on sexual orientation. Each year since, students, staff and faculty have asked that sexual orientation be included in the official non-discrimination policy. Although there have been encouraging signs, at the end of the day the Board of Regents refuses to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in the non-discrimination policy. Why?

ANSWER

I do not yet know the history of all our board policies, and so I would be the wrong person to speak authoritatively for the entire Board of Regents on this issue. It is my intention to become aware of the board’s position on this matter in detail so I can engage in their dialogue and respond more appropriately on their behalf to questions like yours. You, of course, are always invited to participate in public testimony at board meetings, the next one being December 9-10, and pose your question directly.

Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010 - UA presidents - info hard to find

QUESTION

From Anonymous

How come when I go looking for information on past presidents, all I can find is information on you instead, and not even as much information as can be found elsewhere?

ANSWER

The University of Alaska System for many years has had a website dedicated to historical features, including past UA presidents, called eInfo, recently renamed UA Journey. There’s a link to the site right off the main UA website labeled “Historical Highlights.”   Or you can find it directly at http://www.alaska.edu/uajourney .   At this site, you’ll find information on past presidents as well as a virtual treasure trove of historical anecdotes about our university’s rich past. Because you brought it up, I’ve also asked Public Affairs to include a link to the past presidents on my webpage, at www.alaska.edu/pres/.

Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2010 - University Advancement

QUESTION

From Megan Olson, UAA Advancement

How will you ensure the UA System's Advancement operations are adequately funded for the next 5-10 years?

ANSWER

For anyone reading this who doesn’t know, “university advancement” is the organizational term used to describe development (fundraising), public relations, and alumni functions working together as a team. Part of those operations consist of routine administration and staffing, which are normally funded each year in a conventional budgeting process. Demand is increasing and we just approved funding for a new position as a result. But I believe the whole of your question goes to our university system fundraising efforts as well. “Adequate fundraising” is really a measure of how well we do tying outcomes to goals. Desired outcomes can address a host of goals in the areas of scholarships, facility projects, library support, equipment and much more. Desired outcomes ultimately translate to dollar goals, and whether we meet those donor goals or not is often a direct function of building solid, enduring relationships. Building relationships and trust takes hard work, unquestionable integrity, and very smart, high energy people. Fortunately, we are blessed in all those departments. But we agree there is significant improvement that can be realized, and the associated work needed to set and meet new goals remains particularly challenging in today’s economy. Our strategic plan update throughout the spring will be important in guiding that endeavor.

Friday Nov. 12, 2010 - Electronic Timesheets

QUESTION

From Jerry R. Farnam, Video Conferencing Services

Every two weeks I get a piece of paper delivered to my office by my Manager--my time sheet. I fill this out, sign it, hand it over for review, my manager signs it and it gets sent back to payroll. I assume at this point the hours are entered manually; I can't see how else they would get into the payroll system, and my pay is deposited in my account. My question is this: Why are we still using such an archaic system? I know there has to be a way to make this electronic, using my UA login as a digital signature, for instance, or some other method such as the one the State of Alaska uses. If we do things electronically, I could fill out an online form and submit it to my manager for approval. When they login to their account, they see the time sheets and can approve or deny them, just like the paper copy. They then submit it to payroll and I'm sure there is a way to move the data directly between the form and payroll software, rather than manually typing in numbers and code! 

I think this would be a good way to reduce waste and make things more efficient.

ANSWER

Great question. Currently, the university uses an “exception” data entry process for payroll for most employees. An employee’s time is set up initially, but leave taken requires manual data entry. An automated timesheet process will enable individual employees to enter their time and have the timesheet routed for approval just as you have described. The issue is more complex than most employees are aware, however, because the timesheet processes vary by type of employment and are linked directly with our grant effort certification processes. Any UA employee who is paid from grant funds must “certify their effort” to meet legal federal requirements. We use our bi-weekly timesheets for this grant certification process as well as for normal pay and leave purposes.

The web time sheet project team, with representatives from each MAU, has been working to automate timesheets since December 2009. The overall project was on hold from March 2010 – Oct 12, 2010 while the university researched specific issues regarding the grant effort certification. The Information Technology Executive Council (ITEC) reviewed the research results in October and made the decision to continue on. The project team is once again actively working on the web timesheet and grant effort certification project. Please see our website at http://swan.sw.alaska.edu:8200/PWA/ElectronicTimesheets/default.aspx for additional project information, including status updates and team documentation.

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