Uncertainty surrounds established veteran’s services move
For nearly a decade, the Veterans Resource Office in the Eielson building had been occupied by the Vietnam Veterans of America. On Sept. 8, that tenure came to an abrupt end when the university took control of the resource center.
According to employees who worked in the office at the time, the move came at the request of the university, not them.
“We don’t know,” said Chris Hochstetler, an assistant working out of the VVA office. “They have legitimately as of yet still not given us a reason.”
UAF administrators informed students of new office hours a few weeks after the move, but did not address the reason behind the staffing changes in a statement posted on Sept. 21.
Tuesday through Thursday between 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., there will be a student staffer located in the Eielson building in room 111 to assist student veterans with issues ranging from financial aid, admissions, and advising.
“The university will continue to meet with staff, faculty and students throughout the fall semester to explore options for increasing services to student veterans in the future,” wrote Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Services Ali Knabe on the UAF News and Information website.
An attempt to contact Knabe about the administration’s position in her office on Friday was rebuffed. The Sun Star has received an appointment for Wednesday.
Up until the first week of September the Vietnam Veterans of America employed people to work out of the Veteran’s Resource Office. These employees hosted veterans’ discussion groups in the office and maintained regular hours for students to come in and do homework or ask for advice. They also helped organize a veteran specific orientation which covered military scholarships and how to use the GI Bill, which provides assistance to veterans, active duty military members, and military dependents seeking higher education.
The former head of the campus office, Walter Crary, is a Veteran Service Officer appointed by the VVA to counsel veterans on benefits and claims. A VSO possesses a command of laws passed which affect veterans and their dependents, according to the Alaska state website, as well as the rules implemented by the Department of Veterans Affairs to enforce those laws. The services they offer are provided for free.
For the last four years, Walter Crary has filled that position and his clientele included the large contingency of student veterans registered at UAF, as well as professors and administrators. He continues to operate out of their new office.
Crary said he is not in a position to discuss the situation at present.
Hochstetler, former president of the student veteran’s club on campus, said he has disbanded the club since Crary and his employees were moved off campus.
“Since I’m disbanding it, I told them,” Hochstetler said, “you know, maybe when relationships with the school get better, you know we’ll start up again.”
VVA staff claimed that their presence at UAF had cost the university nothing more than the office in Eielson and a few tables and chairs.
Another employee with the VVA, Stephanie Allen, said that employees paid for their office supplies out of pocket. Sticky notes, writing utensils, and paper were all purchased by employees, according to Allen.
“We even buy our own ink,” Hochstetler said, waving at a printer in their current office at the Army National Guard Recruiting command, located at 3598 Airport Way.