On Tuesday, October 7, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa administration held a “Campus-wide Conversation” at Kuykendall Auditorium that focused on an informational briefing on the University budget, past, present and future. The meeting drew a packed house of students, faculty, staff, alumni and other members of the community. Vice Chancellor for Administration, Finance and Operations Kathy Cutshaw and newly appointed interim Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman fielded questions, took suggestions and listened as some voiced continuing concerns over the future of the system’s flagship campus.
The Chancellor sent out an email thanking all the participants for showing up or streaming the conversation live. In his email, the Chancellor also says that the front-page article in today’s Star-Advertiser “UH-Manoa to be $31M in the red,” is factually incorrect in its headline and second paragraph, which states, “Manoa officials are projecting a $31 million deficit for the fiscal year that ends June 30, despite efforts to curb spending.”
“As we clearly pointed out in the presentation on Tuesday, we do not expect a negative bottom line in fiscal year 2015 and, in fact, are working very hard to deal with a shifting funding landscape in which public funding and other revenue sources are falling faster than tuition dollars,” said Bley-Vroman.
Click to view the budget PowerPoint.
Both Bley-Vroman and Cutshaw will visit the Mānoa Faculty Senate during its next meeting on Wednesday, October 15, according to the agenda, presumably to continue conversations about the budget situation and hiring freeze.
Yesterday, the Honolulu City Council unanimously passed Bills 35, 36 and 37, more commonly referred to as the “Environmental Justice Bills.” With the support of farmers throughout O‘ahu, the Concerned Elders of Wai‘anae, the KAHEA Environmental Alliance and the leeward neighborhood boards, the bills are aimed at curbing illegal dumping and other environmentally harmful practices such as stockpiling waste. The bills are supposed to improve reporting and relationships between residents, farmers and City inspectors that regulate dumping and stockpiling.
While illegal dumping certainly occurs in urban Honolulu, the dumping occurring in leeward communities is particularly egregious and environmentally degrading. Leeward councilmember Kymberly Marcos Pine (District 1) said, “In the more than 20 months since I was sworn into office to represent our district, I have enjoyed being actively involved to join our community’s effort to stop illegal dumping in our communities and throughout Oahu. In that time, we engaged our members of the community to watch their neighborhoods, report potential illegal dumping, and send in testimony encouraging my fellow Councilmembers to support the Environmental Justice bills.”
The final versions of the bills enhance the penalties for illegal dumping by 500 percent, create a new class of penalties for repeat offenders that would effectively raise fines by 1000 percent, provide the City with the power to refuse to issue after-the-fact permits for violators and to order violators to restore the land to its original condition, and for the most egregious violations (those occurring at the same place by the same violator in a five-year period), the bills provide the City with the power to refer the violation to the City Prosecutor for criminal prosecution.
On October 2, 2014, the General Assembly of the UH Mānoa Graduate Student Organization (GSO) approved two resolutions voting no confidence in University of Hawai’i President David Lassner and the University of Hawai’i Board of Regents (BOR) as a body. Both resolutions passed with an overwhelming majority (82 percent and 87 percent respectively).
“These votes of no confidence are unprecedented in the history of the University of Hawai’i,” reads a press release sent out by the GSO today. “They come after months of unrest on the UH Mānoa campus, following the abrupt firing of Mānoa Chancellor Tom Apple at the end of July. President David Lassner removed the chancellor without input from key university stakeholders including students, faculty and representatives of the Native Hawaiian community, and has failed to acknowledged the serious concerns that these stakeholders voiced immediately following the firing. He has thus violated the key principle of shared governance upon which academic institutions are built.”
The graduate student vote of no confidence follows a Mānoa Faculty Senate resolution dated September 17, in which the faculty censured President Lassner for his firing of
“The GSO has also lost confidence in the ability of the Board of Regents as a body to effectively govern the university,” continues the release. “The Board has created tremendous turnover in administrative positions, has disregarded the voices of key stakeholders regarding the firing of Chancellor Apple, has recently failed to conduct a satisfactorily rigorous presidential search and did not adhere to the spirit of the rules for this search by allowing the interim president to become a finalist. In doing so, the Board has failed to act in the best interest of the university’s main constituents: its students and faculty.”
In addition to voting no confidence, the resolution directed at the BOR makes several recommendations for improving governance at the University of Hawai’i. It asks that there be more autonomy for the individual campuses in the UH system, that the Board conducts less of its business in executive session, and that there be more representation of students, faculty, and the Native Hawaiian community on the Board of Regents. The Mānoa Faculty Senate made a set of similar recommendations to the BOR in a resolution adopted on September 17, 2014.
“While a vote of no confidence may only be a symbolic gesture, it is the biggest gesture we can make,” continues the release. “The president and the Board of Regents need to understand that they cannot continue businessasusual. They need to lead this university system with integrity, and act in the best interest of the students that they serve. The Graduate Student Organization is committed to keep fighting for more transparency, accountability, and shared governance at the University of Hawai’i. The voices of the UH Mānoa students and faculty matter and need to be heard.”