Graduate students have begun a sit-in at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM) Campus Center to protest sudden and drastic cuts to Graduate Teaching Assistant (TA) positions the administration is considering as a means of balancing the campus budget. UHM is currently in a financial crisis with most units ordered to freeze hiring and cut lecturing positions and TAships. (The University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center is still allowed to hire high-salaried researchers). These cuts could have significant adverse effects on both graduate and undergraduate students and could harm the reputation of the University,
Almost 100 students rallied and marched on the morning of November 18, and hundreds more stopped by the Campus Center sit-in throughout the day to learn more about the protest. The sit-in carried on overnight with eight students sleeping in tents at the Campus Center.
The chancellor’s office has announced that the College of Natural Sciences (and only the College of Natural Sciences) will be allowed to go into the red for Spring, allowing the TA positions and core courses in the college to be preserved for Spring. But students are still very concerned about what this will mean for Fall 2015 when CNS dean Ditto will have to cut $2.5 million in funding.
Other colleges have already been forced to cut positions before the start of this year, and those cuts have not been restored. Arts and Sciences is a primary engine for revenue generation via undergraduate tuition. Covering the associated costs so Arts and Sciences can grow its undergraduate enrollment will increase revenue for the university as a whole. The cuts in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) have likewise not been addressed. For example, Geology Geophysics faculty have taken a voluntary pay cut to save three out of four TA positions that would have been cut in Spring 2015. The students feel this is a disturbing precedent for faculty to have to make, and should be discussed with University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (the faculty union).
According to a spokesperson for Fix UH Mānoa, the group that is coordinating the protest, “The students have decided that the concessions granted by the interim Chancellor are not enough. They are continuing the protest through today, tonight, and as long it takes, and invite members of the media to visit their ‘tent city’ in the Campus Center.”