Tuesday, September 22, 2009

And Here Comes the Faculty...

In the midst of extensive budget cuts to our university by the State, I have been continually encouraging a wave of activism from the student population, community, and any other stakeholders who would want to be a part of a movement to protect and preserve Hawai‘i's education and encourage the development of future leaders.

A great opportunity has arisen to for students and faculty to come together and possibly create a massive boom...

[caption id="attachment_771" align="aligncenter" width="510" caption="KITV4 News, September 18, 2009: Leaders of UH Professors Oppose State\'s Last Offer"]KITV4 News, September 18, 2009: Leaders of UH Professors Oppose State's Last Offer[/caption]

During my Comparative Politics class today, the professor opened up by highlighting a current university issue concerning the nature of faculty and administrator "negotiations". The professor drew a parallel between our university's multi-leveled autonomous bureaucracy and that of tyrannic rule under a certain, well-known dictatorship.

He has been a faculty member at a number of universities including one in Asia, but insists that he has never seen such a unique and hegemonic administration like that of UH.

(I asked if he has been aware of UH's structure before our system's administration was granted autonomy by the State of Hawaii during the mid-nineties, and if he was aware of how our campus was "administrated" before the creation of 78 new executive positions just a few years ago under President Dobelle's term. He said he would like to learn.)

My guess of why the subject of administrative hegemony was brought up was because of a certain bitterness my professor may possess in regards to a recent proposal being "unilaterally imposed" by administration: to cut UH faculty pay by 15%.

It is nice to see some spark finally igniting some major resistance from faculty to the originally State-imposed cuts, but let's not forget and overlook the fact that a few years back, faculty did receive a huge salary increase while students received a similar tuition increase. Before choosing to take on a particular stance, students should be sure to know what the consequences will be of their efforts . We need to realize that as ASUH (the Student Body), we stand alone and must remain autonomous in our decisions. We should hesitate to offer diplomatic assistance with initiatives moving towards collective goals, but we must refuse to be used as another entity's pawn: whether that be administration or faculty.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="432" caption="Will we be seeing some of this again? From Star Bulletin Archives April 5, 2001"]Will we be seeing some of this again? From Star Bulletin Archives April 5, 2001[/caption]

But let's just hope faculty and administration can see eye to eye, because students can't afford to have faculty go on strike. Hopefully, I will be able to meet with various faculty leaders to discuss any collective goals between students and faculty and possibly establish a vehicle in which students and faculty could move forward together.

Friday, September 11, 2009

TIM School/Shidler College Merger

Craig Gima's Article in the Star Bulletin-11/10:

Students' voices must be heard, even if going to the media is the only way to get a response. Please note that nothing in this blog post depicts a stance on the merger, nor represents a consensus of ideas reached by the 97th ASUH Senate.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="George Hall, the home of the Travel Industry Management School at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa."]George Hall, the home of the Travel Industry Management School at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.[/caption]

The proposed merger between the School of Travel Industry Management and the Shidler College of Business has been a hot topic of discussion over the course of the past few months. However, little to no student input has been sought by administration concerning this and many other of our University's most pivotal decisions -- decisions that effect us the foremost in the midst of this budget fiasco.


Past ASUH President, Jamie Sohn of the 96th senate, was allowed to sit on a preliminary process committee for the Chancellor during last school year. These meetings ended in early January. Once the prioritization actually began with actual dean recommendations, new committee's were formed with no student seat being made available.

Throughout the spring and the summer, and two budget/advisory committee's later, many decisions began moving forward without direct input from students. Faculty and some dean's also had concerns about not being considered in the process, as the Chancellor's advisory committees always seemed to consist of a team of the same select few individuals.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Shidler College of Business--building E from courtyard."]Shidler College of Business--building E from courtyard.[/caption]

Four months ago, shortly after I was elected into the office of ASUH President, I met with both the Vice-Chancellor of Academic Affairs and the Chancellor our Mānoa campus herself, during separate meetings, to inquire about why no students are being involved in the prioritization process and budget recommendations. (See also my response @8:30 to Hinshaw's answer to a question regarding the prioritization process on PBS Insights with Dan Boylan)

I asked that if any additional meetings are held, a student representative such as myself be given a seat. I also asked for a more transparent approach to remedying our budget gaps, and that an open-forum by the administration to students, sponsored by the Chancellor's office, be held on campus during the start of the Fall semester.

An open-forum event was set-up , but I haven't received an adequate answer to the remaining inquiries. I did, however, leave the meetings under the slight impression that the prioritization process was over and that if any final decisions were to be made, a student voice will be directly involved. That hasn't happened.

And look where we are at now! An outcry from both faculty and students has been brought forth subsequent from a recent email announcement from the Chancellor stating that the committee opts to:

"Merge smaller units with larger, related schools/colleges to strengthen impact and economize on administration. The committee supports the reconsolidation of the School of Travel Industry Management with Shidler College of Business to enhance UH Mānoa’s service to the tourism industry in Hawai‘i and strengthen the impact of TIM’s significant ties to the business economy. We will develop criteria for organizational structures that best support faculty/staff/students and maximize resources to examine schools with low critical mass."

From looking at and comparing the statistics of the respective schools with others, it isn't consistent that the TIM school fits under the category of "with low critical mass". It doesn't seem the case the education and value of their degree will improve for students, under the merger. Students worry that under a new school, their degree won't be as effective and their extremely high employment rate directly after graduation (partial due to the TIM school's extensive required internship hours) may be reduced.

Furthermore, adequate transparency hasn't even been achieved between administrators. After meeting with the dean of the TIM school, it surprised me that she knew only as much about the details of the proposed merger as I did from the Chancellor's side.

This somewhat contradicted the statement that VCAA Dasenbock made during a meeting with me in the beginning of summer when I asked about the process of the prioritization. To paraphrase: now that recommendations have made their way up through our redundant bureaucracy, they will be brought back to the Dean level of administration where student input will be considered. The latter hasn't happened, at least not yet.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Hawai‘i Hall, campus administration building."]Hawai‘i Hall, campus administration building.[/caption]

I understand both sides of the argument concerning the merger and it isn't necessary, at least not yet, for me take a side. But it IS my duty to make sure students' voices are being considered.

1) Within the next week, after I meet with various student leaders involved with the merger controversy, I will write letters to the respective executive administrators raising concern about lack of student involvement in the process.

2) I will request a time line on when these decisions will be finalized. I will also inquire and suggest, since meetings have been on-going and it is most likely too late for a student seat, how administration willreach out for student input.

3) I will entertain a Senate Resolution to be drafted and passed by ASUH, whether taking or not taking a stance on the issue, addressing our concern for a lack of administrative transparency and student involvement during the prioritization process.

4) If no adequate response is received in a reasonable amount of time, I'll make sure we are heard one way or another (having local T.V. and newspaper contacts on hand is a great thing).

It's unfortunate that so much tension is occurring between students and executive administration, but this could have all been avoided with initial transparency and accessibility and adequate communication between administration and students as the prioritization process was unfolding.

I recognize administration's claim that any and all of these plans of actions are "preliminary" and that all entity's involved will have their concerns considered in the final decision, but I will not pass up on looking into any truth behind the rumors that the merger is already being pushed forward.

Students, as the greatest stakeholders, should have been a part of the "preliminary", most extensive portion of the prioritization process. Any last ditch efforts of reaching out to students (i.e. a single meeting with student leaders after extensive deliberation has already been made) is appreciated but doesn't suffice in aquiring student input. Many students may view such actions as a mere nominal and political formality.

I will first try to be a mediator between the two groups and hopefully we can resolve tension by finding a compromise or a design that synthesizes both viewpoints. If this cannot be achieved, I will be sure to represent and lift up the student voice, first and foremost, no matter what position that may put me in with administration.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Noticing the Effects of University Budget Cuts

It's a new school year. And you can see the changes: classes, cafeterias, sidewalks, and campuses in general are more saturated with students then any time I witnessed over the past 3 years.

Mark Kaniela Ing ASUH KITV

With approximately 60,000 students enrolled at University of Hawaii campuses this Fall -- a 10.7% percent increase from last Fall and the most ever -- it's apparent that the community is seeing the University as part of the solution to our State's economic struggle.

But this isn't necessarily a good thing for students as 150 instructors laid-off and 500 class sections placed on hold, there has been an increase of competition to get into the remaining courses. In large lecture halls, students are resorting to sitting on stairways. Some commuting students are being forced to arrive on campus hours before class starts, sleeping in their cars, just to secure a parking space.

[caption id="attachment_638" align="aligncenter" width="509" caption="With a 120 student enrollment, and more trying to get it, this accounting section of the course has twice as many students as last year."]With a 120 student enrollment, and more trying to get it, this accounting section of the course has twice as many students as last year[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_638" align="aligncenter" width="509" caption="Some lecturers who survived lay-offs had their salaries reduced to $12,000 for teaching two classes, while numerous administrators executives are sitting pretty with salaries at over a quarter million."]admin[/caption]

Although other media outlets did publish and broadcast a few stories concerning our University throughout the week, I would like to commend KITV4 news for obtaining exclusive coverage on some issues, and for their extensive updates of our University in featured news stories throughout there first week of classes. They were on campus for 4 separate stories over the course of the first 3 days! I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Honolulu Advertiser as well for continuing to seek out student input, and contacting ASUH, for virtually every story regarding our University.