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."][/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."][/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."][/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.