Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Call for Solutions.

I was delighted by the overwhelming feedback from the email blast I sent out last week entitled. “ASUH – Response to UHM Faculty vs. Administration.” I would be lying though, to say that I was prepared for the hundred or so passionate replies I received during the following couple of days.

The response from students has been inspiring, and for the most part, responses from faculty and administration have actually been surprisingly pleasant as well. Both entities seem to understand where ASUH coming from as student advocates.

[caption id="attachment_820" align="aligncenter" width="510" caption="Over 11,000 strong."]Over 11,000 strong.[/caption]

The main purpose of the message was to clear any misconceptions about ASUH having a stance on the issue. The message was also intended to inform and empower students to recognize ourselves as the hugely powerful political entity we are.

So what's next?

1) ASUH has set up a public meeting next Tuesday October 27 4:45pm, to discuss possible solutions to restore UH's budget. Students and faculty members are welcome to attend if they would like to present any ideas or would like to hear our proposals. ASUH will then present ideas to Senator Jill Tokuda, State of Hawaii Chairperson for High Education, during a subsequent meeting.

2) ASUH is also in the process of passing a resolution “urging the governor to rescind the fiscal restrictions to our University system” (where the majority of the cuts were made). This reso will be followed up tremendously from a variety of angles.

3) ASUH will continue to meet with key legislators to help generate or divert funds to the UH system for the upcoming legislative session starting January. ASUH has come up with numerous ideas and has been exploring other methods of lobbying and possible protests.

ASUH has been meeting and collaborating with both members of Faculty Senate and Administration here at Mānoa, and although disparities concerning certain issues are inevitable, we are establishing a common ground to move forward together.

We must settle any minute, personal, and often irrelevant disagreements and unite our University community. Together, the voices of tens of thousands of voters will surely leave an impression on the decision makers of our State.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mobilization and Empowerment

A Ka leo Article on the Event:

At first, I was a little skeptical on the purpose of the "teach-in" and the intentions of faculty members and "Preserving Hawaii's University" in their attempt to mobilize students. (Please refer to a former blog post)

Some media coverage:

After I met with the planning committee the afternoon before the event, I agreed to speak at the event to stress student empowerment and the importance of our university system from a local, leadership standpoint. "Preserving Hawaii's University" seemed tolerant of most viewpoints, at least of students, surrounding the UHPA contract and didn't put too much effort in persuading them to stand against the contract. Fortunately, they instead focused on the noise the event will make and the ball of activism it will get rolling. They organized an awesome event that really set the tone and paved the way for students and faculty to become informed and be heard. Thank you faculty and grad students!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Students Finally Get a Say in Budget Cuts!

Last Tuesday, a great thing happened.

When top UHM executive administrators agreed to attend a high profile ASUH General Meeting to give a presentation on the prioritization process, the response from students was tremendous. For the most part, they were excited for an opportunity to FINALLY be able to have their questions answered and their voices heard.[caption id="attachment_805" align="aligncenter" width="510" caption="KHNL did a great story that night from the students\' perspective. Click to watch the video."]KHNL did a great story that night from the students' perspective.  Click to watch the video.[/caption]

Our guests included UH Mānoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw, Vice-Chancellor of Student Affairs Fransisco Hernandez, and Vice-Chancellor Reed Dasenbrock of Academic Affairs who agreed to answer any questions for at least an hours time. This was a extremely rare opportunity, as it was the chancellor's first public appearance to specifically address the budget situation to students.

[caption id="attachment_792" align="aligncenter" width="510" caption="We requested that Chancellor Hinshaw come to speak to students and respond to their concerns. Click for news video."]We requested that Chancellor Hinshaw come to speak to students and respond to their concerns.  Click for news video.[/caption]

A little bit of background information surrounding this meeting:

Since the beginning of my term at ASUH, we've been pushing for more student involvement in the prioritization process and any decisions made by administration regarding the State-imposed budget cuts. I have met with various executive campus administrators over the summer and, until last week, ASUH was considering passing a Senate Resolution expressing its:

"objection and deepest concern to the lack of transparency and student representation of the numerous committees regarding the prioritization and budget reorganization processes."

We weren't being heard, and administration wasn't being transparent. We had to do something about that. (See my previous post on this issue for more detail)

Leading up to Tuesday, the meeting was highly publicized (within the three business days we had to prepare) to empower students get them excited about its purpose, as well as to hold administration accountable for its decisions and answers.

[caption id="attachment_798" align="aligncenter" width="396" caption="The meeting was open to students, the public and media. The response was great!"]The meeting was open to students, the public and media. The response was great![/caption]

ASUH had to make sure that the meeting was well-controlled so that administrators felt comfortable and the pace of the meeting allowed for a variety of students to be have their concerns addressed. Although not every student who attended the meeting was allotted time to ask their questions, it seemed as though most bases were covered. If the administrators couldn't provide an adequate answer, they at least exhibited an honest expression of their shortfalls and mistakes in dealing with the University's budget crisis.

At times, ASUH had to be a little more assertive and dynamic in its questioning than initially imagined, but in the end we made sure to get what we sought after:

The administrators agreed to hold further meetings with students for increased transparency and granted our request of two student seats on the Budget Process Committee to help make the final decisions. Mahalo to all of the students who showed up, and to the ASUH Senate for all its hard work!