UH-Hilo faces cut­backs

Stu­dents, fac­ulty protest pro­posal to elim­i­nate cour­ses

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By KIRSTEN JOHN­SON

Stu­dents and fac­ulty are protest­ing the prospect of cuts to the Univer­sity of Hawaii at Hilo’s per­form­ing arts and hu­man­i­ties pro­grams, which they say in­cludes a pro­posal to elim­i­nate the cam­pus’ pop­u­lar jazz orches­tra.

About 20 stu­dents on Wed­nes­day waved signs with mes­sages such as “Save the arts” and “Lose hu­man­i­ties, lose hu­man­ity” out­side an on-cam­pus meet­ing hosted by Hilo state Sen. Kai Ka­hele.

More than 70 ad­di­tional fac­ulty and staff at­tended the meet­ing it­self, sev­eral voic­ing con­cerns to Ka­hele about a lack of trans­parency by the ad­min­is­tra­tion and frus­tra­tion over the pro­posal to slash course of­fer­ings.

Ka­hele, who chairs the Sen­ate’s higher ed­u­ca­tion com­mit­tee, held two on-cam­pus meet­ings Wed­nes­day — one with stu­dents and an­other with fac­ulty — as part of his statewide higher ed­u­ca­tion tour.

“Th­ese are classes stu­dents need to grad­u­ate next se­mes­ter,” re­cent alum Leilani John­son, a per­form­ing arts grad­u­ate, told the Tri­bune-Her­ald as she waved a sign out­side the fac­ulty meet­ing. “I feel like by cut­ting classes, we’re go­ing back­wards. They should be … (adding) more classes. Cut­ting is not the way to go to solve this prob­lem.”

“I’m a se­nior, and I’m sup­posed to grad­u­ate next se­mes­ter,” Sarah Du­n­away, 22, said. “But there are three com­mu­ni­ca­tion classes that I need that they want to cut. If they cut those, and I can’t grad­u­ate, I need to find some

other way to grad­u­ate, and I’ve al­ready been here five years. I don’t see the need for me to be here an­other year. It’s cost­ing me money.”

Word of the pro­posed cuts be­gan cir­cu­lat­ing last week, sev­eral fac­ulty mem­bers told the Tri­bune-Her­ald.

Many said they re­ceived an email con­tain­ing a list of at least 10 cour­ses on the chop­ping block by the ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­clud­ing sev­eral up­per-level com­mu­ni­ca­tion and phi­los­o­phy classes, a mod­ern dance course and the jazz orches­tra course, which pro­duces a com­mu­nity Frank Zappa trib­ute con­cert each year.

It was un­clear Thurs­day which — if any — other pro­grams on cam­pus also are pro­posed for cuts.

By Thurs­day, sev­eral com­mu­nity mem­bers, alums, fac­ulty and stu­dents had emailed ad­min­is­tra­tors and law­mak­ers in protest.

“With­out the jazz (orches­tra) band, there will be no out­let for those who are par­tic­i­pat­ing in the mu­sic dis­ci­pline to have a per­for­mance,” Rob Abe, tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor for UH-Hilo’s Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter told the Tri­bune-Her­ald.

Abe said the jazz orches­tra’s an­nual per­for­mance has be­come a tra­di­tion for many com­mu­nity mem­bers and has ex­panded to mul­ti­ple per­for­mances each year. He said both the orches­tra and mod­ern dance classes are “very pop­u­lar” with stu­dents and the Per­form­ing Arts Depart­ment isn’t sure why they were sin­gled out.

UH-Hilo in­terim chan­cel­lor Marcia Sakai told the Tri­bune-Her­ald in an email late Thurs­day the spring class sched­ule is not fi­nal­ized.

She said “re­sources avail­able to UH-Hilo are lower this year” be­cause a de­cline in tu­ition rev­enue and state re­stric­tions on gen­eral fund ap­pro­pri­a­tions.

En­roll­ment cam­puswide de­creased 3.5 per­cent this year, the sixth con­sec­u­tive year it’s gone down.

Sakai said the cam­pus is fac­ing about a $1.2 mil­lion de­crease in tu­ition rev­enue to Aca­demic Af­fairs — the unit that ad­min­is­ters the bud­get for in­struc­tional de­part­ments — and a $350,000 de­crease to Aca­demic Af­fairs as a re­sult of the state re­stric­tions.

Sakai said less rev­enue means “dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions are be­ing made across the en­tire univer­sity and are not lim­ited to the Hu­man­i­ties di­vi­sion.”

She said ad­min­is­tra­tors are “still ex­am­in­ing the of­fer­ings of sec­tions over the next few weeks, along with sim­i­lar pro­pos­als in all other aca­demic units at UH-Hilo.” She said the dead­line to post cour­ses for spring 2018 is Oct. 21.

“We re­main com­mit­ted to our goal of help­ing stu­dents com­plete their course of study with the least dis­rup­tion pos­si­ble,” Sakai said in the email. “Given the fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion, we are hav­ing to ex­am­ine such fac­tors as whether a course is re­quired for grad­u­a­tion, whether there are other sec­tions of the same course avail­able, and whether there are sub­sti­tutes for elec­tive cour­ses.”

Fac­ulty and staff who at­tended Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing dis­agreed. Some said their de­part­ments have been trimmed mul­ti­ple times over the years which makes it dif­fi­cult to re­tain stu­dents. They noted that re­cent en­roll­ment de­clines are largely among con­tin­u­ing stu­dents.

One staff mem­ber said at the meet­ing she’s aware of UH-Hilo stu­dents from the main­land who’ve al­ready trans­ferred out this se­mes­ter “be­cause they can’t get the classes they want.”

An­other fac­ulty mem­ber said at the meet­ing she’s of­ten en­cour­aged by the ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­tain stu­dents, but that be­comes dif­fi­cult when “what we see as fac­ulty is our classes get­ting can­celled.”

“Stu­dents leave be­cause they can’t grad­u­ate on time,” she said.

“I say give us back our classes. We’re the ones who keep the stu­dents here.”

“It’s dif­fi­cult for stu­dents to grad­u­ate on time,” added se­nior Rheal­iza Pira, 20, who was one of the stu­dents protest­ing at the stu­dent meet­ing. “And even worse, it’s ‘How can we pay for more school­ing when we have to wait an­other year?’ And they’re tak­ing away classes in de­part­ments that are (al­ready) so small.”


Pho­tos: HOLLYN JOHN­SON/Tri­bune-Her­ald

The room is full Wed­nes­day dur­ing an on-cam­pus meet­ing about the prospect of cuts to the Univer­sity of Hawaii at Hilo per­form­ing arts and hu­man­i­ties pro­grams hosted by State Sen. Kai Ka­hele at UH-Hilo.

Stu­dents protest the prospect of cuts to the Univer­sity of Hawaii at Hilo per­form­ing arts and hu­man­i­ties pro­grams.

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