Former Regent: Senate’s Unproductive Grandstanding Places UH Mission at Risk
by Ted Hong
The Senate hearings involving University of Hawaii Regents, administration and politicians for the past two weeks have revealed stunning revelations. There is enough blame, overreaching and grandstanding to go around and all of them should be ashamed. Both hearings have proven to be unproductive, won’t resolve anything and motivated by the desire to humiliate people.
Legislators should honor UH’s semi-autonomous status and allow it to resolve the issue internally. The 'Wonder Blunder' that resulted from the cancelled Stevie Wonder fundraising concert and lack of accountability surrounding the mess gives legislators an excuse to revoke that semi-autonomous status.
The Regents should take immediate action including:
(1) Training to go over the role (limitations) of Board members;
(2) Comprehensive review of Board Policies to update, amend or delete them. The volume of Board policies is overwhelming and make it impossible for Regents to develop any kind of working understanding of them; and
(3) Adopt a policy that if any politician suggests anyone for any job or position in the UH system, that politician’s name will be posted on the UH website with the name of the person suggested.
What is lost in these hearings is the University’s mission of providing all the sons and daughters of this State access and opportunity to earn a degree from a quality, accredited University. UH has made a world of difference for my family.
Everyone in my family holds degrees from UH.
■From the humblest of backgrounds, my father rose to the position of Attorney General for the State of Hawaii and retired as the Administrative Judge for the District Court, First Circuit, State of Hawaii.
■My mother retired as a well respected elementary school teacher, making a profound difference in the lives of her students.
■My sister is recognized as one of the State’s top environmental lawyers.
■My brother retired from Hawaii Air National Guard, flying the F-15 Eagle, gained the reputation of being a fierce fighter pilot and now flies for Hawaiian.
■My wife is recognized for her work in the field of assisting victims of sexual abuse and helping foster families.
As a Regent, my favorite official responsibility was attending graduation ceremonies. Each graduate bursting with pride in their cap and gown while being cheered on by their family and friends. I shook each graduate’s hand, congratulated them and witnessed how UH fulfilled its promise to a new generation and I knew that like myself, my family and friends from schools across this State, their lives would be changed for the better.
I hope and demand that UH be led by Regents and Administrators that will remain true to the promise of giving students like me access to a quality education. I remember Presidents Cleveland, Fujio Matsuda, Douglas Yamamura, Richard Kosaki, who as administrators, were committed to UH’s mission.
I remember professors like Walter Johnson (History), Katashi Nose (Physics) Mitsuo Aoki (Religion), Jim Dator (Political Science) and Richard Crowe (UH-Hilo - Astronomy), world class scholars and dedicated teachers who taught entry level classes because of their commitment to UH’s mission.
I also remember UH Staff like Diane Morisato, Blair Odo and Takeshi (Take) Harada, who dedicated their professional lives to UH’s mission, helping students grow to see their life opportunities ahead.
As graduates, we are the ones now responsible for UH continuing its mission of access and opportunity and we must demand and fight for that same level of commitment from Regents, UH Administrators and politicians, otherwise UH will be condemned to be the punch line of a joke, a place for cronies to pad their retirement (high three), or a pit stop to collect fat paychecks and loud Aloha shirts. That is not the UH I am willing to live with.
Ted Hong is a Hilo attorney and former UH Regent.