To NEA: Thank you for trying to destroy our union.

May 31, 2013

Mr. Dennis Van Roekel
National Education Association (NEA)

Dear Mr. Van Roekel:

We’d like to thank you for trying to destroy our union.

The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) is a small union here in Hawaii. We have nearly 4,000 members who are the faculty of the University of Hawaii. In contrast, NEA, based in Washington, D.C., has three million members.

You threatened to destroy us (“decertify” is the technical term) when you visited last June if we ceased our relationship with NEA. Despite this, in February we voted to disaffiliate from NEA. We concluded NEA focuses on teachers, not professors; we weren’t getting good benefit for the money we send you, without even being full members of NEA. And we just didn’t think your suggestion that D.C. types lobbying on our behalf would go over well with our state legislature.

Our members have been bombarded with visits by your staff from the Mainland since our vote. Our members have also been deluged with calls from phone banks of Mainland volunteers and letters from you and posters plastered on campus, asking UHPA members to demand reconsideration.  Please keep at it.

We welcome NEA staff as union tourists since the university is supported by our local economy. Stay at our hotels, eat in our restaurants, and rent our cars. Just remember to tip well.  When you are not busy, go to the North Shore, visit our national parks at Haleakala and Volcano and the U.S.S. Arizona.  And there are always our beaches.

Maybe learn some local history, such as how 120 years ago other folks from Washington who thought they had good intentions helped overthrow the monarchy at Iolani Palace.  Since you are using the dues we sent to Washington, it’s good to see the money coming back.  We are, however, disappointed that you have been sending your mass mailings out from D.C. You could have printed and mailed them here on the Islands, helping our economy and thus helping the university.

We realize you need our $686,649 in annual dues because your membership is dropping. NEA has been reorganizing and laying off staff. Your clout must be slipping.  President Obama sent Joe Biden, his Vice President, to your annual meeting last year.  I guess if you want to see Obama, you’ll have to come out here to Hawaii and wait in line with him for shave ice (it’s a local thing).

With a strong six-year contract in place, we tend to forget that UHPA leaders negotiated the contract without NEA help, and that 89% of our members stood up to the university administration when it thought we would cave in to a weak offer. 

I must express my disappointment with your claim “With the recent loss of Hawaii’s longtime friend of public education, Senator Daniel Inouye, UHPA needs the support and resources of its national union more than ever.”  Mr. Van Roekel, I am sure you are a good man, but you are not Senator Inouye. The people of Hawaii mourn his loss, even as we all move forward; however, the NEA is no stand-in for our late Senator.

Finally, we continue our offer to collaborate with NEA in advocating for public higher education.  If you need help on this, we have some really sharp staff, a few of whom we hired away from NEA affiliates.

With aloha,

David Duffy, Ph.D.
President, UHPA

pdf file

Testimony Presented to UH Board of Regents – May 24, 2013

UHPA President David Duffy’s Comments in Star Advertiser – May 22, 2013


It has been embarrassing for University of Hawaii faculty to watch our UH in the headlines these past several months. More recently we had the sudden retirement of President M.R.C. Greenwood. All in all, not a good spring.

But it wasn’t the headlines that were the really important news. Through all the scandal and controversy, professors and students came and went to classes. Researchers were busy in their labs.  Outreach staff found ways to improve the health of children and to keep farmers on the land. Financial officers and other staff took care of the logistics to keep teaching and research going.   Last but not least, the craftsmen fought a holding battle against a decaying infrastructure in aging buildings, keeping the lights on and the toilets flushing—small things until they stop working. 

And all this work has a payoff: these last two weeks thousands of students on UH campuses have received degrees and are better prepared to make their way in the work force. Their hard work and ingenuity will add billions of dollars to the islands’ economy and to supporting the society that helped educate them and will help educate their children. Since last June, faculty have brought in about $153 million in research money and another $142 million for more applied projects—all in one of the toughest funding environments in years.

If you think about it, UH has done a pretty good job. UH has graduated decades of good people who have helped transform Hawaii from plantations to a modern society. It has distinguished alumni who range across politics and law, science and medicine, the arts, business and sports. Its graduate programs generated our present governor and indirectly a president of the United States.

So why aren’t we proud of UH? Where is the feeling of alma mater (“nurturing mother” in Latin) that reduces alumni from mainland colleges to tears when they sing their college songs? We lack that.

In Hawaii, we are many small groups, each wanting a different part of UH for our own goals, with little or no regard for the whole.  Some want cheap tuition and a good education; some want a winning football team; some want an economic engine to drive the state economy; others want a scientific powerhouse. In the middle of the Pacific, UH has to be all things to all of us, so we all have to work together or the parts may not survive on their own.

Governor John Burns warned that we have a sense of inferiority—thinking outside is better.  We hire a lot of administrators from the mainland and many take root, proving to be island-centric, humble hires willing to listen and learn, to serve and to lead, but not to dictate.  Too often, however, UH imports administrators who stay for five years, then move on to the next unsuspecting university, crowing of their accomplishments back at UH.

We have to change how we pick administrators. We need to look for administrators who can help our campuses reach for academic excellence while retaining their roots in our communities. We need administrators who can form coalitions across the various interest groups. We need administrators who, above all, will argue for and create quality.  We need administrators, backed by students and faculty, willing to argue with the Legislature to their last breath, that the University of Hawaii is our islands’ last, best hope.

If we do these things, UH will begin to have a sense of alma mater, of a whole greater than today’s conflicting forces. It won’t be fast or flashy, but our children and our children’s children will thank us for it.

Someday, if I live long enough, I would hope to hear someone in the Legislature stand up in defense of UH and say, as Daniel Webster long ago declared to the U.S. Supreme Court about his own alma mater, “It is, Sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet there are those who love it!”

Our future and our children deserve no less.

David Duffy, Ph.D., is President of the Board of Directors of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, which is the sole bargaining agent for nearly 4,000 UH faculty. He has been a professor of botany at the University of Hawaii-Manoa since 1998. Duffy also serves as director of the Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit since 2004. He is responsible for generating $150 million from more than 950 federal, state and private grants and creating more than 300 jobs.

LGBT Pride Events on O’ahu & Kaua’i

Saturday, June 1st: Honolulu Pride Parade and Celebration

Pride At Work Hawai’i, along with HGEA, Local 5, UPW (and other unions) will be marching in the 23rd Honolulu Pride Parade.  Everyone is welcome to march with us; please meet us in the Magic Island parking lot (look for our banner on a flatbed truck) by 8:30am.  The parade leaves Magic Island at 9:00 a.m. and ends at Kapiolani Park.  Following the parade will be an afternoon-long celebration by the bandstand.  Pride at Work Hawai’i will have its own booth.
For more information, please visit

Friday, June 7th: Kaua’i Pride Mini-Conference, “Pride and Justice in the Workplace”

Working with PFLAG Kaua’i and funded by a grant from the Hawai’i People’s Fund,  Pride At Work Hawai’i is helping organize a 4-hour “mini-conference” on how to make workplaces more LGBT-supportive and friendly.  The event begins at 9:00 a.m. (8:30 registration); $20 is the suggested entrance donation.  Lunch is included.  Click here to view the flyer.  Please share with your Kaua’i staff and members!

To register and for more information, please visit:

EUTF Premium Rates for Faculty in Bargaining Unit 7 Not Yet Determined

The faculty contract for Bargaining Unit 7 determines the employer’s contribution for health premiums to the EUTF based on the highest premium contribution made to any one of the other 12 public employee bargaining units.  The rates have been set through contract negotiations for the HGEA, UPW, and HSTA bargaining units (you can find those on the EUTF website) but the negotiations for the police and fire fighters, Units 9 and 10, have not been completed.  Those employer contribution rates could be higher (which means lower costs being paid by the faculty-employee) than those already negotiated by the other unions, therefore, the rates for the UH faculty will not be set until these two contracts are also completed.

UHPA Board of Directors Elects New Officers

David Duffy has been a professor of botany at the University of Hawaii-Manoa since 1998. He serves as a graduate professor of zoology as well as ecology, evolution and conservation biology.  Duffy has also served as director of the Hawaiian Pacific Island Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit since 2004.


UHPA President Duffy

“The legislature’s increased demand for more accountability and transparency of the UH administration is having an adverse impact on UH faculty and our programs,” said Duffy, who has been responsible for obtaining $150 million and creating 300 jobs through more than 950 grants and projects in collaboration with state, federal and private agencies. “It is imperative that UHPA solidify its role as the voice of faculty — independent of the UH administration.”

“Although our nearly 4,000 members may have diverse perspectives on various issues, we all agree on the need for a singular focus: contract negotiation and contract enforcement. Without these as our foremost priorities, our voice will be diminished and our efforts diluted,” said Duffy, who earned doctorate degree in population biology from Princeton University.

“In the past, we have shown that UHPA has been a strong voice in the political arena,” Duffy said. “With our contract tied to legislative funding, UHPA must continue to represent the interests of our members, especially as we prepare for the election season and enter negotiations for our new contract.

The other officers are:

  • Sharon Rowe has been a professor at Kapiolani Community College since 1989, teaching courses in philosophy, world religions, and ballet.  She earned bachelor of arts, master of arts and doctoral degrees in philosophy from the University of Hawaii-Manoa. Rowe also has a master of fine arts degree in theater and dance from the University of Hawaii-Manoa.


  • Rosiana “Nani” Azman is an assistant professor of psychology at University of Hawaii Maui College. She earned a bachelor of arts degree with distinction in psychology, master of arts degree in psychology, and doctorate degree in psychology, all from the University of Hawaii-Manoa.


  • Robert Cooney is an associate professor of public health sciences at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, where he teaches and continues his research in the area of lipid micronutrients and disease prevention. He has been with the University of Hawaii since 1984, studying the DNA damaging reactions of nitrogen oxides. Cooney received a bachelor of arts degree in chemistry and biology from Washington University in St. Louis and his doctorate degree in chemistry from the University of California at San Diego. He also did a post-doctoral fellowship at UCLA before joining the University of Hawaii.


University of Hawaii Community College Policy #9.237 Teaching Equivalencies

The final version of the Teaching Equivalences for Community
will go into effect July 1, 2013.  This policy is a result of
extensive discussions between UHPA and UH Vice President of Community Colleges
as agreed upon in a Memorandum of Understanding contained in the
collective bargaining agreement.  In the near future a website where teaching equivalences
for each course will be available.