UHPA Open Letter to Hawaii State Legislators and our Faculty Members

The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly is grateful and offers our thanks to  our Hawaii State Legislators who approved the scheduled salary increases for all public-sector employees at the State Capitol today.

The previously negotiated 2% salary increase will go into effect on July 1, 2020 for 11-month faculty and August 1, 2020 for 9-month faculty.  In addition, the 1.2% salary increase for faculty pursuant to Article XXX, Duration of the 2017-2021 Unit 7 Agreement, which was to have gone into effect on January 2, 2020, will be retroactively funded with today’s vote.

We worked with our elected officials and provided all the relevant information they needed to help them make a conscientious decision, and we are grateful for the decision that they made.

Public-sector employees are the ones who are responsible to keep essential government services and programs in our state operating – even during an extremely dangerous worldwide pandemic.  The passage of this measure is especially critical now as we all work together to help reboot and rebuild our state’s economy.  The Legislators vote in favor of the salary increases reflects its commitment and support for the State’s economic stabilization, recovery, and resilience.  There is no question that our hard working and dedicated faculty play a significant role in the State’s stability, recovery, and resilience through its nationally recognized research programs, innovation, medical and technological advancements, and excellence in providing high quality post-secondary education to the next generation of leaders.

A big MAHALO to all the faculty members who reached out to legislators these past several weeks to share their personal stories and perspectives in support of salary increases for all faculty. We know public higher education is the equalizer that is sorely needed right now for our State and our Nation during these times. During the Great Recession, UH experienced a significant increase in student enrollment as individuals went back to school to learn new skills to help better prepare themselves for the demands of an ever changing and evolving work environment. We anticipate there will be even more of a demand for higher education across the county, as well as, locally as a result of this pandemic.

Thank you to all the faculty for your ongoing commitment to your students and our community. You make significant contributions to the stabilization and growth of our economy. UH faculty also continue to attract federal, private, and out-of-state funding, which is especially important with the constraints on the state budget to generate jobs and spawn new industries and applications.

Keep up the great work. And stay tuned for more updates.

Christian L. Fern
UHPA Executive Director

The Cost of Not Joining UHPA

Guest post by UHPA Member Randy Hirokawa,

In my formative years as a young assistant professor, I admit not being a proponent of faculty unions. I believed in the integrity of universities, and the administrators who ran them. I believed that if you did your work well, you would steadily climb the tenure and promotion ladder and be rewarded appropriately. All of that changed in 1986. Allow me to tell you my story.

I started as an assistant professor

Upon receiving my Ph.D. in 1980, I took my first assistant professor position at a well-known public university on the East Coast (“University X”). At University X, I taught well, published regularly, and served on a variety of committees. I was rewarded with positive pre-tenure reviews in my 1st and 3rd years, and double-digit percentage merit pay increases in each of those three years.

And then was recruited to a university with a top doctoral program

At the start of my 4th year at University X, I was recruited by a well-known public university in the Midwest (“University Y”). The graduate program at University Y was widely regarded as the top doctoral program in my field of study, and some of the top scholars in my field were on their faculty. It was an opportunity too good to pass up so I accepted a faculty position at University Y.

I received lots of lucrative promises in the offer letter

In my offer letter, I was promised a salary that was significantly higher than what I had been making at University X, and along with other perks and benefits, I was told that I would receive four years of credit toward tenure and promotion, thereby allowing me to apply for tenure and promotion in my second year at University Y.

Then we got a new dean

In my first year at University Y, I continued to teach well, publish regularly, and serve on committees. Everything seemed to be going well. Behind the scenes, though, a very important change was happening: The dean of the college who hired me had decided to retire and a new dean was appointed. This new dean had different ideas about how to run the college, and one of those changes was to make the tenure and promotion process more stringent.

Who then broke the terms in my offer letter

In the summer prior to my 2nd year at University Y, with the guidance of my department chair, I prepared my tenure and promotion dossier. All of the required documentation was included. At the start of the Fall Semester, my department chair submitted my dossier to the College in accordance with standard procedures. Shortly thereafter, the department chair received a phone call from the new dean informing him that I could not apply for tenure and promotion because I did not have the minimum three years of service at University that was specified in the College’s Manual of Rules and Procedures. The department chair told the dean that it was true that I had only been at University Y for two years, but that my offer letter specifically stated that I would be allowed to apply for tenure and promotion in my 2nd year. The dean replied that he was under no obligation to comply with any agreements or promises made by the previous dean, especially if they appeared to violate the Manual of Rules and Procedures. The department chair filed a protest with the Provost. The Provost supported the dean. The department chair then appealed to the President. The President supported the Provost. I was not allowed to apply for tenure and promotion that year. Was I wronged? You bet I was. So much so that my department chair resigned from the university in protest.

Stuff happens but without a union, you have no real recourse

The point of this story is that even at the finest universities, mistakes happen; oversights occur; poor judgment takes place; bad decisions are made. Those are organizational realities that exist at all universities. The difference is how they are handled, or dealt with, on non-unionized versus unionized campuses. At University Y, like at most non-unionized campuses, once the appeal process reaches, and is denied, at the Presidential level, there is no further recourse for a faculty member. He/she can file a legal lawsuit against the university, but doing so comes at great cost to the faculty member. In my case, I was strongly advised by my senior colleagues to “bide my time” and not take any legal action. I did as I was told.

With UHPA and our letter of hire, we have the power to enforce written agreements

At unionized campuses, the presence of a faculty union (like UHPA) provides faculty members with a means of appeal that is not available to faculty at a non-unionized campus. If what happened to me had occurred at the University of Hawaii, I would have immediately reported the matter to my union representative, and I’m certain UHPA would have gone to bat for me against the administration. Offer letters are sacrosanct, and we now have contractual protection of them Promises made in those letters are the reason(s) why faculty members decide to join the university. A new dean must abide by the conditions of the offer letter, whether she/he agrees or disagrees with its content. UHPA will make sure that the commitments of the offer letter are honored by the university.

It’s not about what it costs to join. It’s about what it will cost you if you don’t join

When faculty ask me what the benefits are of joining UHPA, I flip the question and tell them, “The question you should be asking is what is the COST of NOT joining UHPA?” I then tell them the story of what happened to me at University Y, and then ask them, if the same thing happened to you here at UH, could you afford NOT to be a member of UHPA? Think about it.


UH Manoa VCAA controversy continues

Sarita Rai and Lilikala Kame’eleihiwa co-authored this Op-Ed along with  entitled “Administrative malfeasance is wounding the UH we all love” expressing their views on the continued controversy surrounding UH Manoa VCAA.

FacFAQs: Sabbatical Policy vs. Contract

Realizing she may never get timely information from her campus Human Resources office, Nora, a 9-month Instructional faculty member at ‘Āhinahina Community College, has decided to start researching Sabbatical information online herself. She noticed a discrepancy between policy and the UHPA faculty contract.

She discovers that Policy A9.400 states that faculty must return to service at UH for one year, with item 6 stating that “Employees who fail to return to service subsequent to a sabbatical leave or who do not complete one year of service subsequent to a sabbatical leave are required to reimburse the University all compensation received during the leave period,” and that faculty must sign a statement acknowledging this. Clearly, based on this policy, the return service must be one year regardless of the duration of the Sabbatical.

However, if the sabbatical leave period is only 6 months, the current contract only requires a return service requirement of 6 months.

Nora is puzzled. Which is correct?


Thankfully, the UH administration is currently in the process of updating the Administrative Procedures, after working on the Board of Regents policies and the Executive Policies.  As it pertains to any policy issued by the administration or the BOR, the substance is always subject to the language of the collective bargaining agreement (i.e., the UHPA/BOR Agreement takes precedence when there is any conflict of “discrepancy.”)  In this particular case regarding sabbatical leave, it was more than a decade ago that UHPA negotiated the change from BOR policy currently in the contract so that the obligation to return was for not more than period of the leave.  The administrative policies simply haven’t caught up yet.

Faculty Op-Ed: Political Inaction No Longer a Luxury

By Karla Hayashi

Political activism was probably not the reason why most of us earned our degrees and found our place here at one of the University of Hawai‘i campuses. We got here initially because of our passion for our academic discipline, desire to share that passion with students in the classroom, and opportunities to engage in research and other professional activities which we believed would benefit our students, campuses, community, and profession. Now more than ever, however, we also need to become politically engaged and active.

Most of us have been fortunate to carry out our work with relatively little disruption or chaos as a result of thoughtful and strategic decisions by UHPA’s Executive Director and Executive staff members. Yet now more than ever, political activism is required of us. Each new legislative session brings bills that can negatively impact our students who we work to educate, inform, and inspire to be and do better than when they first arrived on our respective campuses.

Some legislation has been in response to questionable decisions or actions by UH administrators. The impact of that legislation, however, can threaten the students and work we carry out in our individual classes and which could take years or decades to recover from, if ever. Recently deferred House Bill 555 is an example of this kind of legislation which, if passed, would have gutted the Languages and Literature of Europe and Americas department, among others. Eliminating so many language programs in one fell swoop would threaten the ability of many undergraduate students to obtain the required one or two languages needed to pursue graduate degrees. That bill, if passed and signed into law, might have reduced some of the financial challenges UH is facing, but at what long term cost to the undergraduate education of our students who choose to remain in-state for their higher education? What did they do to deserve this kind of legislation? Thankfully HB 555 was met by an organized group of students and educators who saw the danger of this bill and who moved in a coordinated way to voice their objections. HB 555 was deferred and hopefully is unlikely to be resuscitated this session.

The threat of legislation like HB 555, however, does not disappear at the end of this legislative session.

Bills like HB 555 and others are why it is vital now, more perhaps than ever, that we all become politically active in some way. This political activism can take many forms.

You can be politically active and engaged by regularly checking UHPA’s Legislative Action Center. This new feature on UHPA’s website identifies and summarizes the bills UHPA is tracking and can educate members about various issues we may not always be aware of within the isolation of our individual department and campus units.

You can also take a few minutes to contact your legislative representatives to let them know your thoughts about bills they introduced or which they may eventually vote on by submitting testimony.

You can consult with UHPA Executive staff to find out how you and other members can organize and carry out actions that help legislators and elected officials understand what we think about their efforts to address the numerous challenges facing the university. They need to hear our voices and be educated about how their legislation will impact our ability to educate students who we all hope will become engaged citizens making thoughtful evidence based decisions which will impact our community as well as future students who attend the University of Hawai‘i long after we leave our posts.

Sitting quietly on the side assuming someone else will do something or deliberately choosing not to engage in political discourse is no longer a luxury we have. Our students, their future, and our ability to educate them objectively and thoughtfully depends on your political activism.

Faculty Op-Ed: A Hard Knocks Education

By Robert Cooney, PhD

As a young research professor, working within a university research unit in which faculty were fairly judged by their accomplishments and potential, I could not understand why in the world faculty needed a union. After all, didn’t academics believe in truth and honor above all else? Why would one even need a contract in such circumstances? Over the last 30 years I have learned and discovered a lot concerning the role of vitamins in health, epidemiology of cancer, and the chemistry of tocopherols, but what stands out is my free and extensive continuing education relating to narcissism, greed, jealousy, sociopathy, and most recently, misogyny. This hard knocks education into personality disorders along with the passage of time has eroded my early perception that leaders and administrators base actions and decisions on fairness and what is best for the institution. Unfortunately individuals that lack moral integrity increasingly occupy positions of power, both within the university system and in our broader society, and the consequences can be devastating, particularly for those that are most vulnerable.

Although none of us like to perceive ourselves as “vulnerable”, especially when we are young, the reality is that students, staff, and untenured faculty are easy targets for exploitation, abuse, and mistreatment. Even tenure does not provide a guaranteed defense against the forces of darkness when they choose to attack. It usually is only at the point that one comes up against such an attack that one appreciates the value of having an employment contract and the strength of a cooperative organization behind you, such as UHPA. JN Musto one day made one of the best analogies I have ever heard to the UHPA Board of Directors that “UHPA was like health insurance, nobody likes paying for it but the day you need it, you are awfully glad you have it”. To further the analogy, health insurance cannot always save you from the ravages of an incurable disease such as pancreatic cancer, but there are many diseases that it can save you from and it certainly can help save your family from economic ruin as you fight the disease. As many without the benefits of union representation have learned, the cost and emotional strain of fighting for justice, finding the right lawyer, and taking the fight to a large and uncaring institution while collecting unemployment can be too much for most to handle and, indeed, many give up the fight early on because of the enormity of the battle.

While UHPA is often constrained by the limits of labor law and our contract, as an organization it has not been limited by lack of expertise or desire to fight on behalf of its constituents. On balance I have personally observed many success stories where UHPA has gone to bat for the rights of faculty and perhaps of greater importance is the deterrent effect that UHPA has on egregious behavior of administrators. At least the more enlightened administrators soon learn that behaving properly is better than taking on UHPA. Alas, as a researcher in the field of cancer prevention, I clearly understand the frustration that comes with preventing a problem – there are no grateful patients at the end of the road! The problems that a well-negotiated contract and a reputation for success save us from every day may never fully reveal themselves to our consciousness, however, it behooves us to consider once in a while what life might be like in a world in which there was no counterbalance to power in the workplace. I know that without UHPA I would not be where I am today. Now If only my health insurance only cost 1% of my salary!


Ken Tanaka* works for DaBest Community College as an Assistant Professor. After skimming through “Salaries” section of the ratified Tentative Agreement slated to begin on July 1, 2015, Ken is upset. Having been hired in 1994, Ken was only able to negotiate the minimum salary, and currently makes $60,000 a year. Now the new hire his department receives next year will be entitled to Ken’s current salary as a base rate of pay! With all the service Ken has put in, how is this equitable? Why didn’t the union negotiate a base salary increase instead of percentages?


After analyzing the financial and political conditions the University system faces, UHPA strategized that the only way to ensure across-the-board increases was to raise salaries by percent and increase minimum salaries by rank. Unlike the Department of Education, UH system salaries have never been predicated on years of service; the salary system has always been based on a meritocracy of ranks. Whereas actions to resolve compression issues can always be sought by the deserving individual, what this TA aimed to resolve was the more-difficult-to-achieve adjustment for the salary differential between 9- and 11-month appointments.
The good news is that Ken can take action to increase his pay! The new TA maintained the existing contractual provisions that allow for special salary adjustments based on merit, retention, and equity from the current contract’s section R-18, Memorandum of Understanding on the Procedures for Special Salary Adjustments and Bonus Payments. He can apply at any time for a special salary increase using supporting data from UHPA’s Salary Research.
* Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


Science’s Sexual Assault Problem

A. Hope Jahren, a faculty member at UH makes the point that in encouraging girls to go into science we ignore the downsides that women in science frequently experience. “They need to know that daring to act upon their dreams of science can be both a beautiful and a dangerous thing.”

Read the article

Online Ed: Teaching Millions or Making Millions?

From the CFHE:
As you know, the goal of CFHE member organizations has been to change the national conversation about higher education by including more voices in the debate, especially those of faculty, staff, students, parents, and others from the communities surrounding our campuses.
Toward that end, CFHE has authored research and working papers on a variety of topics and is actively looking for additional ways to reach out beyond just the ranks of faculty and staff.
We are writing to ask our supporters for help in getting the word out about a new project, a short video based on a series of working papers we recently released.
About the Video
As you may know, we recently released a series of working papers on online higher education.  If you haven’t yet had a chance to read those papers, they can be found at futureofhighered.org/workingpapers.
 Our goal in writing the papers was to encourage parents and students, as well as journalists, legislators, and others outside the academy, to look beyond the hype of online vendors.  As we have all seen, too often these companies make fantastic (and unrealistic) promises for their wares, rarely mentioning the huge profits being made along the way.
The 5-minute video has been designed to engage a general, non-academic audience and to raise enough questions to entice viewers to read the papers in full on our website.
We’re excited to announce that it was released today and is already garnering attention from a wide audience.
It can be viewed on our website at http://futureofhighered.org/ and on YouTube at http://youtu.be/7vkKPt0Aacg.
Please take a few minutes to watch the video!
Our supporters will be crucial in helping us disseminate the video and get more public conversation about the issues raised in it and in our working papers.
Here’s what you can do to help build the “buzz”:
  1. Share the link for the video, http://youtu.be/7vkKPt0Aacg, among your network of contacts via email, websites, Facebook, Twitter, or however you communicate with people.  The hashtags for Twitter at #FutureofHE and #MakingMillions.
  2. If you are a member of organizations that might be interested in the issues the video raises, please share the link with them and request that it be shared on the organizational website, through social media, and by email with members.
If you are willing to help out in these or any other ways, please reply to this message and let us know!
Thanks so much for your help with this project and for your support of higher education.
The Campaign for the Future of Higher Education