Unraveling UHM’s Debacle on Specialists

Unraveling UHM’s Debacle On Specialists

Demystifying The Process

Over the past week, there has been a lot of discussion, confusion, and questioning as to the purpose, intent, and meaning as to why the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa (UHM) Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Excellence (OVPAE) sent out an email request to the UHM Administration to document a “guesstimate” on percentages in the work faculty Specialist perform under five distinct categories of: 1) % Student Support including Advising; 2) % Academic Support to Departments, Curriculum; 3) % Research and Research Support; 4) % Classroom Instruction as Instructor on Record; and 5) % Other.  The email gave the perception that the SCR 201 Task Force that UHPA was part of was still operational and that they were the genesis behind this request for information from Specialist faculty.

Since then, there has been a lot of speculation, suspicion, perception, and twitchy feelings about this on-going review process by a non-existent Task Force.  Thus, clarification and a full explanation is needed.

SCR 201 Task Force Has Concluded

There seems to be a speculation and connection that this current UH Faculty Classification Review is being driven and/or directed by the Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 201 that was adopted by the Legislature during the 2021 Legislative Session.  As noted in SCR 201, the task force was requested to submit a report of its findings and recommendations, including any proposed legislation, to the Legislature no later than twenty days prior to the convening of the Regular Session of 2022.  On Friday, January 28, 2022, the SCR 201 Task Force submitted its report to the Legislature which can be found here.  Though the Senate Committee on Higher Education (HRE), through its Chair Senator Donna Mercado Kim, initially claimed that they were unaware of the report, and therefore, were supportive of the recommendations of the Tenure PIG, which was the basis for SB 3269.  SB 3269 was supported by former Board of Regent (BOR) Jan Sullivan and former BOR Chair Ben Kudo.  Regardless of whether the Senate agreed or disagreed with the SCR 201 Task Force Findings and recommendations, the report was submitted and the SCR 201 Task Force was dissolved.

Board Of Regents Moved Forward

Based on the SCR 201 Task Force Report, the Board of Regents at the February 17, 2022 meeting passed a motion on what they wanted to see as the next steps.  This includes but was not limited to, establishing a four-member steering committee that includes the Executive Director of UHPA and the President of the University to address the recommendations noted in the SCR 201 report; actively engage in determining whether the effective resolution of each task will necessitate changes to various policies, agreements, or campus guidelines; and agree to co-manage the consultative process for each change as necessary.  The steering committee was requested to meet on a weekly basis to ensure that work progresses in a timely manner.

Steering Committee Established

The BOR Chair Randolph Moore established the Steering Committee and set forth the charge and deliverables to the Steering Committee based on the BORʻs motion in which the BOR set its expectations and desired outcomes.  The Steering Committeeʻs charge and deliverables based on the BOR mandate are:

  1. Develop written processes for addressing the few instances when the productivity of a tenured faculty member has declined and s/he is unable to perform faculty duties satisfactorily, including following a periodic review and professional development plan.
  2. Clearly define “faculty” and develop (a process involving the administration, the faculty, and the University of Hawai‘i Professional Assembly) 
    • Classification system for the faculty more aligned with its benchmark institutions. 
    • Determine criteria for reclassifying positions currently classified Specialist (S) to a tenurable general faculty position, a non-tenurable faculty position, a non-instructional faculty position, or a non-faculty staff position. 
    • Examine each Specialist (S) position and determine once the position becomes vacant how it should be classified. 
    • Develop a process whereunder an incumbent in a Researcher (R) or Specialist (S) position could apply to have that position reclassified while the incumbent is still in it.
  3. Develop policy relating to job security and periodic evaluation for Specialist (S) positions that upon becoming vacant are reclassified as non-instructional faculty.
  4. Develop guidelines for general faculty “buy-out” of teaching assignments with extramural or other sources of funding in a manner that is consistent with the new work assignment template for faculty.

The Steering Committee (SC) believed that the research, data, and work done by the SCR 201 Task Force would be helpful to review and analyze to ensure that the committee wouldnʻt replicate or perform tasks already performed, as well as, to be used as a foundation for determining what further research and data needed to be obtained before the Steering Committee engaged in their work.  

Therefore, the Steering Committee began by identifying and determining what the different faculty-composed working groups that would be required to be developed to meet the four (4) areas as outlined in the report adopted by the BOR.  It was determined that Charge 2. above would require more than one working group to accomplish the work efficiently and effectively.  

Thereafter, the Steering Committee began reviewing what information, data, metrics, etc. would be or might be needed by any of the considered working groups.  The Steering Committee discussed the information that had been received by both the BORʻs Permitted Interaction Group and the SCR 201 Task Force in determining what information, data, and metrics might be useful and whether further fact gathering was necessary if such material was determined by the Steering Committee to be incomplete.

After further review and analysis, the Steering Committee realized that for items 2. b. and c., as listed above, the data was incomplete.  The SCR 201 Task Force noted at its October 22, 2021 meeting that “Faculty specialists remain a challenging category because of the range of different job descriptions included in the category. During this meeting the TF also discussed what kinds of faculty positions are actually in policy and where they can be hired. And the history of why some of the classifications were created was considered in the context of relevant HLRB decisions. It may be useful to do additional investigation into how specialists are divided by type of work assigned. It was noted that generally there appear to be four categories into which the percentage of workload for specialists fall: classroom, research, student support, and academic support. To acquire data on Specialists, supervisors will have to be surveyed because there is no consistency across this category. There are non-instructional CC faculty as well and so identifying their job descriptions will also be relevant.”  While the UH Community Colleges, UH Hilo, and UH West Oahu performed their due diligence in gathering this information from their respective campus supervisors when the initial request was made by the SCR 201 Task Force last year, UH Manoa unfortunately did not.  

The Steering Committee determined that when such working groups are established such information would be beneficial to these committee members as generalized data, information, and metrics to start their review and evaluation process.  Therefore, Debora Halbert (Vice President for Academic Planning and Policy) under the direction of President David Lassner sent another request to the UHM Campus to provide the information that was requested previously for the SCR 201 Task Force for the Steering Committeeʻs review and information.

Misdirected And Misguided Message From OVPAE

Unfortunately, this is where all the confusion began.  If the process was followed and adhered to pursuant to the Presidentʻs first directive to the UHM administration under the initial SCR 201 Task Force request this debacle and perplexity wouldʻve been avoided and the resulting anxiety and confusion – non-existent.  UHPA can only make its assumption that President Lassnerʻs second request for information to the UHM campus was taken as a message that this needs to be addressed and resolved ASAP since it was the second request by the President.  Unfortunately, it was treated and handled without regard to how the process should be driven and the impact it would have on Specialist faculty at UHM.  Moreover, rather than requiring faculty supervisors to complete the survey as intended, the message sent on Thursday, April 14, 2022, was unclear about the directive that the Steering Committee planned.  Therefore, it was conveyed incorrectly that Specialist faculty rather than their supervisors were required to individually complete the survey within a quick turnaround time being the close of business, Tuesday, April 19, 2022.  Adding to more confusion and anxiety was the message that Researchers, Librarians, and Extension Agents werenʻt being requested to provide such information at this time without further information and context.

While we are not surprised by the recent events that have transpired, we are disappointed since this is not the first time UHPAʻs name and reputation has incorrectly been put forth as the justification and means for managementʻs actions.  While we cannot control, dictate, or direct how information is provided by the UH Administration to the campuses, we do believe that in some instances and cases UHPA is justified in providing the clarification and relevant and pertinent information to our faculty so that they understand the intent and purpose of managementʻs actions.

Clear And Unambiguous Facts

The information that had been requested by the SCR 201 Task Force on the survey of Specialist and Community College Non-Instructional Faculty work assignments has not been used, referenced, or noted in the report to either the Legislature or the BOR.

The SCR 201 Task Force is now dissolved.  No further action by this task force has been taken since it completed its report to the Legislature.

The information the UHM Administration was seeking was originally a request from the SCR 201 Task Force.  However, the information is now being requested by the Steering Committee as general data and information gathering for the sole purpose of providing this information to working groups that the Steering Committee will develop that will be composed of faculty members in the Specialist classification.

Matters dealing with the review of teaching equivalencies, buy-outs, 5-year review, faculty productivity, and faculty classification are all part of this new charge to the Steering Committee who will then formulate various working groups composed with faculty members to begin this process of review and analysis.  

Moving Forward

The recent debacle and confusion has brought awareness that UHPA cannot rely on the communication, information, and management of the Steering Committeeʻs work and UHPAʻs involvement on the Steering Committee.  UHPA recognizes and appreciates the numerous emails, phone calls, and messages we have received from the membership expressing its concerns and confusion over this matter.  UHPA respects and welcomes faculty to address any and all concerns directly with UHPA in that we can be apprised of matters and situations that we are unaware of, and in that we can respond, take action, and address accordingly.  Moreover, we do acknowledge that these matters are dear and close to faculty interests and that we cannot rely on either the BOR or the UH Administration to convey accurate and complete reports on this BOR agenda and directive.  Therefore, UHPA is committed to provide the membership with its own organizational updates on this subject matter as this process moves forward.

UHPA wants to reinforce that our goal, intent, and purpose is to manage and control the process through providing meaningful input through open dialogue and communication in that the collective bargaining rights and processes are followed; that the classification process, review, and evaluations are followed; and to ensure that matters are determined and decided with objectivity, consistency and equity.

In Solidarity And Unity

UHPA Endorses Green for Governor and Luke for Lt. Governor

University of Hawaii Professional Assembly Faculty Members Adopt a New Approach to Endorsements for Governor and Lieutenant Governor

The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA), the union that represents about 3,200 faculty at all 10 University of Hawai‘i campuses statewide, is approaching its endorsements for governor and lieutenant governor differently this year. The union today announced it is endorsing Joshua Green for governor and Sylvia Luke for lieutenant governor.

“The role of the lieutenant governor has significantly evolved thanks in large part to the trailblazing work of Lt. Gov. Josh Green. He has definitely set a new bar for his successors,” said Christian Fern, UHPA executive director. “Our faculty members recognized they could no longer do endorsements as usual.”

Fern said in conducting assessments of all the candidates for both governor and lieutenant governor, UHPA’s Political Endorsement Committee, which is composed of faculty members, realized it was not enough to evaluate the candidates on their individual merits alone.

“The faculty looked at how candidates in both offices could function as an effective team. They

still paid careful attention to their leadership experience, track records of support for the UH, their grasp of the role of faculty and public higher education in our state, and their vision for the University of Hawai‘i as an economic engine of the state,” he said. “But they also looked at chemistry — whether their leadership styles would be complementary and if they could work together to move our state forward.”

“Hawai‘i has an opportunity to change the way our state is led,” Fern said. “We need a governor who can keep the big picture in mind and offer the latitude to a lieutenant governor to also lead and not be stifled. We can no longer afford to have a governor and lieutenant governor who are at odds with each other.”

UHPA welcomed each of the candidates to its headquarters for two separate endorsement announcements to accommodate the schedules of the candidates and faculty members. The following are excerpts from Fern’s remarks:

Quotes about Josh Green:

“Josh Green knows that the UH faculty have brought in nearly half a billion to our state at a time when the state was struggling economically from the impact of the pandemic. Rather than try to stymie those efforts, he would like to support the faculty to double their contribution to a billion dollars a year. This is the kind of visionary thinking our state needs.

“He’s attuned to the challenges faculty face. Josh Green sees the value of having a diverse Board of Regents for better governance. Autonomy is also important to him. Micromanagement and meddling have been the underlying themes in this legislative session, but Josh Green understands that government needs to step out of the way for the UH to flourish. This is a refreshing breath of fresh air that is badly needed.

“He believes the UH is an extension of the governor, and that we must work hand-in-hand. He would like to see faculty claim their rightful place as thought leaders in our community and have a say in government improvement.”

Quotes about Sylvia Luke:

“With her 10 years of experience as chair of the House Finance Committee, she knows how to get things done. That is the kind of leader we need for our state.

“So often, there has been dissension between the governor and legislature, and this prevented important initiatives from moving forward. We believe this can end with Sylvia serving as the bridge between the Governor’s office and the legislature. For once, we can expect there to be more collaboration and a more productive relationship.

“As a product of the University of Hawai‘i, Sylvia has a special affinity for the UH, and wants to elevate the UH to its rightful place. She has personally seen how the Senate has attempted to dismantle and diminish the role of the UH, and how the House has had to undo many of the bills proposed by the Senate.

“With more grants for research, she sees the potential for the UH to contribute much more to our state and create new economic opportunities. She told us it is the responsibility of the legislature to advance the entire University of Hawai‘i system, including the community colleges.”

Big Mahalo to Senators Karl Rhoads and Brian Taniguchi

Courage, exemplified

It takes courage to go against the grain and to stand up for what is right. Mahalo to Sen. Karl Rhoads and Sen. Brian Taniguchi for voting “no” on SB 3269 SD 2, relating to academic tenure of faculty. These two bravely called out the elephant in the room rather than simply go with the flow by voting in favor of the bill with 23 other senators. Mahalo to Sen. Rhoads and Sen. Taniguchi for standing with faculty and not compromising their principles.

SB 3269 SD 2 Still Moving to Put UH Under The PIG

Despite the bill passing to the House, UHPA remains adamantly against the bill and its implications for UH faculty. The bill, in its most recent iteration, proposes a statute that coerces the UH Board of Regents and the UH president to think and act in a way prescribed by certain legislators to suit their own agenda. The Bill states this intention very clearly:

“Direct the board of regents and the president of the University of Hawaii to discuss and adopt the recommendations of the permitted interaction group on tenure and to confer with the faculty and the exclusive representative of each applicable collective bargaining unit to implement the permitted interaction group on tenure’s recommendations.”

But the BOR Rejected the PIG

The truth is, the UH Board of Regents did NOT accept the recommendations of the Tenure Permitted Interaction Group. In fact, at its February 17, 2022, the BOR voted to disregard the findings and recommendations of the dissolved Tenure PIG (Permitted Interaction Group) and to adopt the Report of the Senate Concurrent Resolution 201 (2021) Task Force. How much clearer can this be made?

While SCR 201 Reported Tenure Should Not Be Changed

As you may recall, this report was requested by the Senate in the previous legislative session. UH administration and UHPA worked collaboratively to fulfill that request by conducting exhaustive research on the tenure system of peer institutions. The findings of the task force showed there was no reason to change the current tenure system at the University of Hawai‘i.

Accepting the Rejected and Rejecting the Accepted – Why?

It is puzzling why the Senate has chosen to ignore this document but wants to base a law on the Tenure PIG, which has already been dismissed by the Board of Regents with the support of UH administration, UHPA, and faculty.

What Kind of Faculty Will Want to Apply At UH Now?

All of Hawai‘i should be embarrassed that these self-serving legislators and their meddling tactics have attracted national attention. It makes prospective faculty think twice about applying for positions at the UH and this will adversely impact faculty recruitment and retention.

The article in Inside Higher Education, titled, “Hawaii Senator Takes Aim at Tenure—and More,” Sen. Donna Mercado Kim tells an alternative story:

A Confused Lawmaker?
“Kim notes that the effort to revise tenure emerged from the Board of Regents, as part of a task force known as a policy implementation group. ‘What I keep pointing out is this is not our recommendation; it came out of the Board of Regents,” she said… At a meeting last month, the Board of Regents ultimately adopted the recommendations from the Senate report and not the policy implementation group’s. Kim’s bill requires regents to ‘discuss and adopt’ the recommendations of the policy implementation group, which the Board of Regents previously shot down.’”

The article concludes with Sen. Mercado Kim attempting to justify her actions:

“At the end of the day, Kim suggested that it isn’t her clashes with UH at the heart of her legislation, but rather that she has a ‘history of looking at things and revamping, upgrading and renewing,’ ultimately pushing institutions toward uncomfortable changes. ‘Sometimes that’s met with a lot of objections because things have been done a certain way for the longest time,’ Kim said.”

Senators Working Hard To Undo The Success We’ve Achieved

Autonomy Revisited:
Today’s Senate Has Strayed Off the Path Established 30 Years Ago

As Hawaii’s legislative session reaches the halfway mark and bills cross over between the House and Senate, it’s a good time to reflect on what has been transpiring to date. In the heat of the day-to-day, rough-and-tumble battles that occur with the various legislative committees, we often do not have the luxury to take a deeper, historical look at how the decisions and actions of certain legislators have deviated from their predecessors.

Senators Breaking What Doesn’t Need Fixing

The recurring theme in the Senate this year has been meddlesome over-reach, an attempt to squash the autonomy of the University of Hawai‘i. These are all done in the name of “revamping, upgrading and renewing” our state’s public higher education system — descriptions some senators use to justify fixing what does not need to be fixed. There are no innocent bystanders in the Senate; many are complicit by tacitly going along with the prevailing notions of the moment.

There Was a Time They Actually Cared About Our Future

The mindset and tenor of the Senate today diverges from how the Senate has operated in the past. In the early to mid-1990s, in the midst of the Great Recession, Gov. Ben Cayetano, the Senate and the House convened the Hawaii Economic Revitalization Task Force (ERTF) to address the state’s economic condition. These elected officials had conviction, principles and a vision, and worked toward solutions by looking after the best interests of the state.

Where An Independent UH Was A Cornerstone of Economic Vitality

The ERTF made the determination that “if” the University of Hawai‘i could be set free of political control, it could be an economic engine for the state. It was a completely new and bold concept, but it revealed that government leaders at that time were much more forward-thinking — a sharp contrast to the command – control – dictate – imposition leadership style of certain state senators today.

UH Autonomy: A New Concept

The key proposals that emerged from the ERTF were game-changers. There was a desire to position the University of Hawai‘i as the preeminent institution in the world to help drive the local economy; and to restructure it into a quasi-public corporation with independent accountability. Government leaders believed this additional autonomy would allow the University of Hawai‘i to set its own priorities, drive it’s own vision and goals, and to own and manage lands, funds and resources without interference. The result would be “world-class” standing in key areas and an increase in the proportion of private funding.

Even Cayetano Believed a Freed UH Would Be Good for Hawaii

The notion of autonomy for the University of Hawai‘i gained more momentum and in his State of the State speech on Jan. 26, 1998, Gov. Cayetano said:

“We propose to make the University of Hawai‘i a quasi-public institution, virtually a fourth branch of government. We want the university to become more entrepreneurial, to become a leading contributor to our economy, but most of all, we want the university to have the freedom to become one of the great universities of the Pacific.”

We Used to Be The Most Micro-Managed University 

John Radcliffe, who was serving as UHPA’s acting executive director while J. N. Musto was on sabbatical, commissioned a study on the role of universities in economic development. The results showed that virtually every surveyed state across the nation empowers its higher education system with a significant degree of fiscal and policy autonomy. In fact, no surveyed state had consigned less actual authority to its higher education governance authority than the State of Hawai‘i. Where universities are not already constitutionally self-directing, the study showed the norm is to specify large degrees of university fiscal self-governance, and to empower university-private sector collaboration.

These former and past legislators fully supported the restructuring of the University of Hawai‘i for improved economic performance. Bills to promote autonomy were introduced in 1997 and in the 1998 legislature, there were at least three major “autonomy bills” in circulation. 

But Then Act 115 Enshrined Autonomy in Law

HB 2560 was eventually passed with bi-partisan support from both the House and Senate. The positive support showed that the legislature agreed with the economic revitalization task force’s determination that the devolution of power to the University of Hawai‘i will enhance the university’s status as a preeminent institution of higher learning, and enable the university to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities and contribute significantly to economic revitalization. This was signed into law in June and became Act 115.

Although this was a major step forward, the work was not yet over. None of the bills proposed amendments to the selection of the Board of Regents, a process  that had been an obstacle to autonomy. 

And Created The Candidate Advisory Council For a Better BOR

Autonomy could only be fully realized if the Board of Regents looked after the interests of the UH, and were not political sycophants making decisions to return favors to others. John Radcliffe was key to introducing the concept of a candidate advisory council to help the UH realize true autonomy.

A constitutional amendment was proposed to the public via SB1256 (2005), and was enacted by Hawai‘i voters at the election in 2006.  It amended Art. X § 6 (now HRS § 304A-104 and 104.6) that allows for “pools of qualified candidates presented to the governor by the candidate advisory council…”

This process helped to vet those recommended to serve on the Board of Regents who may not know much about higher education and to prevent the appointments of those who are specifically tapped because of their hostility to or ignorance of higher education. 

Today, We Have the Stats to Show It’s Working

We as locals born and raised here in these islands are taught from a young age that in order to understand the need for changes in any aspect of oneʻs life, you must first understand how you arrived at the current state of being.  If the current senators seeking to “revamp, upgrade and renew” the stateʻs public higher education system did their homework, and took the time to understand the historical background and reasons behind the transformative transition taken three decades ago, they would better understand the reasoning why the University has excelled during the pandemic.  As faculty, you have awarded roughly 21,000 degrees, diplomas, and certificates to the future leaders of our state.  In addition, the UH System saw an increase in enrollment, bucking the national trends. This week, Mānoa was accredited for the next 10 years by WASC.  WASC has validated the work that all of you have  been doing to “revamp, upgrade, and renew.” Which begs the question:  whereʻs the need NOW to “revamp, upgrade, and renew” the University?

Yet Our Senators Want A Return To A Failed Model of the Past

In economically challenging times, lawmakers of the past proposed innovative solutions that reflected their bold, transcendent worldviews. Today’s lawmakers have abandoned the leadership vision and insights of the past, and in their myopic quest for power, bring the entire University of Hawai‘i system down and prevent the university from realizing its fullest potential as an economic engine for our state.  We can either watch this epic and historic destruction occur before our eyes or take a stand to question and challenge the movement today. 

SB 3269, SD 1 Now On Life Support

Your Faculty Voices Made All the DIfference

A total of 227 pages of passionate and explicit written testimony was submitted on SB 3269, SD1, and all testifiers were in opposition to the proposed legislation.  There was not even one written testimony that was submitted in support, including from past and present Board of Regent members who testified at the first hearing.  The strong outpouring of written opposition from the faculty definitely had a major impact since the bill had to be majorly revamped and reconstructed in order for the Senate Ways and Means (WAM) Committee to get enough support to pass the proposed legislation.  These significant and impactful events simply wouldn’t have occurred if not for the solidarity of the faculty across the system advocating against this bill.

Direct Attack on Faculty Thwarted

The Senate WAM, had to take a carving knife to the bill to get enough votes to keep the measure alive.  The committee voted to amend SB 3269, SD1, by removing Sections 2 and 3, which was the specific proposed legislation attacking and imposing harmful statutory language impacting UH’s Faculty tenure, 5-year reviews, and classification system.  

But they Keep Bringing Up the PIG

While the actions taken by the Senate WAM were beneficial, the WAM committee inserted a legislative demand on the UH Board of Regents and the UH President to follow and adhere to the recommendations of the Board of Regent’s Permitted Interaction Group (PIG) on Tenure and will provide funds to the UH for this specific endeavor to make sure their demands are met.  

Holding Up Funding Unless UH Follows It

The Senate WAM amended the bill by appropriating general funds in the amount of $37,951,232.00 for the different UH campuses only “IF” the BOR and the President discuss and adopt the PIG task force report and consult with Faculty and union to implement the recommendations.  Clearly stated as: We control the release of the general fund monies you need to operate the UH, and so you need to change the Faculty tenure and classification system as we say.

DMK’s Whims Hold The BOR Hostage 

At the February 17, 2022 UH Board of Regents meeting, the BOR voted to move forward on the recommendations contained in Senate Concurrent Resolution 201, SLH 2021, which was introduced by none other than Senator Donna Mercado Kim.  The proposed amendment to SB 3269, SD 1, now attempts to legislatively mandate that the BOR directly follow the recommendations of the Tenure PIG and not the recommendations of the Senate Concurrent Resolution 201, SLH 2021.  It’s ironic that the Senate WAM cannot accept a recommendation coming out of their own demands for: 1) the UH to examine and access the UH’s tenure system and; 2) adhere to the recommendations generated by its own resolution.  Furthermore, to legislatively demand and monetarily hold the BOR hostage until they disregard their own constitutional actions taken at their February 17, 2022 meeting is despicable.  Actions truly speak louder than words.  There is no doubt that their actions today speak volumes in their attempt to control and impose their will on not only the BOR but on the institution itself – thereby becoming the Supra Board of Regents.

Senator Brian Taniguchi – A Symbol of Righteousness

Of the eleven (11) WAM committee members in attendance today, there was only one Senator who stood against his colleagues and voted against the passage of this measure in its entirety.  UHPA thanks the Senator for his attempts to hold the bill in committee and appreciates his “NO” vote on the measure as the only Senator to speak up against the recommendations of his colleagues.

Big Mahalos for the Support of our Partners

A big shout out and thanks to our fellow unionized brothers and sisters across the State that submitted written testimony opposing the legislation including the members of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the United Public Workers union, the Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council, Inc., the Hawaiʻi Library Association, the Hawaiʻi Farm Bureau, the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local #1 of Hawaii, and the Hawaii State AFL-CIO.  

UHPA also extends its appreciation and thanks to the State of Hawaii, Office of Collective Bargaining, and it’s Chief Negotiator Ryker Wada, the BOR Chair Randolph Moore, and UH President David Lassner, who all submitted written testimony in opposition to the proposed legislation.

Will SB3269 Live Thought It’s Next Step?

SB 3269 new Senate Draft 2 (SD2) heads to the Senate floor for its third (3rd) and final reading.  If the body of the Senate votes in support of the new SB 3269, SD2, it will remain alive and will be sent over to the House of Representatives at the 1st crossover.  UHPA will keep you apprised of the status and progress as updates become available.

In Solidarity We Stand!

A Sham of a Hearing (SB 3269 SD 1)

The Facts of What Really Happened

We went through the recording of the SB3269 hearing and pulled out important soundbites you need to know. In UHPA’s opinion, this was an example of collusion at its finest and the epitome of a rigged hearing. There was unanimous written opposition to the bill. Its sole support came from former Board of Regents (BOR) member Jan Sullivan whose written testimony continues to remain elusive and invisible. 

We’ve extensively hyperlinked to relevant sections of the videotaped hearing along with timestamps in YouTube so you can see and hear this yourself. 

Chair Kim Calls Out UHPA

Senate Higher Education Committee Chair Donna Mercado Kim started the meeting on SB 3269, SD 1 by calling out UHPA on its member communications saying that the measure was not action taken by her or the legislature.  Chair Mercado Kim stated that the measure was proposed by the Board of Regents (BOR) Permitted Interaction Group (PIG), and that it was not the Legislature’s attempt to take away or insert themselves over the BOR. Chair Mercado Kim was referring to the UHPA newsletter (32:18-32:51) that is posted on the UHPA webpage. 

Jan Sullivan Referencing Written Testimony That Doesn’t Exist

At the start of Thursday’s Senate Higher Education Committee (HRE) meeting, there was posted online a total of 579 pages of written testimony on the proposed SB 3269, SD 1. All written testimony posted online at the time of the hearing were opposed to the HRE passing proposed SB 3269, SD 1. During oral testimony, Senate HRE Chair Donna Mercado Kim called on former BOR member Jan Sullivan (Chief Operating Officer Oceanit) and former BOR Chair (and current BOR member) Ben Kudo (Attorney Ashford & Wriston) to provide their oral testimony on the proposed SB 3269, SD 1. Sullivan expressed strong support for the bill and continuously referenced her written testimony (34:49), while ironically BOR Kudo only stated facts, did not take a position, and did not submit any written testimony.  

For many of us who looked through all the written testimonies submitted prior to the hearing, it was bewildering to comprehend since Sullivan’s written testimony was non-existent or available online.  It could’ve been written in invisible ink and contained in some of the blank pages in the 579 pages of written testimonies submitted.    

Sullivan Criticizes the Board of Regents (Where She Served)

While being questioned by HRE Chair Donna Mercado Kim about the Board of Regent’s Permitted Action Group (PIG), Sullivan criticized the BOR for not performing its responsibilities for granting tenure. Sullivan stated that at one time the BOR used to act on tenure and promotions, but she objected because she believed the BOR had no idea what they were approving.  Sullivan stated that they had no background on individuals, how it was justified and prioritized, and thought it did not make sense for the BOR to perform those functions. Thus, the policies were changed to delegate those responsibilities to the UH President (i.e. because of their lack of understanding, knowledge, and experience with tenure the BOR removed themselves from the process). Wow?! After more than a decade (serving two (2) five-year terms as a BOR appointee), a reasonable person might come to expect that any long-term serving Regent would at least have a basic understanding of academic tenure. (58:29-59:38)

Board of Regents Double Talk?

During former BOR Chair Ben Kudo’s oral testimony, he testified that the BOR voted not to take any action on the PIG recommendations because the SCR 201 Task Group had not been formed and when he tried to explain the recommendations of the SCR 201 Task Force, Sen. Mercado Kim abruptly cut off former BOR Chair Kudo (36:17-37:47) saying his time was up.  Again, Regent Kudo only offered to state the facts and didn’t take a position on the measure. 

Since the BOR didn’t submit any written or oral testimony, the question is: Was Regent Kudo speaking on behalf of the BOR or as an individual?  Regent Kudo didn’t qualify and/or clarify who he was speaking for or on behalf of during his oral testimony.  Was his testimony on behalf of the BOR in support of SB 3269, SD1, or was it his own personal testimony in support of SB 3269, SD1, in which the BOR has yet to take action on these recommendations? Or was he trying to provide background information but was prohibited from continuing?

Who From the PIG Actually Proposed This?

Chair Mercado Kim explained that SB 3269 was proposed by the BOR PIG (32:50-32:56).  The BOR PIG consisted of BOR members Jan Sullivan, Ben Kudo, Ernest Wilson, Robert Westerman, UH officials Deb Halbert, Bonnie Irwin, Erika Lacro, Brennon Morioka, Velma Kameoka, and UHPA Executive Director Christian Fern.  However, only BOR PIG member Jan Sullivan testified in support of the measure.  In the spirit of transparency, honesty, and openness of elected officials, one should provide further clarification on who specifically asked the Legislature to introduce SB 3269.  Whether it was several, all, or just one of the BOR PIG members who asked for its introduction, and/or whether it was approved by the BOR as a body of the whole.  It is clear and evident that the BOR didn’t submit any written or provide any oral testimony on SB 3269, SD1.  Thus, there are serious, unanswered questions regarding who specifically supported and authorized the introduction of SB 3269 from the BOR. 

Senator Kurt Fevella: A Must LISTEN 

During questioning, Senator Kurt Fevella at the end of the hearing went into a rant (1:05:09 – 1:08:36) about how he personally felt about: 1) the individuals testifying in opposition of the bill; 2) why he believes the bill will improve the quality of life for everyone at UH; 3) how he didn’t appreciate the individuals testifying in opposition spreading false narratives and bad mouthing Chair Mercado Kim; 4) UH researchers cannot perform legitimate research work if they are not physically on site; 5) how our State pays for everything and that UH is the only university in the nation that is funded by state funds or taxpayer monies; 6) that UH researchers don’t bring in 80% of their research funds in which most colleges in the mainland require that of their researchers; 7) that the Hawaiian community didn’t get their facts straight, that their arguments are based on a false premises, that there tenured colleagues from the other campuses told them to testify on this bill, and said in the end to remember We was here for you guys; and 8) all this is being done to save “some” taxpayer money. 

Union Solidarity Demonstrated 

UHPA and its over 3,185 members across the State sends a shout out with deep appreciation and gratitude for the support provided by our fellow unionized brothers and sisters who submitted testimony in opposition to SB 3269, SD 1, on behalf of UHPA:

  • Hawaii Government Employees Association, AFSCME, Local 152
  • State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers
  • Hawaii Nurses’ Association, OPEIU, Local 50
  • Hawaii State AFL-CIO
  • United Public Workers, AFSCME, Local 646
  • Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council, Inc. 
  • International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees, Local 665
  • Hawaii Fire Fighters Association, Local 1463 
  • Graduate Student Organization 

Our fellow unionized brothers and sisters understand that this bill encroaches on public employees constitutionally protected collective bargaining rights guaranteed by the Hawaii State Constitution, and that an injury to one is an injury to all.   

The Fight Has Just Begun

The bill now heads to the Senate Ways and Means (WAM) Committee.  UHPA will keep you apprised of the next steps through our News Flashes to your inbox. You can catch up any time via our website article archives.

In Solidarity We Stand!