Join A Virtual 9/23 Faculty Meetup

Join this virtual round table to discuss safe ways to socialize

What: This event has the purpose of starting a dialog amongst interested faculty to create a safe social event

Where: Online

When: Thurs Sept 23 from 4 to 5 pm

Who:  Contact Jinan Banna ( for meeting details

I would like to connect with faculty members these days but want to do so in a way that is safe for all. So, I thought I would bring people interested in socializing together online to discuss how we might like to do so, either through in-person socially distanced gatherings or perhaps online.

View this and meetups on our Faculty Meetups Page.

UHPA Files Dissent on Tenure Group Discussions

The following is a copy of UHPA Executive Director Christian Fernʻs dissent to the Board of Regents Permitted Interaction Group (see page 188) on Tenure, Sept 10, 2021.

Letter of Dissenting Opinion 

(also published on page 211 of the BOR Sept 16 meeting materials)

Aloha Chair Moore and Board of Regents:

On February 18, 2021, the University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents established and gave the Tenure Permitted Interaction Group (“Task Group”) an important assignment; to fully explore tenure, including its history and purpose, how tenure has evolved, current views of tenure from those outside the University of Hawai‘i system, and a review of current processes, criteria and decision-making on tenure.

In the last legislative session, certain legislators began to audaciously step outside the scope of their responsibilities and attempted to micromanage the University of Hawai‘i’s operations. It was appalling to witness a legislator publicly admit that the positions of specific tenured faculty members were being targeted for termination. This is some important context because tenure has been a topic of debate and discussion for more than half a century, and was one important reason the faculty sought fair representation with the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly in 1974.

The formation of this Task Group was based in part on the bold, even vindictive, attacks on individual faculty members and the autonomy of the University of Hawai‘i. The intent was to address tenure in an objective manner, not further the predilections of legislators and influence their capricious decision-making.   

Rather than taking advantage of this unique opportunity, we find ourselves in a counterproductive situation. Many members of the Task Group came to the table with erroneous, preconceived notions about tenure, which unfortunately has impacted the objectivity of the group’s overall focus and discussions.  I felt it was my kuleana to represent the interests of the faculty, and my words and detailed explanations fell on deaf ears in my attempt to change the narrative to accurately reflect what tenure is and is not.  Tenure is not merely job security, and does not accurately define the work of faculty members, but rather it describes the protection from interference in how faculty carry out the elements of their work, whether in classroom instruction, or in the right to publish thoughts, ideas, beliefs, political issues or research.  This right dramatically differentiates faculty from any and all other state employees.  

Our discussions have not revealed any valid or actionable problems with the University of Hawai‘i’s tenure processes that have merit to address, yet the Task Group is moving ahead in  proposing sweeping changes that are very top-down in nature and clearly not necessary. There is no question that the proposed recommendations from the Task Group will cause undue anger and frustration among the faculty, who have endured constant attacks from external forces and will now be facing an internal enemy at a time when it is most important for us to move forward together. 

Based on my observations and our discussions to date, we have strayed away from that original purpose and are not delivering on the requests and expectations of the Board of Regents. The discussions and the decisions made by the Board of Regents based on the Task Groupʻs recommendations will ultimately negatively impact faculty. The Board of Regents cannot take this decision, role, and responsibility lightly. I am writing this as my formal personal dissenting opinion as a member of the Task Group. For the record, I would like to make the following points about tenure that I hope the Regents will seriously consider before making any determination or decision:

  • First, the Task Group erroneously approached tenure as an obstacle to quality teaching and research at the University of Hawai‘i by viewing tenure purely and solely as a tool of absolute job security or lifetime employment. As a result, the underlying tone and tenor of the discussions were antagonistic instead of exploratory. It was evident that there was a predetermined agenda and intent on dismantling the UHʻs tenure system. I truly believe this was not the intent and purpose of the Board of Regents. These Task Group members, including some UH administrators, mistakenly believe the University of Hawai‘i administration has virtually no ability or avenue to intervene and/or address substandard performance.  The prevalent perception is that tenure is an iron-clad protection from terminating faculty members who do not meet performance expectations and requirements of the position.  Unfortunately, these skewed notions are impacting the entire group-think process.
  • I appreciate the Task Group’s invitation to Deb Halbert, who offered meaningful background information on the history and purpose of tenure to bring all members up to speed and establish a common baseline of our understanding of tenure. However, our discussions are not being built on that foundation and there is a divergence of opinions that is holding us back from making thoughtful decisions and recommendations to the Board of Regents. 
  • Tenure was established at institutions of higher learning to safeguard a faculty member’s right to academic freedom. This is essential to those who teach and conduct research, especially at R1 universities such as the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Tenure provides the essential conditions and optimal environment for faculty to educate students, to pursue research and innovation, and to draw upon evidence-based conclusions that are free from undue political interference or corporate pressure.
  • Granting tenure to a University of Hawai‘i faculty member is at least a five-year process that involves a great deal of rigor and peer review. By contrast, civil service positions in the State enjoy security after a six-month probationary period. Other UH positions (Unit 8 APT employees) have “employment security” after three years in a permanent position.  
  • All other peer institutions of higher education that grant tenure can terminate a faculty member for cause, substandard performance, or for extraordinary circumstances like fiscal exigency or program discontinuation. The University of Hawai‘i is no different. These managerial rights to terminate faculty under those conditions are clearly outlined and defined in the UHPA/BOR Unit 7 Agreement. Faculty understand the granting of tenure places a far greater burden and responsibility on them to maintain high standards of research and instruction, both inside and outside of the classroom, and know they are setting an example for junior faculty who are striving to obtain tenure.

The key for any successful university is to have its Regents create and enact policies that will better assist the university’s administration in cultivating and fostering a learning environment where faculty can thrive, innovate, create, and transfer knowledge and information for students and to benefit the broader community. Regents must operate at a high level, focusing on policies to facilitate a positive environment for higher learning, and then step out of the way to let the faculty do what they do best as experts in their fields.

Cultivating respectful conversations among the University of Hawai‘i administration, University of Hawaii Professional Assembly and faculty have proven to be the best approach to advancing the mission of the University of Hawai‘i. Students must remain the focus. Over the past year and a half, faculty have shown they are adaptable, flexible, and collaborative and this has been key to the University of Hawai‘i delivering more 17,000 diplomas, degrees, and certificates to students in the midst of this pandemic.

We can, and must do better, for students, faculty and the University of Hawai‘i system. 


Christian Fern

Executive Director

University of Hawaii Professional Assembly

Save the Date: “Rate My Administrator”

Our popular “Rate My Administrator” survey returns! If you’ve been waiting for a way to rate the performance of your administrators, this is it.

On Sept. 21, 2021, all UHPA members will receive an email invitation to rate their administrator(s). If you are not a member of UHPA, get your membership started right now so you can participate. 

The UHPA Board of Directors has authorized Market Trends Pacific to conduct the survey and report the results.  All submission data will be kept confidential. Only anonymous, summarized information will be published. 

As a participant in the survey, you will have the opportunity to rate any administrator(s) at any level relevant to your campus, i.e. Dean, Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Vice-President, and President. 

Save the date and look for the invitation in your inbox on Sept. 21, 2021!

Notice on Confidentiality

No personally identifiable information will be collected or stored by UHPA, and the process does not utilize any University of Hawaii computers or equipment. This survey is independent of any 360 evaluations being distributed by the UH administration. All results will be structurally anonymous and no one will be able to determine the identity of respondents (including UHPA).

UPW Endorses Lynne Wilkens for ERS Trustee

We were very happy to see UPW’s endorsement of UHPA Member Lynne Wilkens below. Ballots have been sent and we ask that you cast your vote for Lynne.

Excerpted from UPW’s full endorsement:

We humbly ask our members to consider voting for Ms. Lynne Wilkens for this seat.

Lynne is well-qualified to serve in this seat. She has served in leadership roles with the University of Hawaii Cancer Center for over 30 years and has advocated for public employees for many years as an active UHPA (University of Hawaii Professional Assembly) member, having served as UHPA’s president, treasurer, and on its negotiating team.

Got ERS Trustee Ballot?

Ballots for the next ERS Trustee election are being mailed out. On Friday Sept 3, the Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA) made the following endorsement for Lynne Wilkens:

Lynne wants to protect the hard-earned benefits of Hawaii’s public-sector employees!

HGEA endorses Lynne Wilkens for the Educator Seat on the State of Hawaii Employees’ Retirement System Board of Trustees. For more than 30 years, Lynne has worked at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center and is currently the Associate Director of Shared Resources. She has served on the board of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly as a member of the negotiating team as well as treasurer and president.

Lynne is looking forward to using her experiences to have a greater impact for Hawaii’s working families. “Having an advocate who can work collaboratively with the other Trustees and respectfully influence decision-making is critical at a time when there are attempts to erode benefits for active employees and retirees … members need to know there is someone on the ERS Board of Trustees who has their back and is not afraid to call out unfairness and foul play.”

Excerpt from HGEA email sent to its members on 9/3/21

UHPA member Lynne Wikens has the full support and endorsement of UHPA, the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association.

We urge you to check your mailbox and cast your vote for Lynne, a Trustee who will be committed to representing the retirement needs of Hawaii’s public sector employees.

UH Testing Mandate Begins August 23

The University of Hawai‘i administration has informed UHPA that they were told to implement Governor David Igeʻs Emergency Proclamation of August 5, 2021 mandating COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated UH employees to be effective beginning today, Monday, August 23, 2021.

Expect Confusion and Disruption

Due to the rush and short notice for the UH to implement Governor Ige’s Emergency Proclamation of a testing mandate, UHPA expects that campuses will have difficulty in rolling out and understanding how to implement and enforce this testing mandate policy.  As such, the UHPA staff will have all hands on deck this week to help guide UHPA faculty members on any questions and concerns relating to this policy.  Please feel free to contact the UHPA offices if you need any assistance.

COVID-19 Testing Sites on every Campus

While the University of Hawai‘i is currently trying to secure private vendors to provide free COVID-19 testing on each campus for all UH students, faculty and staff, we have received no updates and/or confirmation from the UH that such testing sites will be available on Monday, August 23, 2021.  UHPA recognizes that obtaining a COVID-19 test in the community right now will be challenging and difficult and has expressed these concerns with the UH Administration.  The UH Administration is committed to working with the UHPA leadership to address this fluid situation.

No Religious or Medical Exemptions

Again, there are no religious or medical exemptions that will allow a person to forgo the testing mandate.  Unvaccinated UH employees would be required to be tested. The only exceptions to the testing mandates will be for those UH employees who are authorized to telework or other UH employees who are not required and/or plan to be on campus.  If an unvaccinated UH employee is either called back to campus and/or plans to be on campus, they should plan to obtain a negative COVID-19 test before entering their campus.   

Linda Sawai retiring, Joseph Sam joins UHPA

Linda Sawai Retiring in December; 

Joseph Sam to Succeed Her as UHPA Associate Executive Director

A strong leadership team is critically important for the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly. At every turn, there are new challenges facing UH faculty. UHPA must constantly be vigilant, anticipate what’s ahead, and be prepared to take action.

Linda is a Backbone of UHPA

Linda Sawai

Linda Sawai has been a vital member of our leadership team as an Associate Executive Director.  Hired by past Executive Director J. N. Musto in 1983 she has been the backbone of our organization, offering a historical perspective, depth of insight, and bringing strength and stability to balance the often frenetic pace at which we must relentlessly work to defend and uphold the rights of our faculty members. 

Linda has also kept UHPA in sound financial shape, responsible for all aspects of accounting and budgeting. Based on everything that Linda provided UHPA, it was extremely difficult for us to accept that she plans to retire at the end of this year.  Nevertheless, we respect her decision and we wish her all the best as she begins a new chapter in her life. She may not be involved with the day-to-day operations of UHPA in the coming new year, but she will always remain and be a part of the UHPA ‘ohana.  Regardless of whether she is not here or retired, we all know that she will be there for UHPA and a die-hard advocate of our members.

Words cannot fully express our deepest appreciation and gratitude to Linda for her nearly four decades of superior leadership, service, motivation, and for the positive atmosphere she has provided to UHPA and its membership.  Linda is an inspiration to all and a model of a dedicated and passionate individual who supports the labor movement and all of Hawaiiʻs working families.  This is a retirement well deserved and earned.

UHPA Welcomes Joseph Sam

Joseph Sam

As you can imagine, finding someone to succeed her was not easy. Fortunately, however, we have been able to lure Joseph Sam from Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA) to join our leadership team.

Joe, a certified public accountant, will report directly  to Christian Fern and will be responsible for financial management, including budgeting, forecasting, and accounting to ensure the union continues to operate in a financially sound manner. Linda leaves big shoes to fill and having Joe on board now ensures there will be a smooth leadership and functional transition over the next four months.

Joe’s Extensive Experience 

Joe was a valued team member of HMSA. He served in progressively responsible roles at HMSA for 16 years, for the past two years  as Director of Government Programs. He started at HMSA in 2005 as Senior Internal Auditor, and was promoted to other key positions, including Senior Business Analyst and Senior Manager of HMO and Government Reporting.

We’re very fortunate to have Joe on our leadership team as his experience in financial management for large and complex organizations and programs will be an asset to UHPA and the faculty we represent.

Another UH Alumnus Joins UHPA

Joe is a UH alumnus. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in finance from Santa Clara University and a Master of Business Administration degree with a Concentration in Accounting from the University of Hawai‘i-Mānoa. He is involved in the community and currently serves as the Treasurer of Helping Hands Hawai‘i and a member of the American Heart Association’s Hawaii Young Leaders.

Please join us in congratulating Linda on her upcoming retirement in December 2021 and welcoming Joe to the UHPA team!


Why we support vaccines and oppose bad management

The below op-ed was submitted to the Star Advertiser and a version of it was published on 8/15/21:

Why we support vaccines and oppose bad management:

By Liz Ho, Malcolm Lutu and Christian Fern

Hawaii’s public employee unions strongly support COVID-19 vaccinations. However, we do not support the emergency proclamation’s requirement to show proof of vaccination or be subject to testing. Gov. David Ige’s recent announcement leaves us perplexed about how the policy will work. We also object to last week’s announcement because he is setting a precedent for employers–public and private–to act unilaterally on decisions that are critical to the health and welfare of employees.

We believe in the scientific research that shows COVID-19 vaccines are very effective at reducing the risk of getting and spreading the disease. We also know that we need a large majority of the population to get vaccinated for life to return to normal. We know that each new vaccinated person makes a workplace much safer. For our members who serve the public, often with face-to-face contact, this is not just a matter of personal safety, but also a matter of keeping our community safe. 

For all these reasons, we strongly encourage public employees and all residents to get vaccinated, and we have taken many steps to support this process since the vaccines became available. Safe workplaces, healthy families, and making individual sacrifices for the good of all are three values at the very core of unions. We stand for those things more than ever during this crisis.

There is another value at our core. We believe employers, whether in the public or private sector, cannot be free to act as dictators over their employees no matter what the reason. In a true democracy, workers must have shared power, especially when it comes to policies that affect their bodies, their livelihoods, and their beliefs. Consultation and negotiation between employers and employees are crucial.

Weeks ago, knowing that COVID-19’s delta variant posed a dangerous new threat, we reached out to the governor and asked him to have a dialogue about vaccines. We were met with silence. That is when the governor made his newest proclamation and he was unable to answer questions on the specifics to explain how this mandate would work.

COVID-19 is a community-wide crisis. We need strong leadership and clear communication. Instead, confusing messages, shifting policies, and half-baked unilateral decisions are making this bad situation worse. Every member of the public knows this. 

There is a better way. Employers in the private sector like The Queen’s Medical Center and in other states like New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy are working with unions and employees to design and implement mandatory vaccine policies. What we are asking for is simple: Sit with the employee unions to negotiate a collaborative agreement for this policy. This means working out the complex details with the stakeholders before making more confusing announcements. For example: who pays for testing, what kinds of tests are acceptable, what about working remotely, what are acceptable reasons for not getting vaccinated, what are the consequences for not being vaccinated? No one wants to live in a world where one person can make all those decisions without even hearing from the people who will be affected, let alone working together on a solution that is fair and effective.

As representatives of the public employees, we seek to work collaboratively with the governor and mayors on policies that impact working conditions and fight this pandemic together. We cannot stand by and have ongoing confusion.

The leaders have an obligation to come to the table because it’s the law. More importantly, it’s the right thing to do, not just for public employees, but for the benefit of all the people of Hawaii.

Liz Ho is administrator of United Public Workers (UPW); Malcolm Lutu is president of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO); and Christian Fern is executive director of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA). Co-contributors to this commentary were Bobby Lee, president, Hawaii Fire Fighters Association (HFFA); Randy Perreira, executive director, Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA); and Osa Tui, president, Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA).

UH Testing Mandate Starts 8/23/21

The University of Hawai‘i has informed UHPA that Governor David Igeʻs Emergency Proclamation of August 5, 2021 mandating COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated UH employees will begin on Monday, August 23, 2021.

COVID-19 Testing Sites on every Campus

The University of Hawai‘i is currently trying to secure private vendors to provide free COVID-19 testing on each campus for all UH students, faculty and staff.

No Religious or Medical Exemptions

Typically, religious or medical exemptions allow a person to forgo mandated vaccinations. Since this is not a vaccination mandate but rather a testing mandate, religious or medical exemptions would not be applicable. This means unvaccinated UH employees would be required to be tested. The only exceptions to the testing mandates will be for those UH employees who are authorized to telework or other UH employees who are not required and/or plan to be on campus.  If an unvaccinated UH employee is either called back to campus and/or plans to be on campus, they should plan and obtain a negative COVID-19 test before entering the campus.   

The University of Hawaii is currently trying to secure private vendors to provide free COVID-19 testing sites on every campus for all UH students, faculty and staff to be tested.

Proposed Vaccination Mandate

The University of Hawai‘i intends to implement a vaccination mandate for all UH students, faculty and staff by the Spring 2022 semester.  A draft proposal has been sent to UHPA by the UH Administration. The UHPA Negotiations Team is currently reviewing and analyzing the UHʻs mandatory vaccination proposal.  As more information and clarification are obtained, UHPAʻs leadership will promptly notify the membership.  Please keep up with UHPAʻs Monday Report for the most up-to-date information on these important issues impacting UH faculty systemwide.

COVID-19 Testing Mandate for UH Faculty?

Caught by Surprise

When Gov. David Ige announced his emergency proclamation last Thursday, August 5, it caught many by surprise, including the public-sector unions. We had not seen the emergency proclamation until it was publicly posted after his press conference. We learned about the Governor’s intentions for the first time along with everyone else. There was no advance courtesy notification, even though the emergency proclamation affects all University of Hawaii faculty and all state and county employees. 

Productive Discussions with UH Administration Underway

Since the unions did not have the benefit of discussions with the Governor prior to him issuing his emergency proclamation, there has naturally been considerable confusion. The unions have been left on their own to figure out how to implement the requirements. Fortunately, the UH administration reached out to UHPA and productive discussions have begun. 

Issuing ambiguous proclamations is not hard; the devil is always in the details. Fortunately, the UH administration is working with UHPA to do the substantive, heavy lifting.

COVID-19 Testing Mandate

Based on UHPA’s preliminary analysis of the emergency proclamation, the Governor is imposing a COVID-19 testing mandate for UH faculty, effective August 16, 2021. To avoid the requirement for frequent, mandatory testing—as often as once a week—UH faculty have the option of being fully vaccinated. According to the emergency proclamation, these tests will be free. There is no need to prove medical or religious exemptions; the testing mandate applies to all those who are not vaccinated, regardless of their personal reason for not being vaccinated.

Disciplinary Action and Grievance Procedures

There are still many outstanding questions and concerns that need to be addressed. The emergency proclamation states the requirements “shall be enforceable through disciplinary action, up to and including termination.” UHPA believes the Governor’s exercise of his emergency management powers does not override or negate the 2021-2023 Unit 7 Agreement, including but not limited to, the disciplinary, grievance, and arbitration procedures as codified in the faculty contract. We are still in the process of confirming this understanding, More to come on this.

As UHPA’s discussions with the UH administration progress, we will keep you apprised.