Don’t Play Sen. Donna Mercado Kim’s Game

Sen. Donna Mercado Kim is at it again.

SB 3269, SD 1, a revised version of the bill relating to academic tenure at the UH, stealthily attempts to diminish the recognition and importance over the cornerstones of academia – namely academic governance, shared governance, and academic consultation of UH faculty.  The bill will ultimately undermine the existing UH shared governance structure that ensures that faculty rights are protected and more importantly that faculty voice is recognized.  It’s an unprecedented and underhanded attempt by the Legislature to gain full control and authority over the University of Hawaiʻi.  

Don’t fall for it

The bill is an attempt by Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, Chair of the Senate Committee on Higher Education, to interject the Legislature into the constitutionally established role of the UH Board of Regents by taking away their exclusive jurisdiction over the internal structure, management, and operation of the UH – thereby granting themselves as the governing body over the Board of Regents.  On the surface, the revised version of the bill appears to be benign by making minor concessions to certain classifications of UH faculty.  However, the bigger picture is that under R-20, Roles and Consultation Protocols Involving UH Administration, UH Professional Assembly, and UH Faculty Senates, of the Unit 7 Agreement, such matters as faculty classification, faculty five-year periodic review, and topics that impact faculty which are all subject to a shared governance structure will be swept away with this legislation.  Thereafter, what will stop the legislature from coming back year after year seeking to remove Faculty voice in the determination of academic programs, mission, strategic planning direction, goals, assessments, faculty criteria, etc.  This is nothing other than a veiled attempt for the Legislature to trump the authority of the Board of Regents in that they can meddle and control the UH. This must be stopped before going any further.

The Legislature, as a governing body, should not be involved in any type of UH policymaking. That is a recognized responsibility and jurisdiction of the UH administration and UH Board of Regents. This bill is nothing other than a vehicle for the Legislature to establish itself as a supra-Board of Regents, supplanting the authority granted to the UH Board of Regents. It also sets a dangerous precedent that allows the Legislature to usurp the authority of not only the Board of Regents but also the UH administration. The Legislature’s track record has shown it doesn’t have requisite knowledge, expertise, and understanding of a higher education system nor appreciate the nuances of an academic environment.  Taking away core principles of academia such as academic governance and shared-governance will strip away the voice of faculty in their work, their occupation, and the academy they serve.  

Taking away what you already have

Through the UHPA and contractually established collective bargaining rights, faculty have a voice in shaping their future and how the academy operates and functions in order to prepare its students for productive employment in the State’s workforce and to become engaged citizens of our community.  By allowing the Legislature to become the primary entity that governs the UH, all policies, procedures, rules and regulations will eventually all be converted and codified in statute. The role of the Faculty Senates will become obsolete and the faculty’s ability to discuss concerns and recommend any changes with UH administration and the UH Board of Regents will cease to exist. 

UHPA urges UH faculty to use your VOICE in opposition to this bill before your VOICE is stolen by these Legislators.  

Take Action Now on SB 3269

Hearing Set for Thursday at 3:00pm

We told you that Senator Donna Mercado Kim was going to pull a fast one on  SB 3269 and here it is: she introduced an amendment earlier with SB 3269, SD1 and it’s scheduled for a hearing this Thursday, February 10, 2022, at 3:00 p.m. in Conference Room 229 and video conference.

Our Analysis of SD1 Will Be Posted

UHPA is currently analyzing the changes made to SB 3269, SD1, and will be posting our analysis and impact of the proposed changes.

But Don’t Wait. Your Testimony Submission is a Must

We need you to submit written testimony (via the button on the bill’s page) and/or testify via videoconference (how-to details here) and you must do so at least twenty-four (24) hours prior to the Thursday 3pm hearing which means your deadline is this Wednesday 3pm. 

Do it now. 

If you are planning to submit written testimony, we encourage you to work on your draft now and submit your testimony before the 24 hour deadline.  

In solidarity we stand!

Don’t let DMK Pull A Fast One on US

Take Action Right Now If You Care About UH’s Future

UHPA has received reliable intel that the Senate Committee on Higher Education (HRE) will be scheduling SB 3269 for a hearing early next week and HRE Chair Senator Donna Mercado Kim plans to post the hearing notice late Friday (2/4/22) evening.

Your Testimony is a Must

We need you to submit written testimony and/or testify via videoconference and you must do so at least twenty-four (24) hours prior to the hearing. 

Pulling a Fast One?

There is a possibility that HRE Chair Senator Donna Mercado Kim may schedule the bill to be heard as early as Tuesday, February 8, 2022.  Thus, all written testimony and/or registration for verbal testimony must be done on Monday, February 7, 2022, and at least 24 hours prior to the scheduled hearing.  

Start Drafting Testimony Now

If you are planning to submit written testimony, we encourage you to work on your draft as soon as possible in that you will be prepared to submit the testimony before the 24 hour deadline.  We will keep you apprised of the issuance of the hearing notice.

In solidarity we stand!


Some ideas on How to Testify

In response to your requests, we’ve created a detailed template for SB3269 that you can use as inspiration for your own testimony.  Please do not copy/paste – use this to get you started and come up with your own voice and own reasons for why you oppose this bill!

Slide Deck Published

UHPA Members can download a PDF of the slide deck that was used at our recent Emergency Briefing. 


Note: All linked content is for UHPA Members only

Sample Template Published for SB3269

Record Breaking Attendance 

Mahalo to the close to 500 faculty members who participated in the UHPA Emergency Briefing on SB 3269 yesterday.  We hope that the information we shared provides the background and context you need to prepare your letters, emails, and eventually, testimony, to kill SB 3269.

Email template developed

We understand that this is a complex measure, and in following up on some of the requests from faculty at the Briefing, please find a copy of a SB3269 template for your use. 

Don’t just copy/paste/send

Please remember it is critically important to personalize your letter or email so that your individual voice is heard. Our efforts to stop SB 3269 from moving forward will be much more effective when  faculty members share their personal stories and perspectives about the potential harm, problems, and destruction the proposed bill, if passed, will create. Collectively, this has a powerful impact and makes a lasting impression, just as faculty showed in the Board of Regents meeting last October.     


We greatly appreciate your participation and willingness to engage in unity over this fight for the preservation of tenure, academic freedom, and autonomy.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact UHPA, should you have any questions or concerns.

Me ke aloha, 


Do Senate Leaders Believe in UH?

The World Believes UH is a Top-Ranking University

The UH ranks within the top 1% of all universities worldwide, according to the recently released 2021 Aggregate Ranking of Top Universities (ARTU), which assesses different metrics, including academic reputation, highly-cited researchers, student engagement, graduation rates and diversity. ARTU develops this list by combining three of the most influential global rankings from Times Higher Education, Quacquarelli Symonds and Academic Ranking of World Universities.

With the UH’s enviable reputation, it’s no wonder that supporters are attracted to and willing to back the UH. Those with expansive worldviews want to get behind the UH. They are able to see the bigger picture and understand the important role the UH plays in the larger ecosystem.

Walter Dods, Jr. Believes In UH With $250k Of His Own Money

Recently, we have seen business leaders and captains of industry who have made significant investments in the UH to support local talent and programs that will create a better future for Hawaii’s people and our children, our community, our environment, our state and the world.

Walter Dods, Jr., First Hawaiian Bank’s former chairman, president and CEO, and the First Hawaiian Bank Foundation recently made a combined contribution of $500,000 to support the UH Mānoa RISE project, a world-class innovation and entrepreneurship center. RISE is an acronym for Residences for Innovative Student Entrepreneurs and the center will include housing for undergraduate and graduate students. A groundbreaking ceremony for the $70 million center at the former Atherton YMCA, located across the Mānoa campus, was held recently and construction is now underway. For more information about the donation, click here.

HMSA Believes in UH with $1 Million Endowed Professorship

The Hawaiʻi Medical Service Association (HMSA), the oldest, most experienced health plan in the State, covering over half of its population, recently donated $1 million to establish the HMSA Distinguished Endowed Professorship in Health Economics at the University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization (UHERO) in UH Mānoa’s College of Social Sciences.  

HMSA, through its Foundation, has a long history of supporting various health care initiatives at the University of Hawai‘i John A. Burns School of Medicine and the Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing totaling $6 million.  

HMSAʻs President and CEO, Mark Mugiishi, M.D., F.A.C.S., and UHEROʻs Executive Director Carl Bonham were instrumental in the response to COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years as members of the House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness.  For more information about the donation, click here. 

Zuckerberg Believes In UH With $50 Million Of His Own Money

These contributions by local leaders and organizations were topped by another recent announcement. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announced they are donating $50 million over a seven-year period — the largest cash donation in the university’s history — to the UH School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) to support research on climate change and its impact on the ocean.

The Zuckerbergs’ contribution is earmarked for research and programs that will explore changing ocean conditions, seek solutions to support healthier ocean ecosystems, enhance coastal resilience from storms and sea-level rise, and tackle challenges to marine organisms.

These recent contributions speak volumes about the UH’s prestige, credibility, and expertise of its faculty and research programs. Those who believe in the UH are willing to invest to advance and promote its mission to research, teaching, and community service.

Some State Senators Act As If They Don’t Believe In UH 

Unfortunately, we don’t have to look far to find those with limited optics who view the UH as a glass that is half empty. Their decisions and actions consistently and subvertly convey that UH should not be considered the preferred choice by our high school students, and as a result, damage the image and credibility of the institution and its impact. They relentlessly and continually attack the UH administration and offer disparaging comments about faculty members. They are a contemptible breed, deluded by their belief that tenure diminishes the work faculty perform, further damaging the institutionʻs image and credibility in the community and abroad. They believe UH faculty cannot be trusted and in need of extensive oversight and micromanagement, even if it means usurping the authority of the UH administration and the UH Board of Regents or even worse inserting themselves into the decision making. Our State Capitol is riddled with these provocateurs posing as elected officials in our legislature.

How is Seeking Limelight and Power Grabbing Helping UH, Exactly?

While voters trust these public servants to make decisions to benefit the state, these legislators lose sight of that and let their personal agendas and vendettas interfere with not only policymaking but their rational judgment. Instead of being stewards of the constitutional authority that has been entrusted to them, they purposefully abuse their power and concoct elaborate resolutions and legislation to exact vengeance on individuals and to push their modus operandi. They relish being in the limelight while grilling, criticizing, and ridiculing public employees — whether they’re a football coach or a researcher studying cancer breakthroughs. They love to wield their power to keep faculty and the UH administration under constant duress and anxiety instead of keeping their eyes on the bigger picture. These senators are enamored with the Golden Rule: “They who hold the purse strings to the gold get to make the rules.” And when being the sole gate keepers over the general fund is not satisfying enough, they attempt to take control and manage UH’s extramural funding — nearly $500 million a year — brought in by the faculty.

It’s Time to Elect People to Believe in UH

These elected officials stand in stark contrast to other legislative leaders of years past who not only had proven track records of success but also allowed and supported the UH to grow and prosper into the recognized and reputable institution it is today. The elected officials of today provoke, poke, and prod, and their limited and shallow views of the world and higher education continue to threaten the stability and future prosperity of the UH. How long can we endure this dichotomy that continues to tear at the UH and allow the damage to become irreversible? Virtually everyone can see through the antics of these elected officials. Should we continue to permit those with limited perspectives to bring the UH down and cause the UH to lose everything it has gained over the past century? Or could this election year, especially with reapportionment, be the year to push for meaningful, thoughtful, and strategic change? Only time will tell.

Gov Ige Vetoes Harmful Bills

Reason Prevails!

Gov. David Ige Vetoes Legislative Bills Designed to Harm UH

It was a tumultuous year for everyone in 2020. The pandemic created a significant budget shortfall that required a closer look at ways to significantly reduce costs. Unfortunately, this resulted in legislative bills that were hastily approved to check the box of reducing the state’s expenses. Some of these bills were ill conceived and would have severe, lasting negative ramifications for the University of Hawaii and for our state.

The State is in Better Financial Shape

Since the state’s economic situation dramatically improved since the beginning of the legislative session, Gov. Ige reasoned that many of the drastic measures to reduce costs were no longer necessary. An infusion of federal relief funds from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020 and American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides Hawaii with timely, valuable economic support. In addition, the Council on Revenues projects a stronger, faster economic recovery for Hawaii.

As a result of these changes, on June 21, Gov. David Ige announced his intention to veto 28 of the 268 bills, which were presented to him to consider signing into law. The good news: he plans to veto two of those bills, which would have been harmful to the University of Hawaii. Fortunately, sound reason prevailed.

The two vetoed bills are SB589 SD2 HD2 CD1 – Relating to the University of Hawaii and HB1296 HD1 SD2 CD1 – Relating to State Funds.

Vetoed: Merger of UH Cancer Center with JABSOM

SB589 would have required among other things that the UH Cancer Center and the John A. Burns School of Medicine merge their administrative and infrastructure functions. In addition, the bill extends the sunset on rules governing the transfer of technology and innovation and commercialization efforts between the University and a private party.

It Could Be Unconstitutional

The Governor’s rationale for vetoing the bill was clear: “This measure may put the state in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s contracting clause. If enacted into law, the rule changes governing the transfer of technology and commercialization initiatives could jeopardize existing contracts committed to by the University. This would be a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s contracting clause, which forbids states from passing laws that impair the obligation of contracts.”

While Possibly Making UH Less Flexible In The Future

The rationale went on to state that “codifying the UH Cancer Center into law and setting organizational reporting into statute, limits the university’s flexibility to make changes to that structure in the future. While merging the administrative functions of the Cancer Center and Medical School may achieve cost savings, these structural changes should be made in consultation with the leadership of the respective institutions and UH Manoa leadership.”

Vetoed: Restrictions on UH Cancer Center Funding 

HB1296, which faced strong opposition from various organizations because it sought to repeal the Tobacco Control and Prevention Trust Fund and to allocate any remaining balances from the tobacco settlement funds to the general fund. This would have also eliminated settlement monies dedicated to the University of Hawai’i’s revenue-undertakings fund by July 2033, and caps the total amount in the Tobacco Settlement Special Fund at $4.3 million annually.

Stopped: Making UH Pay for Faculty Fringe Benefits

Clandestinely woven into the bill was a section requiring the University to reimburse the state for fringe benefit costs for any position paid for by a special fund. It also would prohibit the University of Hawai’i Cancer Center from using cigarette tax revenue for research or operation costs.

Vetoing This Was A No-brainer

Gov. Ige noted in his rationale that he would veto HB1296 because it would significantly increase costs for the University of Hawai’i, while simultaneously eliminating the UH Cancer Center’s ability to conduct cancer research and cancer center operations with cigarette tax revenue. This would basically defund programs to prevent or stop smoking and result in public health impacts and this will likely create significantly higher costs for the state’s health systems in the future.

Since the veto of a bill is an all or nothing proposition, the veto also eliminates the proposal to require the University to reimburse the state for fringe benefit costs.

But It’s Not Over Yet

While we can breathe a sigh of relief, it’s not over yet, an intent to veto is not a veto. Legislators have until July 6 to override the Governor’s vetoes.  They could also call for a special session where they could reintroduce bills. UHPA will keep you informed.

HLRB Refuses to Order – Allows UHPA to Challenge in Court

Refuse to rule for good cause and lack of jurisdiction

On Thursday, June 10, 2021, the Hawaii Labor Relations Board (HLRB) issued an order no. 3764 over UHPA’s Petition for Declaratory Ruling in Case No. 21-DR-07-177.  Essentially, the Board refused to issue any ruling over UHPA’s three (3) questions presented to the Board for good cause and lack of jurisdiction.

Constitutional issues not within Board’s authority

UHPA questioned the following in its Petition for Declaratory Ruling:

  1. Whether the legislative deletion of a specific occupied bargaining unit position violates Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) Chapter 89, specifically whether any item in a budget bill that purports to delete an occupied position is null and void based on HRS § 89-19;
  2. Whether, if DAVID Y. IGE, Governor, State of Hawaii (Governor) signs HB 200 into law, has he committed a prohibited practice as a public employer due to the legislative deletion of a specific occupied bargaining unit position, specifically whether it would be a prohibited practice under HRS § 89-13[a](7) for the Governor to sign HB 200, based on §§ 89-3 and 89-8, and/or a prohibited practice under HRS § 89-13[a](8); and
  3. Whether, if the Governor signs HB 200 into law, when HB 200 contains the legislative deletion of a specific occupied bargaining unit position, any animus of a Hawaii State Legislator (Legislator) may be attributed to the Governor, and, if the Legislator’s animus is of an exacerbated type, it would justify an extraordinary corrective order from the Board.

The Board analyzed UHPA’s question 1. and 3. and determined that they are matters that question constitutional issues and not statutory matters covered under Chapter 89, HRS, in which the Board has original jurisdiction and authority.  On question 2. the Board determined that the question is not properly before the Board to rule since there was no prohibited practice complaint filed.

Provides Pathway for Circuit Court Challenge

The Board’s order now allows UHPA to challenge the constitutional issues and concerns over HB 200 in Hawaii’s Circuit Court. The order was not necessarily unexpected, as in prior cases the courts have required the exhaustion of all applicable administrative remedies. 

Next Steps

UHPA’s leadership and legal counsel are currently reviewing and analyzing the Board’s recent order. UHPA will keep the membership apprised of any future actions taken on this matter.

UHPA Believes Budgetary Cuts Violate Our Statutory & Constitutional Rights, Files Request for Hawaii Labor Relations Board Ruling

A University of Hawaii position currently occupied by a tenured faculty member is potentially being eliminated because of a legislative bill designed to target that specific job position. That bill is now with Gov. David Ige awaiting his approval or veto. UHPA has filed a complaint with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board to preempt any violations of Hawaii’s laws, the state constitution and collective bargaining agreement.

Taking a Stand

After several weeks of discussions and conversations, multiple news reports, and various opinions and perspectives shared by UH and State officials, UHPA cannot take a wait-and-see approach any longer.  The specific action of summarily terminating an existing Unit 7 position currently occupied by a tenured 11-month researcher with many years of service and in good standing through targeted legislation cannot be accepted nor condoned.  

Action is Unprecedented  

Never in the history of UHPA did any Faculty member have to fear their employment could be targeted for termination by a legislator.  This action by the Legislature was not the normal sweep of vacant positions for budgetary purposes.  This was a direct and purposeful act to terminate one specific position from the UH filled and occupied by a tenured Faculty Member.

Violating Statutory and Constitutional Rights

HB 200, CD 1, if approved or not vetoed by the Governor, would not only violate Chapter 89, HRS, and our existing Unit 7 Agreement, but in UHPA’s view would violate our Hawaii State Constitutional Rights under Article XIII, Section 2.  UHPA believes that the same tenets as argued before the Hawaii Supreme Court in Act 100, SLH 1999, are the same principals at play in HB 200, CD 1. 

By Ignoring the Collective Bargaining Process

UHPA believes that as in Act 100, SLH 1999, the law would violate Article XIII, Section 2, because it negates the collective bargaining process on core subjects such as wages, hours and other conditions of employment that the voters contemplated would be part of the bargaining process when they ratified the Section 2 at the November 5, 1968 general election.

We Have No Choice

On Friday, May 28, 2021, UHPA through its legal counsel Gill, Zukeran, and Sgan, filed a request for a declaratory ruling with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board (HLRB).  While this action is unprecedented and has never been attempted before, UHPA can’t take the back seat and wait until something does or doesn’t happen.  We cannot consciously accept these types of inappropriate actions without questioning its legality.

Media Statement 

The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) filed a petition for a “declaratory ruling” with the Hawai‘i Labor Relations Board (HLRB) this afternoon in response to the underhanded actions taken to modify the budget bill in conference committee without public input that terminated a tenured Faculty member’s position with the University of Hawai‘i effective July 1, 2021.

The unprecedented action has forced UHPA to take the extraordinary step of filing this petition with the HLRB to assess the bill from a legal and constitutional perspective before the June 21st deadline when Gov. David Ige must decide on his intent to veto. 

We brought this to the attention of the HLRB for a number of important reasons:

  • This action is a clear example of overreach. The Hawai‘i State Constitution empowers only the UH Board of Regents to assert exclusive control over the internal structure, management and operations of the University of Hawai‘i system.
  • This specific action of targeting a single position is not designed or intended to support budgetary concerns. There were as many as 60 other vacant faculty positions available for use.  The action only targeted one position that is currently filled by a tenured faculty member.
  • Protocols and procedures that affect the employment status of faculty members are specifically covered in the Unit 7 collective bargaining agreement to protect against these types of arbitrary and capricious actions. UHPA believes the bill violates the existing terms of the Unit 7 collective bargaining agreement and infringes upon our constitutional right to engage in collective bargaining.  

UHPA is seeking the HLRB’s position on our expressed concerns.

“It is unfortunate that we must expend substantial amounts of the time, energy, money, and resources to address this grievous action instead of allowing our Faculty to devote their full and undivided attention on preparing for the upcoming fall semester and to continue to support the role of the UH as an economic engine to accelerate our state’s economic recovery.”

SENATOR DONNA MERCADO KIM – Fiscal accountability or strategic targeting?

Targeted Faculty RIFs:

Senator Donna Mercado Kim’s Modus Operandi

The parti-pris decisions and actions made by Hawai‘i’s legislators this past session speak volumes about their views and support over Hawai‘i’s public higher education system – namely the University of Hawai‘i. It’s especially clear that those in the Senate who continue to chip away at the core foundation that makes the University of Hawai‘i a nationally respected research institution and demand justification for its existence – will better serve our community and its constituents – by working to build up this valuable economic engine for the state. 

Harmful Legislation will Jeopardize R1 Status

Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, Chair of the Senate Committee on Higher Education, did not hold back this past legislative session pushing for proposed legislation that would negatively impact the nucleus that allowed the University of Hawai‘i to obtain the distinguished Carnegie R1 institution. The Senator’s proposals would have altered UH policies and practices that unfortunately have long-term, difficult-to-reverse ramifications, that not only jeopardize the institution but impact the recruitment, retention, and competitiveness of UH faculty members.  The Senator believes the institution, in and by itself, magically obtained the R1 distinction not the Faculty who excelled and propelled the institution to get there. Ultimately, these impacts would have adversely affected the quality of instruction for students and the quality of life for the broader community.

The Silent Ones

As in previous legislative sessions, Sen. Mercado Kim has an ax-to-grind and has made a public fiasco and mockery of the University of Hawai‘i based on her perceived beliefs and perceptions. She had no qualms proposing to legislate the elimination of specific faculty positions under the guise of “a matter of statewide concern” all the while proclaiming that dismantling the university is justified and being done as the guardian of public funds. Her Higher Education Committee members and others in the Senate are complicit – rubber stamping her decisions – and failing to challenge the false narratives and innuendos. If it were not for the strong efforts and pushback from UHPA and the UH against these legislative endeavors, this past session would have been an unmitigated disaster waiting to happen.

Tampering with Funding and Compensation

Currently, general funds are used to pay for the majority of UH faculty salaries. However, if Sen. Mercado Kim had her way, she would demand that at least 25% or more of the cost of salaries of UH researchers would be the UH’s sole responsibility to fund via extramural funds or the research and training revolving fund (RTRF). As proposed in SB 1394, this would’ve been the new expectation going forward beginning on July 1, 2021, the start of the next fiscal year.

Refuses to Recognize Restrictions on Research Grant Funds

Her grandiose plans to single out UH researchers fell flat. If she had done her homework, asked the right questions, and taken the time to listen and learn, Sen. Mercado Kim would have realized that research grants often prohibit funds from being allocated for salaries for Principal Investigators (PI). This caveat ensures the university that the faculty member applying for a grant also has a vested interest in the success of the research project or equally a shared responsibility. This is just one example and one restriction that would’ve rendered her legislative proposal not actionable.  

Questioning Value of Tenure

Another case in point: SB 1328 called into question the value of tenured faculty. It not only revealed Sen. Mercado Kim’s lack of basic understanding of university systems, but also her disrespect and disregard for faculty who work hard to achieve tenure. The bill attempts to unjustly support the Senator’s meddling by pointing out that a tenured position “results in the long term commitment of public resources for that position.”

Fish or Cut Bait? How About Just a Switch?

After successfully pointing out the purpose of tenure in higher education systems to preserve and protect academic freedom, Sen. Mercado Kim agreed to have the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly and the University of Hawai‘i administration prepare a joint resolution to reflect their concerns and opinions before the start of the 2022 legislative session.

UHPA and UH dutifully obliged, and immediately drafted a joint resolution way ahead of schedule – reiterating key points about the intent of tenured positions; the difficult process in obtaining tenure; and the value of tenure to retain faculty.

Espousing Her Cause

Not surprisingly, Sen. Mercado Kim disregarded the UHPA-UH administration resolution and created a resolution of her own, urging the UH and UHPA to convene a task force to examine the UH’s tenure system specifically targeting researchers and other non-instructional faculty.  She also rolled in a compensation structure of faculty engaged in activities that are supported by extramural funding and grants, comparing this with peer U.S. higher education institutions.

Forms Task Force to Advance the Agenda

The Senator’s resolution convenes a task force to examine and assess the UH’s tenure system for researchers and other non-instructional faculty, and compensation structure of faculty engaged in activities supported by extramural funding and grants, in comparison to peer institutions in the UH and proposes best practices for the UH.  Essentially, the narrative has been written and desired outcomes have been pre-defined for the task force.  Bottom line is the belief that all non-instructional faculty do not deserve the opportunity and granting of tenure irrespective of their work and contributions to the UH and the students they serve.  We hope that this seven-member task force chaired by the UH Board of Regents’ Chair will perform their due diligence in considering the meaning and value of providing tenure to Faculty irrespective of their classification and the true value and benefits that are provided to the institution and the students they serve and not capitulate to political interference and pressures.

The Relentless Pursuit

Perhaps Sen. Mercado Kim is hoping this new task force will give her a different response from what has already been shared with her. This being insisted by someone who claims to be focused and more concerned about saving public funds is puzzling. This time consuming exercise in futility will only waste money, time, and resources that could be put to better and more productive use elsewhere. 

Killing the Living and Saving the Dead

The legislature has already proposed budget cuts that could impact a number of existing tenured positions. There is currently an occupied position slated for the chopping block to save $343,000, but six (6) vacant positions totaling nearly $692,000 have been kept intact. These types of decisions have to make you wonder if these actions are in fact purely budgetary decisions intended to save money or if they are part of a hidden-agenda to attack specific positions designed to enact a legislative reduction in force. No matter how you look at it, it seems to be more of a targeted RIF than a strategic fiscal decision as the guardian of public funds.  What do you think? 

Watch for upcoming information about our observations to hold our lawmakers accountable.

One Senator builds. The other destroys. Which one did UH get?

A Study of Contrasts:
Lower Education Advocate, Higher Education Antagonist

Transparency and accountability. These are essential qualities we can demand and expect from our elected officials whom we vote into office and are given our trust that they individually will do the right thing for Hawai‘i’s people. Unfortunately, these essential qualities appear to be absent from legislators serving on the Senate’s Higher Education Committee. Navigating through the murkiness of their actions, though their shallow narratives and innuendos, may prove to be difficult to see things clearly.  However, when the haze and confusion clears, one thing is certain – their recent actions will pose significant challenges and harmful effects not only to the University of Hawai‘i faculty but the institution itself. 

Nothing escapes the attention or provokes the ire of the community faster than trying to introduce policies that cause more harm than good for a child’s education and future success. 

And for good reason. Access to a quality public education is a fundamental and Constitutional right for all children in Hawai‘i free from discrimination and irrespective of their family’s socioeconomic status. In addition, the Hawai’i educational system is very unique as it is a Statewide system rather than county or jurisdictional system.  An educational system — from preschool and through grade 12 — though highly qualified teachers and rigorous standards set the future foundation for children’s lives and chances of future success. It also serves as the bedrock for the pursuit of higher education and other potential career pathways.

Action that harm our children cannot stand

It often goes without saying that the children are our future, and thus, we must do everything we can to build and support a strong and supportive educational system for children. Any attempt to undermine or weaken the educational system is not only harmful to our keiki but will result in long term negative impacts on our community and society.  Actions that harm and diminish the value of education and the return of its investments must be immediately called into question and the individuals responsible for these ill-conceived policies must be called out.

Lower Education Advocate: Sen. Kidani

Hawai‘i families are fortunate to have a strong champion for our public education system in the legislature. Sen. Michelle Kidani has consistently shown to be a tough advocate for students, teachers, school staff and administrators, and their impacted communities – relentless and unafraid of sparring with the Department of Education and the Board of Education over policies and actions that run contrary to supporting a strong educational system.

Is this what good leadership looks like?

As an example, earlier this legislative session Sen. Kidani’s unwavering  support for our public education system was critical in ensuring and maintaining ongoing support and funding for the education of Hawai‘i’s children. When Hawai‘i learned additional federal funds would be available for the schools, Sen. Kidani and other key legislators were instrumental in passing a legislative bill that was designed to use such funds to address potential budgetary reductions including personnel costs at the school level to avoid potential layoffs, furloughs, or pay reductions. 

The bill stipulated the funds would be released to the Department of Education only after the Board of Education and superintendent certified that they agreed the funds would be used as outlined in these bills.

There was unanimous agreement among the Senate Education Committee, House Education Committee and the Hawaii State Teachers Association that the funds should be allocated for teachers first instead of tutors.

Higher Education Antagonist: Sen. Kim

Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, by contrast, is the antithesis of Sen. Kidani. While Sen. Kidani’s goal is clearly to build and support our lower education system, by all indications, Sen. Mercado Kim’s personal vendetta is to destroy Hawaii’s higher education system. Sen. Mercado Kim has introduced several bills that serve no other value or purpose other than to inflict unnecessary harm and to diminish value in the University of Hawai‘i system. For example, she questioned the value and purpose of tenure for faculty  (See “UHPA Defends Tenure at the Legislature”) . 

Jeopardizing the UH’s R1 Status 

By undermining the very foundation of our university and diminishing the important role of tenure to ensure academic freedom, she put the University of Hawai‘i — perhaps knowingly and purposefully — in a precarious position. By proposing to eliminate tenure for certain faculty, she would have jeopardized the University of Hawai‘i’s status as a Carnegie Research 1 institution.

Unfortunately, facts and evidence are not important for consideration in the eyes of Sen. Mercado Kim, who has been in the Senate since 2000. She has unfortunately either dismissed or misused information to create her own biased and false narratives to achieve her personal vendetta.

How can others let this stand?

Surprisingly and worrisome is that her fellow senators have not held her accountable or challenged her unfounded and unsubstantiated claims. They let her do as she pleases — perhaps as a consolation prize for having been unseated after serving as Senate President for two years.

But wait! There’s more. 

Read next week’s Monday Report for more details about Sen. Mercado Kim’s secretive, last-minute plan to eliminate fringe benefit payments for some University of Hawai‘i faculty.