Are you being counted in the 2020 Census?

It’s critical that we are all counted in the 2020 Census and right now it’s not looking very good for Hawaii – please see Congressman Ed Case’s letter received by UHPA below.  He has an important message and we’re encouraging all UHPA members to take the right action to make sure your household is counted in the 2020 Census.  Hawaii’s fair representation is depending on you!

I am reaching out to you, as a leader of Hawaii’s labor community, to ask for your full assistance and that of your own community in ensuring that our Hawai’i is fully counted in the 2020 Census, which is currently scheduled to conclude in just a few weeks on September 30th.

The Census, which our country has undertaken every ten years since 1790, is critical to our country and to each and all of us on several counts. First, it provides us with a regular update on how many and who we are to guide the best national policies. It also determines how many U.S. Representatives each state is designated and ensures that our overall population is as evenly distributed across our congressional district as possible.

Most critically and especially for a small state like Hawai’i, the Census guides the distribution of federal assistance across our country to our states and congressional districts. Hundreds of federal programs in critical areas like education, housing, health care, economic assistance, worker training, occupational safety and health, minority assistance and more depend on the Census statistics for where their federal assistance is directed. For our Hawai’i which receives billions of dollars in federal assistance annually, estimates are that each 1% of our population that is not counted results in over $16 million of lost federal funding. To make matters worse, often the communities that are undercounted are those in the most need of that federal assistance. All of this has been compounded with the dire needs of this COVID-19 pandemic, where trillions of dollars of federal emergency assistance have been distributed and will be distributed based on 2010 Census numbers (and from next year on 2020 Census numbers).

There are two basic stages to the 2020 Census count. In the first, Census responses from all households throughout our state are requested and welcomed voluntarily by phone or online. It is a very easy process that takes five to ten minutes per household. In the second stage, which began August 1st, voluntary responses continue but Census enumerators (counters) will attempt to visit every household that has not responded to take the count personally. Except in limited circumstances, the enumerators will not visit households that have already responded, so it is better and easier for everyone if households respond voluntarily by phone or online.

At present the last counting will be completed this September 30th and the 2020 Census will close. I believe this is way too early especially given COVID-19 and have urged an extension. But for now we must assume September 30th is the deadline. Best estimates now are that close to 40% of our households across our state are still not counted.

I ask for your kokua in taking the message to all of your members and their ‘ohana of the critical importance of a full Census count and asking everyone to do their part.

To assist with this effort to encourage participation in the 2020 Census, you can find a full list of all 2020 Census outreach materials at Please feel free to use these however works best for you.

As English is a second language for so many among us in Hawai’i, I especially want to note that the 2020 Census is the first in our history to feature significantly expanded language access. Overall, the 2020 Census has provided language guides in 59 non-English languages, including full support in 12 of those languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese. For the full set of language resources for this year’s Census, including print and video materials, please visit

There are multiple ways to respond to the 2020 Census, but by far the easiest way is through the online form at For other ways to respond to the Census, such as by phone or mail, please visit

If you and any of your communities have any questions regarding the 2020 Census, please feel free to contact my staff for assistance. For Census related matters, you may reach my Washington office through Ben Chao at or (202) 225-2726.

Thank you so much again for your dedication, consideration and assistance. I truly appreciate all that you can do to promote participation in the 2020 Census and all that you do for our community.

With aloha,

Congressman Ed Case

(Hawai’i-First District)

Your voice made the difference at Thurday’s BOR meeting

Our Collaborative Effort Made a Difference: BOR Votes to Defer Premature Resolution

At yesterday’s July 16th  Board of Regents meeting, UHPA and UH faculty successfully sent a strong message to Regent Chair Benjamin Kudo that struck a chord with the Regents.  

Through the collaborative efforts of UHPA, HGEA, Academic Labor United, and UH faculty and students, we made Chair Kudo stop in his tracks. We collectively presented a strong, unified voice to defend the University and forestall a requirement by the UH Board of Regents for the UH administration to develop a short-term plan of action to address the financial impact of COVID-19 by next month — without the benefit of input from UHPA and the faculty.

A Thousand Individuals, One Strong Voice

Nearly a thousand individuals submitted testimony in opposition to UH Board of Regents Chair Benjamin Kudo’s ill-conceived resolution and proposed letter to Gov. David Ige. Fortunately, the other Board of Regents listened to the concerns raised by faculty and others, and realized the resolution was premature and conceived in a vacuum. 

Vote Defers Resolution; Withdraws Letter to the Governor

The result of mobilizing quickly paid off. The Board of Regents unanimously voted to defer Resolution 20-03 and to withdraw Chair Kudo’s letter to the Governor, which sought to defer the negotiated pay raises of faculty and other public-sector union members  It was an important achievement for all of us. 

Collective Bargaining 101

The live-streamed meeting exposed Chair Kudo’s deficient understanding of collective bargaining and the role of the Board of Regents as an employer in the legal process of reaching an agreement. 

All of the written and oral testimonials enlightened the Regents about their legal obligation to comply with collective bargaining agreements. They publicly acknowledged faculty for stepping forward to raise their concerns and recognized the importance of faculty input on the resolution. UHPA and faculty will now have the opportunity to work with the Board of Regents to work on a revised resolution for consideration next month.

Continuing the Momentum

We are off to a good start, but this is by no means the end of this battle. It has become painfully clearer what we are up against. We must contend with a group that does not play by the rules because they do not know the rules. We must remain vigilant and cannot let our guard down.

Mahalo again for everyone’s support, especially to Randy Perreira, Executive Director of HGEA and his members throughout the UH system, Academic Labor United, and the many UH students and community members for coming together and providing a unified voice to support and defend our University.  We appreciate everyone’s kōkua!

UH Key to Hawaii’s economic recovery

Editor’s note: the below opinion piece by UHPA Executive Director Christian Fern appeared in the April 26, 2020 Honolulu Star Advertiser

Hawaii is caught between a rock and hard place. Our state constitution requires us to have a balanced budget, with a plan that shows anticipated revenue to cover projected expenditures. Although we’ve had budget deficits in the past, as a state we have generally been good about not spending more than what we generate.

Aggressive strategies worldwide to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 have been necessary, but it has come at a cost. State government officials project an estimated $1.5 billion drop in state tax revenue. It’s painfully clear difficult decisions must be made.

Although the pandemic has created unprecedented challenges, this is not our first encounter with an economic downturn in our state. We can learn from our experiences from the Great Recession that started in 2009. Good decisions helped to position us for better recovery, but bad decisions continue to haunt us and we are still paying for those.

Now is the time to make prudent, collaborative decisions to accelerate our economic recovery and plan the future we want for Hawai‘i.

Yet, Gov. David Ige unilaterally proposed a 20% pay cut for public employees. To many in the public sector, the pay cuts seemed to be a knee-jerk reaction that lacked careful thought and input. To make this more palatable, he later offered to cut his own pay and that of his cabinet team members, and then back-pedaled by offering to “look at all options” to balance the budget.

Those words offered a glimmer of hope that he is not focused only on cutting public employees’ pay. 

 During the Great Recession, we saw a significant decline in visitors to Hawaii and reduced spending by those visitors. We also saw a substantial loss of jobs in tourism, transportation, construction, retail and service industries, with a significant rise in unemployment rates. We also saw wages decline.

In the midst of those dismal trends, there was a bright spot. We saw enrollment in the University of Hawai‘i increase by nearly 20% at the four-year campuses and nearly 30% at the community colleges. 

Counterintuitively, state general funds to support the UH dropped by about 30% per student during that time. The budget cuts forced the university to raise tuition rates, placing a burden on families already struggling to send their kids to college.  We should not make the same mistake this time around and instead invest in Hawaii’s people appropriately. The University system must be ready and supported to offer relevant, quality training to its residents to restart the economy. A hiring freeze or staff reductions would only increase class sizes or cut entire classes.

Universities generally have countercyclical experiences during downturns in contrast to other sectors of the economy. Enrollment soars during downturns because while many are looking for a job, they return to the UH to learn new skills to become more job-ready and attractive candidates to employers. Faculty played a key role in preparing the workforce for the state’s recovery efforts in 2009, and need to continue to be on the frontlines to support our local economy. If Hawai‘i is to reduce its dependency on tourism, education through the UH is key to creating new opportunities for economic diversification and resilience. 

Academic research led by UH faculty is another economic engine for the state that is often overlooked. The expertise and reputation of the faculty are able to attract millions of dollars in funding for research, which also creates jobs for graduate students and support staff. 

When we receive the green light to venture out of our homes again, we know the world will be different from when we left it just about a month ago. We’ll need to be ready to hit the ground running. We cannot afford to make hasty decisions that create more harm than good, now and for our future.

A Different Take on the U.S. Supreme Court “Janus” Ruling

By Lynne Wilkens, UHPA President

This past week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision on Janus v. AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) has created a stir across the nation.

The ruling overturns the Supreme Court’s 1977 ruling on Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that has served as a precedent for more than 40 years. Janus serves as a new landmark case and is causing concern over the loss of employee rights and a weakened collective voice in the workplace. There has also been not-so-subtle gloating about renewed power for employers with a legal way to defund and cripple unions.

Backers of Mark Janus, the Illinois child worker, argued collective bargaining is inherently political in nature. Therefore, union members should no longer have to pay member dues because any assertions by unions violate the First Amendment rights of its members.

Yet in Hawaii, there is a different tenor and tone in response to Supreme Court’s decision. Over the past 18 months, the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) armed its members with accurate information to brace them for the anticipated ruling and will continue to update its members as the new law is implemented in our state.

Hawaii embedded collective bargaining in its statutes to “promote harmonious and cooperative relations between government and its employees and to protect the public by assuring effective and orderly operations of government.” This establishes joint decision-making between government and its employees to create a win-win environment that supports Hawaii’s cultural values, our economy and our future.

University of Hawaii faculty members know that with UHPA as their designated union, they can speak with a strong, unified voice to negotiate with the UH administration and governor at the bargaining table. As a unified group, they can persuade legislators to release funds for wages in ratified contracts. All of this may seem overtly political because of the way the faculty contracts are approved and funded.

Under the Janus ruling, UHPA will continue to ensure contracts provide equitable and satisfactory terms of employment for all faculty, regardless of whether they are union members. However, support for grievances and other services will no longer be available to non-paying members. This is fair for the paying members.

Some UHPA members may not want to give up 1% of their salaries for agency fees. But we believe the majority of the members want UHPA’s representation and are willing to pay for it.

The broader community also benefits from a healthy equilibrium of power in the workplace. There is a UH professor who generates $35 million in non-state research funding and 450 jobs. This is only possible because the 4,000 faculty members at the 10 University of Hawaii campuses across the state represented by UHPA can focus on quality teaching, research, and community service due to the good contract they have in place.

Take away faculty’s voice and rights, and these community benefits also go away. Faculty members will not stay at the UH if they are treated unfairly, especially if they are offered a much more attractive compensation package from another university — another type of brain drain.

UHPA has a solid record of effective representation of UH faculty over the past 40 years. The union provides significant value for the dollar in contract negotiations, grievance settlements, and representation of faculty interests. This high-performance service has only been possible because of the collaboration between UHPA and its membership and we are confident this partnership will continue to play a vital role in the future.

Lynne Wilkens is president of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly’s board of directors.

Time to Restore Fairness to Public-Sector Employees

(Note: this op-ed originally appeared in the Star Advertiser on 7/6/2017 “Bill needed to protect UH faculty from abuse by employer“)

University of Hawaii faculty members do not wake up each morning thinking about how they can purposely give their students a bad learning experience or intentionally misuse research funds that have been entrusted to them. But the state of Hawaii and UH administrators, who collectively make up the employers of the faculty, seem to believe this.

Even our state’s chief executive, Gov. David Ige, is behind this. That’s why he announced Senate Bill 410 is one of the legislative bills he intends to veto by the July 11 deadline. In reality, the intention of this bill is simply to underscore the value of collective bargaining in Hawaii and to strengthen relationships in the workplace.

During this past legislative session, James Nishimoto, chief negotiator of the Governor’s Office of Collective Bargaining, stirred the pot by stating management would lose control of its employees. In his written testimony against SB 410, he reveals his unfounded fears: “ … the amendatory language might be interpreted by employees as empowering them to refuse to perform assigned duties and responsibilities unless such duties have been mutually agreed to as a term and condition of employment … ”

This is the kind of condescending degradation UH faculty members have to endure. All we ask for is mutual respect, good-faith bargaining, and employers to demonstrate integrity by honoring terms and conditions they have promised. Chapter 89 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes was put into effect nearly 40 years ago to prevent abuse of power by government employers.

SB 410 is intended to keep employers accountable and to keep Hawaii from reverting back to an era in which employee abuse was rampant and acceptable.

Over the years, Hawaii has seen increased attempts by employers attempting to find loopholes in Chapter 89. They undermine both the spirit and letter of the law by redefining terms to their advantage. The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) has had to defend a number of faculty in hearings before the Hawaii Labor Relations Board and through costly litigation.

Many may not realize the challenges faculty members face. One professor gave up his flourishing research career at a mainland university when he was recruited to start a similar medical research program at UH-Manoa. He was told in writing he would have the equipment and other resources for his research in Hawaii.

After the professor and family relocated to the islands, a new UH administrator whimsically changed her mind and told this professor he would not get his equipment after all. UH administrators backed this decision, claiming the letter of hire the professor received was not covered by the collective bargaining process, so the promise made to him was not binding.

These are insulting, career-disrupting actions, and detract from our core purpose as faculty: instructing students and conducting groundbreaking research to benefit our state.

UH administrators are seemingly authorized to make up their own rules with immunity. They may get a slap on the hands before being transferred to another high-paying position. UH faculty members do not have that kind of luxury, nor do we ask for that. That is why SB 410 is so critical. We hope Gov. David Ige upholds the decision by legislators to support SB 410 so that UH faculty can look forward to waking up each morning and going to work in a fair environment.

SB 410 Designed to Raise the Bar of Accountability

By UHPA bargaining team: UHPA President Lynne Wilkens, UHPA Bargaining Team Chair Karla Hayashi, Amy Nishimura, Glenn Teves and Matthew Tuthill

Who’s accountable?

When the University of Hawai‘i (UH) leadership gets itself in deep kimchee and manages to grab the headlines, alumni and others cringe. It’s the same pattern: legislators start to ask questions and restrict funding that unfortunately affects programs, faculty and, most importantly, students and research that benefits our state.

Do we cry afoul? No. Does anyone demand heads roll? No. There is no accountability. Instead the issues are quietly swept under the rug. UH administrators are deftly shifted to another comparable position and salary within the UH system. The back-up plan often is to hire yet another chancellor to further inflate the University of Hawaii’s administrative payroll.

Has anyone wondered how UH administrators fare as employers?

The UH administrators that have difficulty managing programs and facilities are the same ones who make up their own rules to govern faculty. These are the faculty that teach our students and collectively bring in more than $350 million in non-state funding to conduct research each year.

There’s always another side to the story. SB 410 has a distinct purpose. It was designed to raise the bar of accountability on employers and improve relationships in the workplace. Framing SB 410 as an uprising of unions is a way to divert attention away from these facts.

For University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA), we know there are many in the community who empathize with the dilemma we face. Although we have joined our brothers and sisters in the other public-sector unions, most legislators and others are familiar with the challenges we face on the 10 UH campuses statewide.

While it easy to promote fear-mongering that SB 410 will somehow “tip the balance” in favor of unions and give them unprecedented power that will “interfere” with relationships between management and employees, we urge those in the Governor’s office to think carefully and do their homework.

We can point to numerous cases of erosion of legitimate faculty rights.

A recent case involved a faculty renowned for his breakthrough medical research, who was recruited from another university with the promise of certain technical equipment to build a similar program at the University of Hawaii. This was spelled out in his letter of hire. After relocating and moving his family here, the UH changed its mind and argued a letter of hire was not included in the collective bargaining process. In other words, what was promised in the letter to him didn’t count. Talk about hair-raising. Insane. Not acceptable. It’s time to put aloha back in the workplace.

Defend mediocrity or improve higher education?

Who Governor David Ige hires, and who he chooses to discipline is strictly his prerogative. It is not our place to tell him how to run his state departments. However, if he vetoes SB 410, it will be a clear indication he defends mediocrity in our state — hardly the quality we want in a leader. SB 410 will allow UHPA faculty to continue to provide quality higher education, research, and community service to the people of Hawai‘i.

Ige should invest in UH faculty

By Eric Denton, Karla Hayashi and Lynne Wilkens

Gov. David Ige’s State of the State address did not offer anything new or substantive, and did not provide any concrete solutions to actually move our state forward.

We heard the governor say our state “must tap our greatest our resource, our people, to find our way to the next great economic transformation: the development of an innovation sector.”

This translated into investment in the University of Hawaii Cancer Center and the HI Growth program to encourage high-tech entrepreneurs.

But what about investment in “our people” who are contributing to our economy now? We believe our state can create a strong, vibrant economy when there is mutually respectful dialogue with the ones who are actively contributing to our local economy today.

As faculty, we were pleased to see the governor’s budget narrative acknowledge the UH is “a productive economic engine for the State of Hawaii.” As the governor’s budget narrative points out, UH faculty attracted an average of $314 million in extramural grants and contracts per year over the last decade (fiscal years 2005 to 2014).

The governor’s proposed Early College Program can be successful if there are faculty to provide the instruction Hawaii students need. Investing in UH faculty will allow us to attract and retain high-quality faculty, who teach our students at the 10 UH campuses across the state, and who conduct research that lead to practical, concrete solutions to relevant issues in our state.

Instruction and research are two vitally important legs of the UH tripod that support the third leg — valuable service to the community. Innovative, groundbreaking research by UH faculty allows students to learn more, gain hands-on experience, and be better equipped to take their place in the world when they graduate.

Many of the faculty research programs support the governor’s long-term goals, including increasing local food production. For example, UH faculty have secured a USDA grant for the Molokai Native Beginning Farmer Program, and through private foundations, the Molokai Homestead Gardening Program is mentoring 40 Hawaiian homestead families in gardening and nutrition.

On Hawaii island, a successful public-private partnership between UH-Hilo and Chef Alan Wong has made the school’s Adopt-A-Beehive program the focus of worldwide attention as it promotes the importance of honey bees for local and global sustainability.

Another innovative program at UH-Hilo, funded by federal dollars, shows students how to utilize excess waste and underutilized agricultural products to promote local sustainability and serve niche markets to support successful businesses.

Faculty dedicate their lives to instruction and research that benefit the Hawaii, using funds that do not rely on the state’s coffers. There must be a reciprocal relationship: The state of Hawaii gains and needs to invest in faculty. We cannot shortchange faculty or undermine their work; otherwise, many will be recruited by universities in other states that are investing in their futures.

It’s time for our state to step up and support faculty, the people responsible for making a better tomorrow possible.

As the state refines “the people’s budget,” as the governor called it in his speech, we hope he and legislators will adopt a collaborative process involving UH faculty. We hope the revised budget is not only “responsible” but also strategic, providing the greatest return for Hawaii’s people, now and into the future.

The new budget must reflect truly visionary leadership that sees the great potential of University of Hawaii and invests in the human capital needed to create a viable future for our state, our economy, and our citizens. Imagine what more we could do to drive our local economy if we had better support for faculty.

Eric Denton is a religion professor at Kapiolani Community College; Karla Hayashi is director of Kilohana: The Academic Success Center in UH-Hilo’s English Department; Lynne Wilkens is co-director of Biostatistics & Informatics Shared Resource at the UH Cancer Center and president of the UH Professional Assembly, the faculty union.

Why I voted no confidence on Dr. Richards at Kapiolani CC

I first began teaching at KCC in 1989. Since then I have moved from being a part time lecturer teaching multiple disciplines to a full professor and the current Chair of the Arts and Humanities Department. I voted no confidence on a personal level because I have watched myself and many of my colleagues shift slowly and inexorably from professionals who joyfully engaged students, sharing our passion for the subjects we teach, to feeling like we must put our heads down, disengage and just treat our profession like a job. The accompanying apathy and cynicism I felt was simply too distasteful.

On a more professional level I have discovered since becoming department Chair of one of the largest units on campus, that I had been placed in an untenable situation due to what seems clearly to be inaction and ineptitude on the part of the KCC administration over many years and across several prior department chairs. The atmosphere I walked into was one of hostility and manipulation. I believe I have been lied to and used as a pawn in the administration’s broader agenda because under Dr. Richards’ leadership fundamental problems, which have been widely acknowledged by virtually all those involved, could not be resolved.

If Dr. Richards is genuinely shocked by the current state of affairs, then he is out of touch with the sentiments of a large body of the KCC “ohana.” He is not the engaged leader he envisions himself to be and those most close to him have served him poorly by allowing him to think he had broad support. The vote of no confidence has been a long time coming. Many efforts over many years have been made to communicate low faculty morale and the myriad problems and frustrations many experience in their daily work life at KCC. These efforts have been met with deflection, derision and dismissal.

Yes, numbers can be manipulated but the consistent 3 to 1 or greater margins registered by all four groups that raised the issue of no confidence sends a clear and unambiguous message to Dr. Richards, Vice President Morton, President Lassner and the Board of Regents. I am proud of what my campus has done. This is not a time to negotiate but to reiterate: Dr. Richards must leave.

Sharon Rowe, PhD, MFA
Professor of Philosophy
Chair of Arts and Humanities
Member of the KCC ‘Ohana

Dealing with Today’s Students

Guest post by Rosiana (Nani) L. Azman, Ph.D.  Associate Professor, Psychology, University of Hawai’i Maui College

I am a teacher. Technically, I’m an Associate Professor of Psychology, and by training, I am an educational psychologist; but if you ask me what I do, my response will most likely be that I am a teacher. I believe in facilitating learning. I do not enjoy professing my supposedly superior knowledge in a subject at students. I believe in interacting with them to help them to learn for themselves.

When I first started teaching, I knew that my students weren’t necessarily going to be like me. I am lucky. I have wonderful, supportive, and encouraging parents. I had a pretty good private school education with amazing teachers who didn’t just teach me what to learn, they taught me how to learn. Add on top of that that I am an overachiever, and it’s pretty safe to say that I was not a typical student. By the time I entered college, I knew that I loved to learn.  A very small percentage of my students are lucky enough to have the kind of background I did. I think a large part of my job is to inspire them, to show them that it’s fun to learn. It’s not too hard in psychology. I can tie anything back to real life, and we have fun.

Parents have the right intention

helicopterparentslargeNow some of my students also had parents and teachers who invested in them. Many of my students are definitely smart.  Their parents and teachers want nothing more than to have these children succeed. These parents and teachers also want to make sure that these students had high self-esteem so that they believe that they can take on anything. They have been closely and carefully watched to ensure that they always succeeded. And most of them do, as long as mom and dad are there to run interference, just in case something starts to go awry. What parents don’t want to protect their children from hurt and failure? Wouldn’t it be great if we could give our children a perfect world in which to live?

But the truth is, we don’t live in a magic bubble.

There is no conceivable way for me to be able to protect my daughter completely and eternally from ever having any hurt or disappointment. It breaks my heart to see her cry from pain, both physical and emotional, and I wish I could magically keep her safe forever.

Trying to protect our kids keeps them from learning about life

I’m pretty sure some of my students’ parents feel the same way I do. They want their children to have a better life than they did, free from cruelty, harm, and failure. Doesn’t that sound nice? But somewhere, at some point, something went wrong. In trying to protect them from all of life’s evils, these students missed learning an invaluable lesson: what to do when life doesn’t go your way.

Many of today’s students don’t know how to fail.

They have no coping skills whatsoever to know how to handle adversity. I’ve had students drop a class because they think they failed the first exam. My tests aren’t easy. They’re application based. They are meant to show how well you understand the material, not how well you can regurgitate that which you have shallowly and temporarily memorized. The ones who disappear after that, I cannot help. The ones who stay learn a crucial lesson.  Many of them finally hear me and actually use all those study tips I’ve been building into the lessons. They change their approach to studying and to learning. I can’t tell you how good it feels when they come back to see me after the semester, sometimes after they’ve graduated, to thank me.  I was even once told that nearly flunking that first exam was the best thing that ever happened to that student, but that’s because he saw the near failure as a learning experience, not as a time to brood in incorrectly perceived defeat.

Like the student I thought took a job to help her family with the bills

I once had a twenty-something-year-old student who emailed me mid way through the semester to say that her mother had been in an accident, and so she would be mostly likely missing some classes.  This was a smart student who seemed to do well on exams and was a pretty strong writer.  I didn’t see this student for three weeks.  I finally got a call, asking if she could come see me during office hours to discuss her hardships.  I was expecting to hear something to the effect that she had to stop going to school because she had to go to work to pay the family’s bills. I was trying to figure out if I could give the student an incomplete and help her to finish up the work after the semester was over.

The student came in, and it was pretty obvious that she was distraught. She started talking about how hard it had been since her mother’s accident. Her mother was essentially on full bed rest and would be for the next couple of months. She kept saying how the extra work she had been doing was just completely exhausting her and how she hasn’t been able to keep up with her schoolwork. I assumed she was referring to the job I thought she had gotten to help pay the family bills and made some comment about how admirable and responsible she was being, taking care of her family.

Until I realized she hadn’t

She gave me a confused look. She hadn’t gotten a job. Her stepdad was paying all the bills for the house and for her family. That’s when I got confused. I asked her what extra work she had to do. She kept saying how it’s just been so hard, how she’s never had to do so much before. Since her mom’s accident, her stepdad has been making her wash the dishes and clean the kitchen after dinner.  Her stepdad was cooking every night after coming home from work and said he was too tired to clean up, too, so he needed her to pitch in.  After all, it was just the three of them in the house, and mom wasn’t allowed to get up.

Until I realized she really meant doing chores

I was still waiting to hear about these hardships.  She continued, so I thought I was going to find out now.  She had also been asked to do the laundry.  When it dawned on me that washing the dishes and doing the laundry were her hardships, I did my absolute best to curb my sarcasm and tried to explain that I had been helping out with the dishes and the family laundry since I was nine. I was then corrected.  Her stepdad did the laundry for his wife and himself. My twenty-something-year-old student was just being asked to do her own laundry. She said her mom kept apologizing that her daughter had to do so much around the house.

Sorry, but chores aren’t hardships

I really wish I was exaggerating right now to make some great point, but this is a true story that made me realize that I should never coddle my daughter. If I try to protect her from all of life’s harms, she may still end up intelligent, but she would be unequipped to handle real life, and she might confuse chores for hardships like this student did.

Having standards makes me mean

I asked my student how doing the dinner dishes and her own laundry had stopped her from coming to my 1:45 class two afternoons a week.  When the student couldn’t give me an answer, I gave her one week to make up all of the missed work, and I told her that I expected to see her in class on time next week, and that she would be expected to keep up with the class from this point forward.  I’m pretty sure she thought I was the meanest teacher in the world, but she managed to finish her course and do a couple of household chores, all in the same semester. As far as I’m concerned, I was probably too nice because dishes and laundry aren’t extenuating circumstances to anyone but that student (and sadly, probably some of her classmates).

Parents, who will do their laundry in the “Real World”?

I’m pretty sure that that student’s mom thought she was doing what was best for her daughter.  She was just trying to take care of her daughter and protect her. She did not realize that she was forgetting to teach her daughter how to handle adversity.  If we all go through school and life thinking that everyone is a winner and that everyone deserves a trophy, regardless of how much we actually tried or did, what is going to happen when an entire class of these students enters the real world and all apply for the same job? They all won’t get the job.  One will, and then his or her reality will be challenged when something else doesn’t go his or her way, a little later on. The rest will run home to mom and dad, who will hopefully send them right back out the door with another job application, maybe after a nice pep talk and a hug.  Other parents will just hug them, tell their grown child that the executives of that company must be incompetent, and then tell their child to go rest, while the parents continue to prepare dinner for the family and do everyone’s laundry.

So You Want to Run the University Like a Business? Part 2: What is your educational product? (updated)

By David Duffy, UHPA President

The creation and transmission of knowledge have been the traditional products of higher education. Learning and scholarship acquired through study are acknowledged by the awarding of a degree. Students are not taught a particular trade. They are taught to think for themselves, to write and to speak in ways that convince others, to understand what they read, to learn how to learn, and to continue to educate themselves, wherever life takes them.

But more recently, other views of universities and their products have emerged, reflecting different values.

Workforce training

One of the most popular new products is workforce training, preparing students for today’s jobs. While this seems logical and more efficient than the liberal arts, it is actually a fool’s errand. A degree suitable for today’s market may soon be out of date. Where are the jobs for COBOL programmers, reporters, editors, stenographers, photo lab technicians, illustrators, bookstore clerks, travel agents, farmers, and elementary art and gym teachers?

Or put another way, ten years ago jobs as app developers, sustainability experts and data miners didn’t exist. Going forward, the future of lawyers and accountants doesn’t look so good as they can be replaced by apps on an iPhone, and, as we will see below, even university professors may become obsolete.

Workforce training also ignores the human element.

Most six-year olds want to be firemen, sports stars, doctors, or astronauts, but the world is not awash in any of these. Even 18-year olds rarely know what they want to become. As they take courses, they may find their planned professions are not what they wanted, or the prerequisite courses deter them. This more or less guarantees a certain level of inefficiency in earning a degree.

Buying degrees

A more insidious product for academia is what is essentially the buying of degrees. Education becomes a purchase, not learning. From the student and parental point of view, they pay good money, and lots of it, and they expect good grades and a degree. Enrollment in a course, not mastering its contents, has become the product. Professors under pressure have found it easier to succumb to grade inflation. If they don’t, they may not be promoted. Of course, quality doesn’t enter into this equation.


At an increasing numbers of universities, efficiency has become the product. Degrees awarded, time to degree, and cost of a degree have become the metrics of success for politicians and university governing bodies applying production line business models to education. Learning is just too difficult to measure. The logical responses by the university are easier grading, fewer course requirements, and lower expectations for a degree. Costs can be cut by hiring temporary faculty who lack medical and retirement benefits and are disposable if enrollments fall. Without permanent faculty to oversee academics, administrators take over and by necessity they dance to the tune of efficiency, not academics. And again, excellence doesn’t enter into things.

Economics or making a profit from the non-profits

There have always been for-profit academic institutions. With the easy availability of privately financed student loans, the for-profits could rake in the tuition dollars. However, with the federal government taking over the student loan business and going after the greediest of the for-profits, the financial awards became less attractive.

Although not guilty perhaps of such conscious avarice, the non-profits also benefited from the easy availability of money, enabling them to raise tuition, to raise faculty salaries, to construct new academic buildings and ever more luxurious dorms, and to pile up highly paid administrative cadres. The result for students, whether they graduated or not, was the massive accumulation of debt that could take decades to pay off.

With academic aid taken over by the government and for-profits increasingly brought to heel, the solution to the search for profits turned next to the non-profits, the traditional institutions of higher learning. Admittedly universities are rarely models of economic efficiency, so fast-talking financiers and venture capitalists teamed up with academics to try to sell MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses). One professor could teach a thousand or a hundred thousand students via well-produced lectures. Students would never interact with the faculty. If they needed assistance, they could interact amongst themselves on-line or with poorly-paid assistants at the academic equivalent of calling centers located around the world. Once produced, MOOC’s cost little and would represent a pure and continuing profit.

The immediate economic benefit would be elimination of the need for faculty except for the few who could be contracted to star in the MOOC’s: indeed actors could replace faculty, reading from a script. An unanticipated intermediate benefit would be the demise of most universities , except for the most prestigious which could and would charge a premium for small in-person classes taught by real life faculty and yielding prestigious degrees.

Good, Cheap or FastThe eventual result might be economically efficient but devastating for society.

Higher education would be controlled by a few large entities, which would market to a common denominator, oblivious to local or regional needs or even to innovation.


There is a saying in business that you can have two of the following three: cheap, fast, or good. American higher education seems to have chosen cheap and fast over quality. Is this good for America?

Closer to home, is cheap and fast good for Hawai`i?

As the most isolated inhabited island on the planet, we need a population that can adapt and solve new challenges as they arise. We also need educational approaches that speak both to the indigenous Kanaka Maoli, and to our many minorities who may not fit the cookie- cutter approaches of MOOCs.

Perhaps in the end maybe we need to have only one product: excellence.

Students can learn how to be excellent in some one area, be it English poetry, Latin, mathematics or sports, and to appreciate the effort needed to be excellent. During their careers, they would continue to pursue and achieve excellence in whatever fields they chose, be it law, business, academia or farming.


Added on August 2, 2015:

University of Phoenix under investigation

The ultimate university run as a business, The University of Phoenix, is under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, has experienced a 54% decline in enrollment and its stock has gone from 34 to 12 dollars per share since the start of the year. Its business products included a graduate rate of just over 7% and a 19% student loan default rate. Phoenix targeted veterans of the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars as its customers, as they get support from the GI Bill to attend college.

source: Daily Beast, and Reveal