UHPA Endorses Green for Governor and Luke for Lt. Governor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quotes about Josh Green:

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

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

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

Quotes about Sylvia Luke:

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

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

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

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

Political Action Fund Objection

The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) has an active Political Endorsement Committee that has participated in state & federal elections through political endorsements, contributions to candidates and independent expenditures on behalf of our endorsed candidates. The UHPA Board of Directors has taken action to allocate from the dues of all UHPA Active members an amount of $5.00 a month to be placed in a Political Action Fund. The Fund will be subject to the accounting requirements and used for purposes consistent with the Hawaii State Election and Federal Election laws.

Our policy allows Active members of UHPA to object to the $5.00 per month allocation to the Political Action Fund. This will not lower their total dues, but it will not add to the total amount of funds allocated for partisan political purposes with respect to candidate endorsements and contributions. If an Active member chooses to object to this funding, they will not be allowed to vote on any recommendation for candidate endorsements made by the Board of Directors.

The request to withhold funding from the Political Action account must be made each year. If you do not wish to contribute to the “candidate endorsement” fund for fiscal year 2021-2022, then you must sign, date, and return an UHPA Allocation Objection Form by September 10, 2021.

The UHPA Board of Directors has taken this action in response to the strong feelings held by some members that the union should not participate in making candidate endorsements or political contributions. However, we believe it is essential for a public sector union to maintain a political presence since the fundamental work of our bargaining with the State of Hawaii is ultimately subject to legislative approval.

Terminated Tenured Position Fiasco Gets National Attention

We came across “Hawaiʻi Legislature Terminates Tenured Professor’s Position” over at TheScientist that is worth reading, though if you’ve been following our Monday Reports, there’s nothing new in there. That said, it’s got some good quotes from UHPA Executive Director Christian Fern, among others like:

“When has the legislature turned into the employer? Is it the Senators’ job to determine whether or not a particular faculty member is meeting his or her expectations?”

UHPA Executive Director Christian Fern on TheScientist

Even UH spokesperson Dan Meisenzahl seemed to agree that what happened could be problematic:

Meisenzahl notes that the university collectively bargains with three public unions, including the UHPA, and “to have the legislature start to fire people, so to speak . . . it does compromise the university’s position as a hirer and employer, as we sign and agree to contracts with our unions.”

The article is a quick, easy read that’s worth sharing.

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.

UHPA responds to Gov. Ige calling off furloughs

Editor’s note: The following statement was issued to KITV in response to Gov. David Ige’s announcement that he was calling off state furloughs and layoffs after President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion COVI-19 relief bill:

“The University of Hawai‘i Professional Assembly acknowledges Governor Ige’s press release and decision to call-off layoffs and furloughs for the foreseeable future due to the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. With that major distraction and focal point of anxiety and confusion behind us, UHPA looks forward to continuing to work in collaboration with the Governor, the UH, and our political leaders to push forward and help with our state’s economic recovery.”


Christian Fern
Executive Director
University of Hawai‘i Professional Assembly

UHPA Defends Tenure at the Legislature

Legislative Bill to Eliminate Academic Tenure for Non-Instructional Faculty Thwarted 


A legislative bill that would have adversely impacted the quality of education at the University of Hawai‘i — and affect the ability to attract and retain high quality faculty — has been put on hold. UH faculty can now breathe a sigh of relief — for now.

SB 1328 proposed to eliminate academic tenure for all “non-instructional” faculty based on the premise that their primary duties and responsibilities do not involve instruction with a commitment to student achievement and success and that granting tenure for these positions requires a long-term commitment of public resources.

UHPA Requested to Prepare a Resolution on Academic Tenure

Over the past several weeks, the UHPA leadership has been engaged in a series of productive and respectful dialogue and conversations with Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, the Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee.  Based on UHPA recommendations, at a committee hearing last Tuesday, Feb. 16,  Sen. Mercado Kim deferred the bill and sought UHPA’s assistance to draft a resolution for the 2022 legislative session. UHPA plans to work collaboratively with the UH administration to develop a resolution for the committee to consider.

In its testimony, UHPA noted tenure for eligible faculty has been clearly outlined in collective bargaining agreements between UHPA and the UH Board of Regents since its first contract in 1975 and the subject of tenure is a cornerstone of bargainable matters under Hawaii’s collective bargaining law, Chapter 89, Hawaii Revised Statutes.

All of the other testimonies from both tenured and non-tenured faculty alike strongly opposed the bill including the University of Hawai‘i administration.

Dynamic, Multi-faceted Role of Faculty

Faculty also presented strong, compelling, and eye-opening rationale and reasons opposing the bill. Currently, Faculty are divided into different classifications based on their primary functions and some are classified with an “I” designation for “instruction.” However, these designations do not adequately and accurately convey the multi-faceted roles of faculty. Even if faculty are branded as “R” for “researcher” or “S” for “specialist,” they are still actively engaged in the instruction and provide a wealth of services and support functions focused on student achievement and success. This underscores that designations assigned to faculty do not truly reflect the diverse professional roles, responsibilities, and work they perform for the academy and the students that they serve.   

For example, research faculty mentors graduate students in the field or in laboratories, and specialists develop lesson plans, mix lectures with activities, discussion, and practice and work with distressed students or those with disabilities to insure their success. In this sense, all faculty are involved with instruction and significantly contribute to student achievement and success.

Miriam Stark, a UH anthropology professor, cited the significant contributions of faculty at the UH Cancer Research Center, UH Economic Research Organization, Water Resources Research Center and College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources that do not fit neatly into the definition of instructional faculty but overall contribute to student achievement and success.

Faculty also noted their roles are dynamic and ever changing to accommodate the needs and priorities of the university.  This makes the amount of instruction and service to student achievement and success fluid.

Purpose of Tenure

It’s important to reiterate the purpose of tenure: academic freedom for faculty. This is just as important for faculty members engaged in research as it is for an instructional faculty member. For example, tenure ensures faculty can engage in controversial research and instruction with impunity.

Another Potentially Overreaching Bill

In addition to the bill on academic tenure, the Senate Higher Education Committee also heard another bill (SB 1394), which would require that 25% of the UH research faculty’s salary be paid with extramural funds. The bill proposed to make it a requirement for all new grants,

contracts, and agreements that begin on July l, 2021, would have to stipulate that these extramural funds would be used to pay for the research faculty’s salary.

The intent of this bill was also a way to address the state’s budget, but UHPA pointed out that in the aggregate, extramural funding sources already make up more than 25% of the research faculty salaries. This bill was deferred and UHPA will collaborate with the UH administration to provide a report on this data.

UHPA Endorses Kai Kahele for Congressional District II

UHPA felt it was important to weigh in on this year’s Congressional District 2 Race for the upcoming general election because of the many needs in our community resulting from the pandemic that require ongoing federal support in Hawai‘i. After interviewing Senator Kai Kahele, we believe that he possesses the background and understanding of our University, and more importantly, the needs of our members, the UH faculty. As a UH alumnus, Kai will best represent our interests in Washington, D.C. We are pleased to endorse Kai for Congress!

 

Access Political Endorsement Committee (PEC) process and procedures, including candidate questions used to determine candidate endorsements.

This content is made available to UHPA Members only via our Google Drive files. If you’re not a member, signup is quick and easy via our online form.

UHPA Endorses Jackson Sayama

UH

UHPA Endorses Mayoral Candidate Rick Blangiardi

 

UHPA Endorses Rick Blangiardi for Honolulu Mayor

After carefully evaluating the needs of the University of Hawai‘i faculty and the vision of the two Honolulu mayoral candidates, the University of Hawai‘i Professional Assembly (UHPA) has decided to endorse Rick Blangiardi for mayor. The decision was based on the recommendation of UHPA’s political endorsement committee, which is composed of UH faculty.

UHPA regularly endorses candidates in gubernatorial and state legislative races, and typically has not endorsed mayoral candidates or those running in city or county races. The exceptions have been for Eileen Anderson and Jeremy Harris.

“We felt it was important to weigh in on this year’s mayoral race for the upcoming general election because there are great needs in the community as a result of the pandemic,” said Christian Fern, UHPA’s executive director. “The mayor has the ability to influence how effectively and efficiently O‘ahu recovers from the pandemic and becomes more resilient.”

Affordable housing was a major concern for faculty even before the pandemic, and now it is a top priority, especially since housing is key to recruiting and retaining faculty and ensuring the standards of quality instruction and research remain high at the UH.

Blangiardi has an affinity for the University of Hawai‘i. While he was a UH undergraduate in the mid-1960s, he served as linebacker with the Rainbow Warriors. He returned to Massachusetts with his mother and graduated from Springfield College. After serving in the U.S. Navy and being stationed at Pearl Harbor, he made Hawai‘i his home, and earned a master of arts degree in educational administration from the UH in 1973. He later served as a defensive coordinator and associate head coach for the Rainbow Warriors. He eventually changed careers to television, and was most recently general manager of Hawai‘i News Now.

After listening to both candidates, the political endorsement committee felt Blangiardi understood the needs of the faculty and the important role of unions. UHPA is proud to endorse Blangiardi for mayor.

Access Political Endorsement Committee (PEC) process and procedures, including candidate questions used to determine candidate endorsements.

This content is made available to UHPA Members only via our Google Drive files. If you’re not a member, signup is quick and easy via our online form.

Political Action Fund Objection

The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) has an active Political Endorsement Committee that has participated in state & federal elections through political endorsements, contributions to candidates and independent expenditures on behalf of our endorsed candidates. The UHPA Board of Directors has taken action to allocate from the dues of all UHPA Active members an amount of $5.00 a month to be placed in a Political Action Fund. The Fund will be subject to the accounting requirements and used for purposes consistent with the Hawaii State Election and Federal Election laws.

Our policy allows Active members of UHPA to object to the $5.00 per month allocation to the Political Action Fund. This will not lower their total dues, but it will not add to the total amount of funds allocated for partisan political purposes with respect to candidate endorsements and contributions. If an Active member chooses to object to this funding, they will not be allowed to vote on any recommendation for candidate endorsements made by the Board of Directors.

The request to withhold funding from the Political Action account must be made each year.  If you do not wish to contribute to the “candidate endorsement” fund for fiscal year 2020-2021, then you must sign, date, and return an UHPA Allocation Objection Form by November 2, 2020.

The UHPA Board of Directors has taken this action in response to the strong feelings held by some members that the union should not participate in making candidate endorsements or political contributions. However, we believe it is essential for a public sector union to maintain a political presence since the fundamental work of our bargaining with the State of Hawaii is ultimately subject to legislative approval.