Senator Donna Mercado Kim: UH Faculty Union attacks are “false truths”


The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly recently launched several public attacks, one denouncing the UH budget approved by the legislature last month, the others a more personal attack. directed towards me for daring to question the policies and practices of the institution.

It would be exhausting to offer a point-by-point rebuttal of the criticisms of the UHPA, which reflect the strident and selfish exaltation of a union defending the names of its members. As an elected official, I often accept criticism, except when it is full of untruths and personal attacks.

So allow me to offer these key points.

High costs

Why are the administration of the UH and the UHPA not looking for solutions to the very high cost of education at the University of Hawaii?

Student debt in our country is at an all time high. Graduates struggle with decades of loan repayments. My goal, shared by my fellow legislators and our entire community, is to ensure that the University of Hawaii offers great education at an affordable cost. We do not fulfill this mission.

UH Manoa estimates the cost of a year of school at $ 29,920, roughly split between tuition and education fees and living expenses. The Kapiolani Community College estimate is $ 4,624 for tuition and school fees, or $ 22,563 if independent living expenses are added for a full-time student.

Spending at the University of Hawaii continues to rise, the cost of an education continues to rise as enrollment over many years has fallen.

Rather than embarking on a series of self-examinations, a search for greater efficiency in the system, the administrators of the UH rather appeal to the legislature for more money. The latest, the Hawaii Promise scholarship program, which I have increased and doubled in its ownership, aims to help local students afford college. But these well-intentioned efforts don’t spur the university to cut back on spending and make the college more affordable.

By accepting the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Higher Education, the former presidents warned me that they had urged UH administrators for decades to be more responsive to students, to cut down on a large bureaucracy, to keep professors responsible for teaching loads at UH and to rank researchers the same way as others R1 universities do this – only to be intimidated by UHPA. I have just experienced this intimidation while the UHPA now accuses me, as they did my predecessors, of having an “agenda” or reasons other than the responsibilities of monitoring good governance.

The last president of House Higher Education who proposed many of the same concerns was targeted by the UHPA in his bid for re-election and the union spent over $ 90,000 to overthrow him without success. This has been and continues to be an uphill battle as the UH and UHPA will do everything to maintain the status quo and avoid painful decisions.

UH Manoa Hawaii Room
Hawaii Hall on the UH Manoa campus in 2017. The faculty union charged a state senator over the budget. Cory Lum / Civil Beat

I challenge the UH and UPHA to justify to students, parents and taxpayers how a faculty member can teach (according to UH data) zero courses, not hold office hours on the campus, provide little or no extramural funding, and be paid over $ 345,000 a year.


How many professors comply with the university’s educational policy?

Board of Regents policy 9.214 states: “Teaching being the top priority of the university, teaching remains the most important duty of its faculty. “

The policy states that a full-time faculty member teach 24 credit hours per semester in Manoa, Hilo and West Oahu. This load is 27 semester credit hours at community colleges.

But UH data shows that many professors in Manoa only teach eight to 12 credit hours per year. UH administrators recognize the disparity between what is required and what is reality; many UHPA members have brought to my attention the inequalities between teachers and non-teachers in terms of workload, performance and salary, which is why the legislature adopted Concurrent Senate Resolution 201 (discussed below).

Although students bear the cost of their studies, they often do not have the benefit of senior, top-notch faculty in the classroom, as many courses are taught by graduate students and lecturers. Parents complain that students cannot graduate on time because compulsory classes are scheduled to meet the needs of students, not students.

In contrast, our public school teachers are paid a quarter of a teacher’s salary, do not have the luxury of assisting a graduate student or lecturer, and cannot choose their workload or the hours of the day they will be working.

Tenure Track

UHPA reviews on Senate Bill 1328, which would deny tenure to non-teaching faculty, failed to address the underlying issue of unwarranted employment policies.

Few, if any, colleges in the United States or at UH’s peer universities grant tenure to researchers. This is why Hawaii is known as the “gravy train”. Other institutions require researchers to attract extramural research grants to cover 40 to 80 percent of their salaries and benefits. Instead, the UH pays its research staff out of general funds.

The UHPA claims this could jeopardize Hawaii’s R1 status, which is false because most, if not all, of the R1 institutions do not hire researchers. Additionally, UH uses tuition fees paid by students to complete research unrelated to their teaching.

In another example of UH’s resistance to change, the school has seven different classifications of employees. Comparable schools only have three.

The University of Hawaii is responsible to the students and taxpayers of this state.

In response to UHPA concerns, I postponed SB 1328 and the UHPA agreed to draft a resolution revising the tenure process. The UHPA draft served as the basis for the final resolution, SCR 201. A separate resolution on extramural funding was also presented and both were heard at the same time. The two called for a UH working group, so the Higher Education Committee combined the two for efficiency as the two are linked.

The resolution, approved by both chambers, calls on the administration of the UH and the UHPA to convene a working group to examine and evaluate the establishment’s tenure system for researchers and other non-teaching staff and the structure compensation for teachers engaged in activities supported by extramural funding and grants, compare them to similar schools and suggest best practices that could be adopted by UH.

Taxpayer money

The University of Hawaii is responsible to the students and taxpayers of this state.

As the recipient of a significant portion of public funds – $ 473 million in general funds in each of the next two fiscal years – the University of Hawaii has an obligation to ensure that the money is spent with caution. The HU must ensure that it makes the most of every tax dollar, that unnecessary spending is reduced or eliminated, and that its policies and practices are up to date.

It is the mandate of every public body, and the university is no exception.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.