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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, April 19, 2001

With contract, faculty must move to greatness

The contract agreement between the University of Hawai'i faculty and the state settles a labor dispute, but the university's long-term fate remains as uncertain as it was a month ago.

Underlying issues of true political autonomy, faculty recruitment and retention, physical facilities and academic excellence remain.

In other words, settling the strike heals one of the wounds the university has suffered, but it will not alone restore the institution to full health and greatness.

Some professors crossed picket lines to continue their research or teaching while others took the full economic hit of the strike. That created divisions within the faculty that cannot be allowed to fester.

Those who walked must find a way to accept, if not respect, those who felt duty-bound to continue their work. Those who crossed the lines must acknowledge, publicly, their gratitude for those who gave time and serious money to win a new contract.

The raise and changes to working conditions won by the faculty union are reasonable, but hardly enough to make headlines in academic journals across the country. But the contract may be the best the union could have hoped for considering the current state of the Hawai'i economy and the other budget issues facing the state.

In time, the University of Hawaii faculty will get what it deserves: a landmark contract. But that won't happen until our economy booms and the community once again embraces the idea that a great university is crucial to the intellectual, social and economic health of the Islands.

How do we get there? Well, one of the lasting legacies of the strike may be an empowered faculty that has gained new confidence and new pride in its ability to impact the future of the university.

If that pride turns into real — or even perceived — arrogance, then the town-gown friction that has so often plagued UH will only worsen. But if that pride and feeling of empowerment is focused directly on the fight to move the university toward greatness, the entire state will benefit and that landmark contract will become a reality.