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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 19, 2001

Radical plan reshapes UH

By Jennifer Hiller
Advertiser Education Writer

A radical plan that would reshape the University of Hawai'i system by giving the state five four-year campuses and signal a new sense of purpose through such initiatives as outreach to the Neighbor Islands and Native Hawaiians was described yesterday by President Evan Dobelle.

UH's new president, Evan Dobelle, defines the elements of the school's system.

Advertiser library photo • July 2, 2001

An administrative and academic overhaul would re-create UH as an educational leader in the Pacific, a bridge between Asia and the Mainland and a university that connects with the community as an academic resource and engine for economic development, Dobelle said in his first major policy address.

Dobelle, speaking before more than 1,000 business leaders, educators and government officials at a Chamber of Commerce meeting at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, announced the plan to create a new relationship among colleges that now compete with each other for students and resources.

In addition to the present four-year campuses at Manoa and Hilo, Maui would have a four-year college, something officials there have requested for years.

Honolulu Community College would be transformed into the University of Hawai'i at Downtown Honolulu as it adds a four-year technical baccalaureate program.

UH-West O'ahu, which is housed in a collection of brown-painted portable buildings planted in a corner of Leeward Community College, would move from a senior-level college to a four-year campus. After 25 years of transitory existence, it would have a campus of its own.

And a new UH campus would be established in Kona.

More student choices

Dobelle's sense of purpose for UH
 •  Create four-year colleges at Maui Community College, Honolulu Community College and UH-West O'ahu.
 •  Continue developing the U.S.-China Center at UH-Hilo and bring in outside money to help with economic development.
 •  Create a college-town atmosphere, and a rigorous liberal arts college at Manoa.
 •  Develop a plan for international education and enhance UHâs position as a Pacific leader.
 •  Look at the Research Corporation of the University of Hawai'i and determine in six months what its structure should be.
 •  Determine the site of a new medical school.
 •  Work with the faculty union to develop a new contract.
The plan would give Hawai'i students more choices of where to pursue a bachelor's degree, while at the same time elevating the academic reputation of the flagship Manoa campus. Research programs would be emphasized at the same time a rigorous, selective liberal arts honors program would be created within the campus to attract the state's top students.

The Center for Hawaiian Studies, which has long complained that it doesn't get enough money from the UH administration, would get whatever it requests.

"I'm shocked," said Lilikala Kame'eleihiwa, director of Hawaiian studies. "I had no idea he was going to say this. I haven't even sent him a budget. I'm going to do that this afternoon."

Dobelle said UH has a social responsibility to preserve the Hawaiian language and culture and that the Hawaiian studies programs on every campus will get top budget priority.

The plan calls for no new infusion of money from the Legislature in 2002. UH will go through the next 18 months of the state's fiscal cycle with what was allotted this session.

The absence of a request for additional money brought applause from the business crowd at the speech, as well as praise from Gov. Ben Cayetano.

The governor said he was surprised when Dobelle told him of his ideas a few weeks ago but thought that it reaffirmed his repeated urgings that UH needs to examine its own bureaucracy before receiving more state money.

"There's money there," Cayetano said. "Basically what he's going to do, as I understand it, is to reallocate and reprioritize."

Need for 'tight ship'

UH President Evan Dobelle told a Chamber of Commerce gathering he will work with the budget the Legislature has given through 2002.

Advertiser library photo • March 23, 2001

The plan places Dobelle in a good position, after an evaluation and streamlining of UH bureaucracy, to request more money from the state when a new governor is inaugurated in 2003. UH has lost millions of dollars in support during the past decade because of the state's economic downturn.

"I need to run a tight ship," Dobelle said. "I want to go back to the Legislature and say I spent the money wisely."

To that end, an audit by PriceWaterhouse Coopers will look at the system's finances, the bureaucracy and the flexibility of the administration. It will be completed by December.

Dobelle also said he wants to work with the University of Hawai'i Professional Assembly to present a new contract to the state. Faculty members struck for 13 days in April over issues of pay and working conditions, but Dobelle said the faculty needs a contract that is significant and long-term so that he can plan budgets and hiring for the next several years.

Faculty pay, which is in the 20th percentile nationally, should at least be at the midpoint, he said.

While keeping Manoa as the flagship research campus, Dobelle said he will reduce competition between the UH campuses, which typically offer similar coursework. While many of the colleges have areas of expertise and focus, Dobelle said UH needs to better define each campus' mission.

For example, West O'ahu's liberal arts emphasis would be retained, but it would have a focus on distance learning and wireless technology. The school of about 700, which now accepts students for only the junior and senior years of college, has established outreach programs on six islands.

Not 'business as usual'

Plans for its permanent campus have been resisted because of a perceived threat to Manoa. "You can't have business as usual," Dobelle said. "The faculty there seem interested in change; they're innovative and flexible. They may embrace this."

Honolulu Community College, which offers the bulk of the vocational and technical programs in the system, would offer a technical bachelor's degree. It would not overlap with the offerings of the other O'ahu campuses.

"We mean something different when we say 'system' than we have in the past," said interim Manoa chancellor Deane Neubauer.

Manoa also will consider going to a trimester or quarter-system format. City planners and others will be consulted about how to develop the atmosphere of a college town in Manoa, a commuter school with few dorms and little campus life.

Dobelle also wants to finalize a site for the new medical school and develop a plan for international education. He called for summits on public education, the environment and economic development.

"Is it too much? Maybe," Dobelle said. "But education is always to travel, hopefully not to simply arrive."

Dobelle's address came just three weeks into his tenure at UH and was his promised vision for the future

"Stand up for the University of Hawai'i," Dobelle urged the Chamber of Commerce crowd. "Stand up for the Rainbow Warriors."

The crowd obliged. At his first public speech, Dobelle got a standing ovation.

You can reach Jennifer Hiller at jhiller@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8084.