Volunteers succeed at UH-Manoa cleanup day
By Jennifer Hiller
Advertiser Staff Writer
A bunch of academics and university staff members transformed themselves into weekend warriors recently.
They wore grubby clothes, brought their tennis shoes and came to the University of Hawai'i-Manoa campus ready to get dirty. In the spirit of teamwork, they donned matching T-shirts.
It all happened the weekend before school started, when new Manoa interim chancellor Deane Neubauer organized the first campus cleanup day.
Faculty, staff and administrators were encouraged to come to campus early on a Saturday morning to work on improving the finer details of higher education in Hawai'i by scrubbing sidewalks, painting trash cans, picking up rubbish, planting greenery and cleaning entrance signs.
The bookish professors and staff members embraced the idea.
More than 300 people showed up for the event. Given the short notice the campus had, the level of participation was especially impressive.
Spiffing up image
The effort was part of a larger goal stated by UH President Evan Dobelle and Neubauer to spiff up the morale, image and aesthetics of the system's flagship Manoa campus.
The UH system has more than $166 million in deferred maintenance that has built up over the past several years of budget cuts. Faced with cutting job positions or delaying a roof repair, the previous administration chose to defer maintenance.
While the decision was understandable, UH is left with an entire system of neglected campuses. Some of them look downright shabby.
Almost immediately upon arriving in Hawai'i, Dobelle said the Manoa campus didn't "look right" to him. There were maintenance issues and too little attention paid to landscaping, he said.
He recently ordered several maintenance projects speeded up in hopes of beautifying the campus before students arrived for the fall semester.
Several buildings were repainted, roofs were redone and Hamilton Library reopened in time for the onslaught of students.
'Like a new building'
A fresh coat of paint at Bilger Hall and the renovation of the building's auditorium, which brought a projection TV, tinted windows and new furniture to the lecture hall, have made all the difference, said Chuck Hayes, dean of the College of Natural Sciences, which is housed in Bilger.
"It looks like a new building," Hayes said. "I was really surprised it happened so quickly."
Neubauer has said a second cleanup day may be scheduled soon so students also can participate.
The efforts have prompted Ka Leo, the student newspaper at Manoa, to call for replacing the dirt and puddles around campus with grass.
Open grassy lawns, if well maintained, would go a long way toward creating a more open, inviting and sociable campus, Ka Leo said.
It seems obvious, but it's one of those things like the cleanup that no one else has bothered to do before.
Reach Jennifer Hiller at email@example.com or 525-8084.