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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 25, 2008

Time for UH to cut up red tape

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

Now, really, that shouldn't have been so tough, should it?

You draw up a list of names you already have and you give it out. Simple, straight forward, you would think.

And yet, it took four months of beseeching and nearly 2 1/2 months after a formal request under the state's open records law plus a lawsuit for the University of Hawai'i to finally get around to coming, well, almost, nearly, sort of clean in providing a list of the Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl travelers and expenses late Friday afternoon.

One with black-pen redactions and incomplete at that.

If something that should have been such a slam dunk involved that much foot-dragging and so many smokescreens by the counsel's office and elsewhere, you wonder how long it would have taken had UH really had something juicy to hide. And, to think they fired Herman Frazier for his dithering.

Therein lies the problem. The stonewalling that surrounded the Sugar Bowl list makes people suspect the worst and reinforces long-held skepticism about UH. It underlines the worst of bureaucratic culture that can permeate UH, where, as someone once put it, rules exist to make more rules. A place where common sense and transparency are too often casualties.

And UH wonders why people are suspicious and trust is so hard-earned. How can anyone wonder why it can lag behind other institutions?

Folks at UH compare getting anything done there to the turning around of a fully loaded aircraft carrier. And the Sugar Bowl list was merely among the latest and most frustrating examples. Space limitations preclude a complete listing.

The same day that UH was tardily releasing the Sugar Bowl list the agenda for the Board of Regents meeting was posted. On it was a proposal to lower some ticket prices in six sports. Why it had to be there is an example of unnecessary hoop-jumping that probably has the over-burdened regents shaking their heads.

Here the athletic department commendably proposes addressing both fans' needs and an unprecedented flood of red ink and it gets slowed by red tape.

Nobody ever objects to prices being lowered. Especially these days. UH should, of course, provide public hearings and a critical review of any proposal to raise prices. But athletics, cognizant of fans' complaints and its own empty seats, wants to drop them in certain seating areas in an effort to win back fans.

Perhaps we should just be thankful that idea didn't get black-penned, too.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.