TIM School needs independence to succeed
By juanita liu
The bills in the Legislature that would ensure an independent School of Travel Industry Management at the University of Hawai'i are supported by a wide representation of hundreds of students and alumni, the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, a number of key industry and business executives, and the governor's tourism liaison. While House Bill 2315 was deferred, the debate is widening.
University administrators testified that they are considering merging all schools with fewer than 30 faculty. This includes the schools of law, architecture, social work, Hawaiian knowledge, Asia Pacific studies, as well as the TIM School. It is questionable if any meaningful savings would be achieved by merging these schools with larger units.
Academic mergers are difficult and costly because of different accrediting bodies, specialized curricula, program requirements and nomenclature of degrees. When asked what savings would result from merging TIM with the Shidler College of Business, the answer was that the assistant dean position would be eliminated.
This would not save any money since the position is already vacant. Instead, payroll would need to be increased substantially to put TIM faculty on par with Shidler's high salary scale.
The TIM School is in the enviable position of having achieved a world-class name brand and a solid student base. It makes little sense to submerge a highly efficient unit that produces successful alumni without any clear benefits.
Cost cutting in the private sector usually involves reducing and consolidating corporate administrative overhead and positions. To merge the providers of direct services such as the schools and colleges at UH-Mānoa risks losing services, customers and revenues. A survey of graduating students indicates that 80 percent oppose the merger and 70 percent said they would have gone elsewhere if TIM were under the business school, which is at capacity.
It would also be a great loss to the people of Hawai'i and future generations to diminish the instructional mission of any of these professional schools that have served Hawai'i residents so well in providing credible alternatives to an expensive Mainland education.
With the wisdom and support from previous UH administrators and government leaders, these programs at the UH have brought professional degrees within the reach of many local residents, built up our local communities and enabled us to compete abroad.
While we are debating the issue, countries in Asia and around the world are investing millions into stand-alone tourism schools and colleges in the field and fast-tracking programs to prepare its citizens for the largest industry in the world.
Legislation supporting a specific program like HB 2315 and SB 2186 has rarely surfaced since the passing of the UH Autonomy Amendment in 2000.
However, Article 10.6 of the Hawai'i State Constitution grants the Legislature the exclusive jurisdiction to identify laws of statewide concern, which may be warranted when the land grant mission of the university in supporting Hawai'i's economy is jeopardized once again by the threat of submerging the school that supports the largest industry in the state.