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Thursday, November 20, 2014
UH Protest: Grad Students Win Jobs Back, Push for Budget Transparency
By News Release @ 4:21 PM :: 2604 Views :: Higher Education

Fix UH Mānoa Update On Budget Crisis

News Release from Fix UH Manoa November 20, 2014

Honolulu, HI: Years of budget mismanagement have created a crisis situation at the University of Hawaii’s flagship campus. The students have banded together to fight for our rights, and outlined a set of demands which we considered just and necessary for the future of the University. After three days and nights of sitting-in on the University of Hawaii’s Mānoa campus, the group of concerned graduate students and Fix UH Mānoa are proud of the progress that has been made towards our objectives.

We demanded that the unjust policy of allocating teaching assistantships based on advisor’s affiliation be discontinued. When we met with Dean Bill Ditto on Thursday, November 13th, he assured us that this policy would be removed. Vice Chancellor Reed Dasenbrock has reinforced that assurance this week. We intend to hold both to their statements, and will watch carefully to ensure that no students lose their positions unfairly.

We demanded that the teaching positions being cut for the spring semester be restored, as the lack of notice left students unable to find alternative funding and jeopardized their ability to continue at UH. Per an official statement by Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman, these positions are to be restored immediately. We will continue to monitor the assignment of teaching assistantships to ensure that no students lose their jobs for the spring semester and that no positions are cut for budgetary reasons for Fall 2015.

We also demanded that a new budget allocation model be presented for public consideration by the end of the semester. Chancellor Bley-Vroman has assured that the budget task force will make an official recommendation by December, which will then be available for public comment.

Given how quickly the administration has responded to our demands, we have decided to end the sit-in as a gesture of good faith. This does not, however, mean that we feel our demands are fully met.

We remain concerned about the sustainability of the Marine Biology Program, and will be meeting with Deans Taylor and Ditto as well as the program heads, Chip Fletcher and Tim Tricas, to ensure that the current ambiguity of ownership and responsibility for the program and its students is resolved.

We will be keeping a close eye on the ongoing budget discussion, and will ensure the committee and the administration keep to their word. Once an interim budget allocation model is proposed to immediately resolve some of the current allocation issues, we will review the planned changes to ensure that they will adequately support the University’s teaching units. We will continue to push for a long-term solution, and fight for an allocation model that allows tuition money to follow the students.

We are also committed to our goal of budget transparency. The administration has verbally committed to making the University’s budget more accessible, and we will follow up regularly to ensure that their promise of greater transparency is honored.

We are thankful for the overwhelming support that we have received over the past week. Our Facebook page garnered more than 550 likes, and we received more than 700 signatures on our petition for budget reform in just two days. We have made it clear to the administration that the University’s students unite swiftly when their education is at stake, and should we feel that anyone wavers on their commitments, we will not hesitate to make the voices of the students loud and public once more.

Today, we are attending the Board of Regents meeting in force to make them aware of our ongoing concerns, and are available to the press for comment.

We remain resolute in our mission to fix the systemic problems at UH. We will continue to develop a positive campus community where the concerns of the students, faculty, staff, and administration are addressed equally and fairly. This is our University, and we will continue to fight for it.

Fix UH Mānoa

  *   *   *   *   *

Update on budget discussions from Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman

News Release from UH Manoa, November 19, 2014

Yesterday afternoon Vice Chancellor Reed Dasenbrock and I met with representatives of the group of graduate students who have been active in the recent campus-wide discussion about the budget situation at UH Mānoa.

In keeping with this conversation, I would like to reiterate our commitment to preserving Teaching Assistant (TA) jobs in Spring 2015. The graduate students have my assurance that none of them is at risk of losing his or her job because of any near-term budget action that has been proposed. Likewise we remain committed to ensuring that core/required course availability will not be negatively impacted by the decisions that are being considered today. This has always been my intention, and I regret any undue anxiety caused by premature announcements about possible cuts at the school and college level.

I would like to take this opportunity to correct a misstatement in Monday’s communication. When VC Dasenbrock said that units have been spending more they had earned, what we meant to say was that they had been spending more than they had been budgeted. We have been expending reserves to make up the difference. This practice has resulted in the current fiscal situation in which I have mandated that all units stay within their annual budget allocations.

The overall financial pressures that we are experiencing at UH Mānoa are very real. In this challenging time, concerned students and faculty alike have expressed their desire for better transparency on the budget at all levels. We are working hard to improve in these areas with more comprehensible presentations of the data and a better process.

Our Budget Committee — which includes representatives from ASUH, the Manoa Faculty Senate, and the Graduate Student Organization — is considering a new budget allocation model for fiscal 2015-2016 that more directly conveys tuition dollars to the schools and colleges in recognition for the instructional services that they provide. I have asked the Budget Committee to deliver a proposal for public discussion in December 2014.

Settling on a longer term solution will take time. Our approach needs to be thoroughly vetted. We need to be able to communicate our ideas with students and faculty and to encourage a productive dialogue through our governance organizations. In the interim, as we seek to stabilize spending at the campus level, we are asking for your support and input for this process.

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