Eight hours before the University of Hawaii Board of Regents threw its support behind President M.R.C. Greenwood in the handling of the Steve Wonder concert debacle last week, the board heard a plea from Thomas Robinson to raise graduate assistant salaries.
Robinson, who is president of the Graduate Student Organization at UH, told board members there hasn’t been a pay raise since 2003 despite tuition and cost-of-living increases.
"When I heard on the news that the athletics director (Jim Donovan) was getting a new position and they were going to hire a new athletics director, it occurred to me that could have been money that could have gone towards graduate student (pay)," Robinson said.
As students have returned to the Manoa campus after the summer break, they have begun to question the administration’s handling of the fiasco and what it means for students.
"I thought, ‘What is happening?’" said William Thompson, a sophomore. "Is it going to come out of our money? Is that going to raise tuition, because everything, it seems, affects something else."
Donovan will be paid $211,200 for each year of a three-year contract for an as-yet-unnamed position in the Manoa chancellor’s office once his current contract as AD expires in March 2013. In addition, UH paid Donovan’s lawyer $30,000, is preparing to begin a search for a new AD and has spent a still unspecified amount on an investigation of how UH was swindled out of $200,000 to book Stevie Wonder for a benefit concert that the star never agreed to do.
"The whole thing seems fairly ridiculous. I mean, I can’t believe they got conned like that (on the Wonder concert) for that kind of money ($200,000)," said Ryan Shriver, a graduate student.
Students arrived on campus Monday to find the headline "We deserve better" and mug shots of Greenwood, Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple and the 15-member Board of Regents spread across the front page of Ka Leo O Hawai‘i, the student newspaper.
"While the community may be upset, students should be furious," a Ka Leo staff editorial said. "We deserve better than the Fs that they have attempted to portray as A-quality work. Let us not forget, after all, what happens when a student produces F-quality work at a university. Surely, we can hold our administrators to the same standards."
Trevor Kaimikaua, a junior, said, "it is a big old mess, I think. It is a big waste of money on practically nothing and I think they could have prevented it. Yet, from what I’ve seen and read, nobody is being held (responsible). Somebody must have screwed up some place. Somebody has to be at fault."
The irony of the situation was not lost on Robinson.
"It seems like the educational aspect is lost when they spend money like this," he said. "The same thing happened with the chancellor when she (Virginia Hinshaw) left and they gave her all that money."
The Board of Regents approved a 10-month sabbatical worth $287,000 for Hinshaw and a faculty position that pays $292,000 a year. Apple, her successor, was hired for $439,008 a year, $100,000 more than Hinshaw was paid.
"They lose sight of the purpose of the university (which) is to educate," Robinson said. "It is not to hire people and pay people. It is to educate students."
Richard Mizusawa, president of the Associated Students of UH, said, "when I found out about the Stevie Wonder concert cancellation, I contacted athletics in July to ask whether or not any of the $200,000 loss was from student fees. This, to me, would be a huge concern to my constituents to have so much money they paid in (fees) go missing without any knowledge of where it could be."
Mizusawa said, "At the moment, I still have not heard anything regarding my concerns from athletics."