MAUNA KEA >> University of Hawaii President David Lassner arrived on Mauna Kea at 12:45 p.m. today, and is expected to meet with leaders of the protests against the Thirty Meter Telescope.
He will be greeted by a crowd of TMT opponents that has grown to about 2,000 people.
The university is a key player in the development of TMT in part because it has granted a sub-lease of land at the summit for the project, but the university community is divided over the issue.
Some university professors have joined the protesters, and some have been teaching improvised classes on Hawaiian language and culture along with the ethics of non-violent protest to crowds at the protest camp.
More than 800 students and faculty have also signed a petition calling on Lassner to either cancel the sub-lease for TMT or resign.
Lassner was led up the blocked Mauna Kea Access Road to where the kupuna were waiting, and approached the Hawaiian elders with a broad smile.
He greeted each of the kupuna in the tent that has served as the headquarters for the protests, and explained that he would not be making remarks to the squad of reporters and camera crews that followed him.
“I came here because I wanted to see you, I wanted to feel your spirit, I wanted to witness for myself first hand what is happening here,” he told the kupuna and the crowd. “I’m committed to try to find a peaceful way forward for all of the people of Hawaii, and that requires that I understand better than I did before I came here,” Lassner said.
He thanked the Hawaiian leaders within the UH system who invited him to the protest, and thanked them for the warm welcome he received.“I’m glad to get this chance to talk to you,” he said. Lassner departed from the protest site slightly more than an hour after he arrived.