University of Hawaii President David Lassner joined Spotlight Hawaii to discuss the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on the UH system. Student enrollment appears to be holding steady, but the number change daily.
“This is the most unpredictable semester ever. Families are making decisions very late, they’re changing their minds. Right now UH Manoa is up a little bit compared to last fall, UH West Oahu is up a little bit compared to last fall, but daily you look at these things,” he said. “I think what’s a nice way to say this, is that it’s not as bad as our worst fears.”
School starts on Monday, but classes will look very different this year. Most will be online whenever possible.
“The only classes that we expect to see our campuses are those that involve activities that we couldn’t figure out how to move online, so that will be like science labs, students in the healthcare professions, art studios in the arts, those sorts of things will be conducted in the physically distanced manner in accordance with CDC guidelines, state guidelines, country orders, so we basically track through all of those,” Lassner explained.
Lassner discussed changes to UH athletics, with no fall sports this year thanks to cancellations from the Big West and the Mountain West Conferences, which UH participates in. He hopes those sports will resume in the spring.
“If sports can be played safely, the next question actually is will that be with or without fans,” he said.
Lassner also addressed the financial challenges the University is sure to face, with the looming state budget shortfall. He also also spoke about how the UH system is working to support the community, by creating learning opportunities for Hawaii residents.
He also highlighted the partnership between the John A. Burns School of Medicine and the City and County of Honolulu, to create a lab at the medical school for COVID-19 research and testing. Lassner says the facility is expected to be operational by Labor Day.
“It’s focused on increasing testing in underserved populations, in homeless, rural communities, that really don’t have access to healthcare. We’re also looking at it as research lab that will be able to explore new testing methodologies.”
Spotlight Hawaii, which shines a light on issues affecting Hawaii, airs live 10:30 a.m. every Monday and Wednesday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. Join Ryan Kalei Tsuji and Yunji de Nies this month for a conversation about the economy. Click here to watch previous conversations.