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UH regents urged not to cut personnel

Hundreds of University of Hawaii faculty, staff and students petitioned asking the UH Board of Regents to oppose major cuts to personnel, the closing of buildings and consolidation of departments and campuses across the university system because of financial losses UH faces due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the board, UH projects revenue will decline by $91.7 million in fiscal year 2021. That includes an estimated $65.9 million decline in general revenue funds and $25.9 million decline in tuition and fees.

The Board of Regents’ agenda for a meeting today includes a resolution urging the administration to look into a broad range of budget cuts.

A newly formed group, A Thriving University for a Thriving Hawaii, made up of faculty, staff and students, organized the petition. The group said on its FaceBook page it is fighting for the university to protect it and ensure its well-being during this challenging time.

“We oppose the harsh personnel cuts, furloughs, and elimination or mergers of programs, departments and academic units laid out by the BOR as possible effective measures to contend with the pandemic-induced fiscal crisis,” the group said.

It suggests seeking alternatives to layoffs and personnel savings. The focus should be on non-personnel cost-saving measures, reducing administrative positions by consolidating functions and making cuts to inflated administrative salaries, it says.

It urges consultation with faculty rather than allowing administration-driven cuts of programs and departments and reorganization of units.

“It is easy to cut programs but hard to re- establish them,” it said.

Members of the group plan to at the regents’ meeting today.

The BOR’s Resolution 20-03 reads in part: “(T)he Administration should consider, as appropriate, the temporary or permanent closure, consolidation, reorganization, restructuring and/or merger of physical plant facilities, academic programs, departments, colleges, campuses, and education centers to achieve additional financial and administrative efficiencies, academic effectiveness, focus on the highest needs of the state, and continued viability and health of the public higher education enterprise in Hawaii.”

BOR Chairman Benjamin Kudo declined comment Wednesday, saying any comments he makes prior to the meeting may be construed as his leaning in one direction or another, said UH spokesman Dan Meisezahl.

The other board members are Randolph Moore, Alapaki Nahale-a, Jan Naoe Sullivan, Eugene Bal III, Michelle Tagorda, Simeon Acoba, Wayne Higaki, Ernest Wilson, Robert Westerman and Kelli Acopan.

The meeting will be live-streamed at 8:30 a.m. today. It can be viewed at www.hawaii.edu/offices/bor. Click on the “access audio livestream pilot project” link in red.

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