2005 Teaching, Research and Service Awards Convocation
Remarks by Interim President David McClain
September 13, 2005, Orvis Auditorium, UH Manoa
Aloha! Today we celebrate the latest vintage in a century-long tradition of excellence in teaching, research and service at the University of Hawai’i. Owing to the behavior of Mother Nature over the summer in Kennedy Theatre, we hold this celebration in a non-traditional setting, here in Orvis Auditorium. One might say that the bottle is new, but the wine remains the finest in our vineyards.
As the leader of your university over these past 15 months, I’ve felt at times like a commissioner of a major sports league, with our 10 campuses representing 10 teams. Like major league sports, we’ve got major market teams, teams in small markets and teams with strong regional followings.
I’m pleased to say that every market we serve wants more of us—probably because the value of the excellent education we provide (that is, what it’s worth in the marketplace) is at least three times what it costs our students and their parents to buy it (at Manoa) and as much as seven times (at our community colleges). That’s a fancy way of saying that the taxpayers of Hawaii subsidize between 70 and 85 percent of the cost of our students’ education.
To continue with the sports metaphor, our dedicated chancellors are the leaders, the general managers and the coaches of those teams. And today is the day we announce the all-star roster—and an impressive roster it is.
For the last 10 years or so, it’s become traditional for the president to use this opportunity to reflect on the state of the university. Let me do so…briefly.
The "Cliff’s Notes" version of the remarks to come is this: UH is better off today than it was a year ago, and we can all be proud of that. But I’m still not satisfied, and neither should you be.
Our strategic vision is sound. We see ourselves as a university in an island setting, and the values we emphasize are the values that island peoples generally, and Native Hawaiians in particular, exalt: respect for each other and for the communities we create, and respect for the environment in which we live—both bound up in the Hawaiian concept of ahupuaa, where finite resources were shared for the benefit of all.
Within this island context, we acknowledge and celebrate our multicultural heritage, and our role as a bridge between the cultures of the West and the cultures of the Pacific and of Asia.
I believe this strategic vision makes the University of Hawaii both locally responsive…and—in this increasingly globalized, "island Earth" world— globally significant.
Our financial outlook is improved. For the first time in five years, we’ve received new money from the Legislature (excluding collective bargaining augmentations) though we received only about 30 percent of the $70 million we needed for Native Hawaiian programs, workforce development initiatives, critical infrastructure items and to cope with the 15 percent enrollment surge of recent years.
We’ve put in place a multiyear tuition plan that will make what our students and their parents pay more similar to our peer institutions, and we’ve quadrupled the amount of financial aid going to needy students, so that we can continue to be among the nation’s leaders in the access of the poor to higher education.
The University of Hawai’i Foundation raised $34 million for UH, up 30 percent from the year before, and is aiming to raise $43 million this year, the fourth of the Centennial Campaign.
Our research enterprise had another banner year, producing some $354 million in grants and contracts, up from $329 million in 2003–2004. We’ve submitted our indirect cost rate proposal and expect to receive a more generous reimbursement rate for our indirect costs in the years to come.
Our campuses are operating more efficiently. At Manoa last spring, Vice Chancellor Smatresk found a way to offer 8 percent more sections without any additional funding. This fall the Manoa leadership managed the crushing demand for housing with many fewer complaints.
And of course Manoa is the campus which faced a flood that did $100 million of damage and lost only two days of classes—very much representing the kulia i ka nuu (strive for the highest) spirit which I said last year would be the motto for my administration.
Across our 10-campus system, our faculty and staff coped with another surge in enrollment, and responded quickly to the booming economy’s needs for workforce training. I’m often amazed that nearly 30,000 individuals are pursuing some form of noncredit education every year at UH.
In a way, I’m pleased that this year the enrollment surge seems to have abated, for with our 50,000 students pursuing a degree of some kind, we are certainly at capacity.
In order to expand our capacity, under the Board of Regents’ leadership the university is embarked on several public/private partnership initiatives, including
- Renovation and expansion of student housing at Manoa, with a goal of having more than 5,000 beds in 5–7 years, up from slightly more than 3,000 today.
- Build out of the West Oahu campus to 1500 and then nearly 3000 students.
- Creation in Kakaako, adjacent to the two new buildings of the John A. Burns School of Medicine which have come on stream this year, of a comprehensive Cancer Research Center that will integrate research and clinical studies, simultaneously improving the quality of cancer care in Hawaii while increasing the volume of research in the life sciences.
These initiatives will be joined by others elsewhere in the UH System to create additional housing, augment campuses, and add research and classroom facilities.
Since some of these initiatives will take us beyond 2010, the final year of our strategic plan, I’ve launched a "Second Decade" project to help us understand the state’s need for higher education during 2011–2020 and where and how UH should respond to that need.
Recently, one of our leading citizens, an executive with several degrees who’s worked and lived in Europe, North America and Asia, took the opportunity to take several courses in the humanities here at UH. I was most interested in his evaluation, as I hope you will be.
Here it is:
Professors—Second to none; as good as the best he’s experienced at leading universities in the United States and Europe.
Student engagement—Many were bright and involved, but more than he expected were just "punching the clock" en route to their degree.
Facilities and the physical environment—Poorly maintained, poorly illuminated…a danger and a tragedy.
His assessment provides a useful template about where we need to go from here.
- We must create an attractive and safe physical environment for our students…the recent initiative to earmark 5 percent of "new" general and tuition funds in the biennium for security upgrades is a start, but there’s much more to be done. Repair and maintenance, long an afterthought at this university, must become a priority. And we must vigilantly maintain and improve our technology base.
- We must engage our students more directly. We have excellent programs in service learning, for example, thanks to the work of Bob Franco at Kapiolani Community College and others, but they are not widespread. Working with our chancellors and faculty, I look forward this year to a conversation about ways to achieve greater civic engagement by all our students and a greater celebration of democratic ideals in the context of our own celebration of 100 years of higher education in Hawaii.
- We must support—and in some cases renew, given their current demographic profile— our excellent faculty. With new funds flowing in, many departments will be in the market for new faculty for the first time in several years. But where will these faculty live? And how can they afford to come here? We’re taking a close look at what can be done to augment our current complement of faculty housing; this may be another area where public/private partnerships can be productive. On faculty salaries, which have increased by just 2 percent per year through mid-2006, we’re fortunate that the current contract increases faculty compensation by about 8 percent per year through mid-2009. We’ll need every bit of this to stay competitive.
Facilities, students, faculty—these are the ingredients of the transformational educational experience the University of Hawaii has provided to its graduates over the years. As your president, it’s my responsibility to sustain and improve all three.
In the year just finished, with the help of the regents, UH System leadership team, chancellors and really the entire UH ohana, we’ve made some progress…but I’m not satisfied, and much remains to be done.
Mahalo nui loa for the opportunity to serve this great university which has been my professional home for the last 15 years.