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President's Report

Oct. 15, 2009 Board of Regents Meeting

I want to begin my report today by emphasizing the very difficult circumstances that our university finds itself in. The serious and very rapid deterioration of not only the university’s budget but that of the overall state has endangered the whole educational system of the state and put at risk our ability to prepare our young people with the quality education that they deserve and to equip them with the tools and skills they will need for a globally competitive workplace.

As I have said before, failing to support education is the modern day equivalent of “eating our seed corn.”

Perhaps this deep recession can be harnessed to focus our attention and that of our citizens and their government officials on the need to find sustainable resources to insure that we can keep open Hawai‘i’s pipeline to success.

My colleague, University of California Berkeley Chancellor Bob Birgeneau said it well, and I would like to share a quote:

“Almost 150 years ago, in an effort to better serve a growing nation, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Land Grant Act, which gave struggling states federal land with which they could generate revenue to build colleges. The result of that bold action is a national resource: a structure for higher education that is admired, and copied, around the globe in places such as Japan, Germany, China and Canada. We are the only country to have both private and public universities of world renown. Sadly, this amalgam of great public and private research and teaching universities is at risk as economically struggling states progressively disinvest in public higher education.”

Birgeneau goes on to suggest that a special federal fund be set up for selected public research universities to help support their operating expenses.

Others have suggested special taxes directed to education, although most frequently directed to K–12. Special concern for the state of our baccalaureate and community colleges has also been featured in several national studies. I have been working for several years at the National Academies of Sciences to promote a study to follow-up on the landmark and very influential NAS report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm—a report that noted, “The health and competitiveness of U.S. research universities are critical to the economic competitiveness of the U.S. in a global economy.”

The sufficiency of resources for these institutions to sustain a healthy cadre of outstanding researchers, a robust research infrastructure, and the ability to translate research discoveries into useful applications are critical to the national research enterprise, the global position of the United States, and the well-being of its citizens.

Congress has now requested such a study, and as many of you may know there are also new programs, such as Race to the Top, to provide challenge funds to improve K–12 and beyond. And as we speak, a bill to provide nearly $12 billion to develop community colleges and student success is moving though Congress.

In spite of all of these actions, states, faced with many other pressing problems, continue to feel forced and act to disinvest in education.

These bills and studies are all very promising developments to insure educational success throughout the pipeline, and UH is well positioned to play a role in these opportunities but they will take time. They may provide the basis for a new societal compact, like the Morrill Land Grant Act, to revitalize our country and state’s commitment to advancing our lives and those of our children and grandchildren, but the fact remains that nearly every state, including ours, is deeply cutting budgets, and we must first survive this immediate lack of cash while we muster every possible argument to improve our resources by any means possible for the future.

I believe we need to work together to make the case for the University of Hawai‘i federally, but most importantly here. I have been spending much of my time talking with a number of business and state government leaders and I intend to keep doing so. I am passionate about higher education and have spent most of my professional life fighting for resources for these institutions, and I will continue to do so until I no longer can. I realize that many of you do not yet know me, but you can count on my commitment.

To contribute to our planning and even near term biennium budget development process, I have been working with Sen. Jill Tokuda, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, to convene in Hawai‘i a roundtable to plan for the future of higher education in Hawai‘i jointly with faculty, students and administrators; local legislative, educational and business representatives; national leaders and members of Congress.

We will work to establish a planning group to mount a major study on the future of public higher education in Hawai‘i and to suggest specific actions that can be taken to change the trajectory that we are on.

To support this effort, we will need to seek public/private sector collaboration, sponsorship and funding. I hope that all sectors of our ‘ohana will want to support this effort as a way to begin digging out of our current situation and improving our future.

I’d also like to share with you an update on recent events and activities:

· Campus Visits—I completed my visits to all 10 of our campuses. Each of the visits has been unique, as each campus designed their own welcome, but in all instances the welcomes were consistently filled with aloha and the excitement associated with the start of a new academic year. The campus visits have been a great opportunity for me to meet many of our wonderful faculty, staff and students, while seeing the results of the outstanding leadership of our chancellors during these difficult times.

· Visit to Washington, D.C.—Later this month, I plan to visit Washington, D.C. I will meet with members of our congressional team and members of their staffs. I also plan to meet with the National Cancer Institute to discuss the Cancer Research Center of Hawai‘i; the National Academies of Sciences presidents to discuss the national study; and members of the federal executive branch agencies.

· Cancer Research Center of Hawai‘i—I created an advisory steering group to support and facilitate the development of CRCH. As background information, the group includes Regent Dennis Hirota, Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw, Vice President for Research Jim Gaines, CRCH Director Michele Carbone, John A. Burns School of Medicine Dean Jerris Hedges, Research Corporation of the University of Hawai‘i Executive Director Michael Hamnett and other UH Manoa and System executives. We are meeting weekly and have developed a plan designed to maintain our NCI designation and to construct a new cancer center building that we can afford.

I am happy to announce that only two days ago, Dr. Carbone successfully won two federal stimulus grant applications with each award worth $1 million plus indirect costs over two years. These grants will allow us to hire two translational physician scientists. Winning these grants is significant. NCI only made 30 such positions available throughout the country with the 63 NCI cancer centers competing. We are one of the only centers to be awarded the maximum of two positions. Congratulations to Dr. Carbone.

· Community Colleges—Later this morning, the board will consider the mid-term accreditation reports for the community colleges. Our community colleges are very actively and aggressively pursuing the student success agenda that President Obama has put forth in the American Graduation Initiative. Through the Achieve the Dream initiative, our community colleges are focusing on improvements in remedial/development, on student success in gatekeeper classes, on students’ first year experiences and on improving student access to financial aid. We will be well positioned to take advantage of the Obama community college initiative once it is approved by Congress.

· Thirty Meter Telescope—While UH and the Mauna Kea site has been selected as the preferred site, there is much to do in the next 12–18 months, including approval of four subsection plans, EIS approval and lease extension. I learned yesterday that the plans are moving forward.

· Advanced Technology Solar Telescope—Last Friday, a Programmatic Agreement was executed with the National Science Foundation. This agreement is one of the steps for the installation of the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope on Haleakala. Following an extensive number of meetings that included the community, part of the benefit package associated with the telescope is a proposal for $20 million over 10 years to be provided to Maui Community College. The funding would be for an educational program designed to cultivate the intersection of Hawaiian culture and knowledge with science, technology, engineering and math courses. Construction is estimated to be approximately $300 million over seven years with the project to begin as early as 2010.

· Contracts and Grants—Dr. Gaines has advised me that our awards to date now have passed the $200 million mark. At approximately this time last year, our awards would have totaled about $160 million.

· Hawai‘i Government Employees Association—With respect to on-going negotiations with the Hawai‘i Government Employees Association, I am happy to hear that a tentative agreement has been made, and it is my hope that the process will conclude soon. We appreciate our employees’ patience throughout this process. A conclusion will provide certainty for the HGEA employees, contribute to the university budget planning and allow us to refocus our energies on how we reconnect with the community.

· Students—I was pleased to be able to have lunch with the UH Student Caucus, which serves as an advisory group to me, at their annual retreat. The caucus has elected its officers for the 2009–2010 school year. Ho‘omano Pakele from UH Hilo was elected chair and Matthew Williams, from UH Manoa, vice-chair. Kelsey Shiosaki from UH West O‘ahu is secretary and the treasurer is John Cando from Kapi‘olani Community College. Keo Akina from Leeward Community College is the O‘ahu at-large representative and Mike Sado from Hawai‘i Community College is the Neighbor Islands at-large representative. We are pleased at the diversity of campuses represented in the makeup of the executive board. Congratulations to the students!

· University of Hawai‘i Professional Assembly—As you are aware, the faculty union has voted to reject our offer. While some faculty took issue with some of the inelegant wording in the statement released by the Office of the President, for which I will apologize, the situation now is that we must consider our options and move forward as every month makes the budget difficulties more pressing.

Just to be certain that you are clear on the terms of the now rejected offer:
  • We proposed a 5 percent wage reduction, the lowest percentage proposed for any state employee.
  • We offered to make no changes in the current retrenchment procedure. HOWEVER, the offer commits to no retrenchment during fiscal year 2010. Furthermore, I had publicly committed that there would be no layoffs of tenured or tenure track faculty for fiscal reasons through fiscal year 2011.
  • We believe in a balanced approach that combines salary savings from pay reductions, payroll lags, vacancies and retirements, tuition revenues, increased efficiencies and other cost saving measures to try to buffer even deeper cuts, as those taken by other state agencies.

We are now considering our options; budget reductions of $76 million have already been imposed on us by the governor and Legislature and the UHPA vote does not change that fact.

The Board of Regents and I are determined to sustain the state’s only public institution of higher education for our students and the community, and we will continue to advocate on behalf of university faculty, students and staff.

Following my discussions with system vice presidents and chancellors about the UHPA vote, I have asked my leadership team to continue to stay positive, focus on continuing our priority—doing the best we can for our students—and, where possible, correct misinformation or incorrect information about the university’s proposals and/or actions.

We will continue to do our best to provide quality educational programs and services for students. Our efforts to preserve our infrastructure will continue to the extent possible. I am encouraged by the support of Sen. Tokuda for a higher education summit. I believe, as I noted earlier, that we have greater and longer term issues relating to higher education in the state of Hawai‘i than the current situation.

Today, you will hear campus reports from UH Manoa, UH Hilo and UH West O‘ahu. Combined with Vice President John Morton’s report on community colleges presented at the September board meeting, you should have a good idea of the initiatives, programs and progress being made.

These reports serve as a base from which we will begin our biennium budget process for the 2011–2013 biennium. Already you can see that we need to look to the future and plan for the future, we need to continue to sharpen our longer range vision and set forth additional future goals, objectives and pathways.

Thank you.