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July 2, 2010

President addresses UH Community

Dear University Colleagues,

While the summer months typically provide a short respite from the flurry of activity on our campuses, these past few weeks have resulted in much progress and action around some issues of importance to the university. On behalf of my administrative team, I wanted to take this opportunity to share our progress on some of these key issues.

This week we convened a special meeting of the Board of Regents around two major issues: the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea and our procurement pilot program.

Moving forward with the Thirty Meter Telescope

The Board of Regents voted unanimously on Monday to approve the TMT project with the conditions recommended by the Mauna Kea Management Board. This approval allows us to move forward on our exciting journey of astronomical discovery, with benefits that extend far beyond scientific results.

University of Hawai‘i scientists will be full participants in all aspects of the TMT journey, while the capital investment and jobs created by the project will boost the state’s economy and provide for local educational and workforce development programs. The university’s important responsibility of ensuring good stewardship of this special site for future generations has been of utmost priority throughout the process, and it will continue to be our focus as we work closely with the community and all stakeholders involved with the management of Mauna Kea. We also understand that we need to be more than just good stewards of Mauna Kea, and that we must continue our efforts to honor the special meaning the mountain has for Native Hawaiians and ensure that both science and culture are respected.

Although this project has made considerable progress in the last year, there are other measures that have to be accomplished before construction activity can start, and we will continue our efforts to see the project through.

Improving the procurement system

The regents also approved interim procurement procedures that will enable us to more efficiently procure goods, services and construction, and more quickly award and issue contracts for capital improvement and repair and maintenance projects.

The new procurement procedures are part of Act 82, which took effect July 1. This two-year pilot program is good news for the university and for the state. Regaining limited procurement flexibility, the university will be able to expedite repair and construction projects that will generate jobs and put many of Hawai‘i’s construction workers back to work, in turn supporting the state’s economic recovery. We are in the process of appointing a President’s Construction Procurement Advisory Committee to review procurement procedures and make recommendations for further modifications. Details on the interim procurement procedures are available on the university’s website.

We are also pleased with Gov. Linda Lingle’s official release of funding appropriated by the Legislature for the university, including $48 million for our West O‘ahu campus. The governor also released $10 million for renovations to Hawai‘i Community College’s Manono Campus in East Hawai‘i and the University of Hawai‘i Center at West Hawai‘i, which includes the development of a 7,000-foot roadway connecting with the planned Palamanui development. This enables us to keep moving forward on these important projects and will allow us to better serve our communities.

Affirmation of nondiscrimination

The topic of HB444, relating to civil unions, has also emerged as a major issue for us in recent weeks. The Hawai‘i Business Roundtable’s Executive Committee sent a letter to Gov. Linda Lingle initially urging a veto of the bill, then revised its position stating that neither the roundtable nor its executive committee has taken a position on civil unions, but rather sent the letters to “express concern” over administrative challenges.

The university was not involved in any discussion on this issue. But because I, as university president, am a member of the roundtable, I felt it was important to clarify that I am not a member of the roundtable’s executive committee and I did not participate in any discussion or vote on this issue. I also felt it was important to underscore the university’s policy of nondiscrimination.

The University of Hawai‘i has long stood for the policy of promoting full realization of equal opportunity through a positive, continuing program of nondiscrimination and affirmative action on each campus. And as recently as June 2009, the Board of Regents of the University of Hawai‘i unanimously reaffirmed its commitment to a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender identity and expression, age, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, arrest and court record, sexual orientation or status as a covered veteran. This policy covers admission and access to and participation, treatment and employment in the university’s programs and activities. I firmly support this policy of nondiscrimination.

This policy was also underscored in several news stories. In addition, I also sent a letter on June 18 to Gov. Linda Lingle that made it clear that I did not participate in any vote on the matter and clearly was not endorsing the roundtable’s position. I also reaffirmed to her our longstanding policy of nondiscrimination.

Remembering William S. Richardson

On a final note, I know many of you join me in mourning the passing of a dear friend of the university, Hawai‘i’s own William S. Richardson. Chief Justice Richardson will be greatly missed and we are forever grateful for all that he has done for the university, our students and for Hawai‘i. His legacy will surely live on in many ways, including through the many graduates who earn their degrees from our William S. Richardson School of Law.

I wish you all a productive and safe summer and look forward to greeting the new academic year with you.

With aloha,

M.R.C. Greenwood