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Open Letter to the BOR: A Policy Change is Needed Now!

21 Aug 2003

Dear Chairperson Lee and the Board:

In thirty-one years as a faculty member at the University of Hawai'i, I have never seen the faculty and staff here so generally demoralized and alienated from the university administration. The major cause of this malaise is the recent and wholly unjustified explosion in top administrative and coaching salaries at a time of austerity and cutbacks for the rest of the university community.

This is a time of real crisis for faculty and staff. Eleven years of cutbacks have eroded the resources we have to service student needs, do our research projects, perform essential maintenance and clerical tasks. The budgetary assault is relentless. Two weeks ago, at a College of Social Sciences meeting, we were informed that the College was taking yet another budget hit ($900,000} placing the access of up to six thousand students to the classes they need at risk. The news from the Chancellor's Office this week is of a new hiring freeze and possible reductions in electrical use, postage and duplicating services.

We know the financial condition of the state is fragile. We are prepared to make necessary sacrifices---as you know, the faculty has agreed to a salary freeze this year.

But unfortunately, "sacrifice" is not part of the vocabulary of top UH officials. It doesn't have to be, since the BOR is committed to providing these folks with corporate-type salaries and expense accounts. To look at President Evan Dobelle's astronomical compensation ($700,000 in salary and expenses, free housing at College Hill---recently restored at the cost of a million dollars, $100,000 per year personal secretary, lucrative golden parachute), who would believe that we are a financially strapped university in a small, economically vulnerable state?

We are also perplexed as to why in this time of great budgetary stress members of the entourage which Dobelle brought with him from Connecticut are receiving higher salaries than the last UH president. And we wonder why Mr. Dobelle has hired a well-politically connected "chief of staff" at $200,000 per annum. U.S. presidents, not UH presidents have "chiefs of staff."

The money lavished on June Jones is indefensible on any grounds. Jones collected $175,000 in bonuses alone from his last contract (No wonder it was deliberately concealed from the public). We can't help wondering why the university has taken responsibility for paying for Jones' housing, his children's private schools, his vacation trips overseas, his automobile expanses. Shouldn't he be paying for all of that himself? After all, the rest of us do. The offer now on the table---an incredible $4 million multiyear contract---is obscene. That kind of money could be used to hire DOZENS of needed maintenance people, faculty, clerical people and researchers. So why have the Regents allowed themselves to be held up for ransom by June Jones? Are we to believe that football has a higher priority in your eyes than solid academic programs?

In sum, the BOR policy of paying top administrators and coaches fabulous salaries and starving the rest of the university of resources is gradually destroying the quality of our institution. It is depriving essential programs of funds they need, depressing faculty and staff morale, and discrediting us with community people whose support we need. During the last legislative session, one legislator informed me that the UH vice-presidents coming before his committee to testify as to the university's poverty had no credibility. To my question why, he replied, "If UH needs money so badly why are these guys receiving such extravagant salaries?" We need immediate and decisive action to change these policies.

I request that you place these measures on the calendar of your September 4-5 meeting, make them BOR policy, and move to implement them:

1. Cap all UH administration and coaches' salaries at triple the state's median household income (or a top limit of$135,000).

2. Postpone the ratification of June Jones' new contract until there are informed public hearings regarding its provisions.

3. Cut all U.H administrators' expense accounts immediately by 50%.

4. Establish an independent commission to investigate the financial affairs of Evan Dobelle to determine if UH funds have been misused.

5. Disclose why the Board of Regents needs a secretary paid $150,000 per year and the president of UH a secretary paid $100,000.

6. Channel all savings generated by these reforms into hiring new faculty, clerical and maintenance staff, and keeping student tuition at its present level.


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