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Maunakea

Aloha, and apologies for the length of this message.

On Sunday I was fortunate to visit Maunakea at the invitation of some of our UH Hawaiian leaders. I wanted to witness what is happening there for myself. I was grateful to exchange warm greetings and aloha with the kupuna there that day, most of whom have been colleagues for many years. Throughout my short visit, I was privileged to experience the gracious spirit of those I encountered. I also witnessed tremendous resolve.

I know that many of you have been seeking a response to the messages you have sent me both individually and collectively. Thank you, and please know that I have read every one. These messages share some common themes:

  • There is vehement opposition to the building of TMT on Maunakea by hundreds of UH community members and many more in the wider community for a variety of reasons.
  • There is also substantial support to proceed with construction.
  • There was serious concern about the Emergency Proclamation made by Governor Ige as it relates to the health and safety of UH students, employees and other community members on Maunakea.
  • Astronomers and observatory staff are extremely concerned about their lack of access to the current observatories and the future of astronomy on Maunakea.

I believe a number of recent events are moving us in a peaceful direction that is positive for all the people of Hawaiʻi.

  • Yesterday Mayor Kim shared comments about his meeting late last week with Native Hawaiian leaders from across the community. They have agreed to continue to work together to try and find a peaceful resolution.
  • All parties on the mauna have agreed to the installation of a traffic light at the intersection of the highway and Mauna Kea Access Road. This is a positive step forward for the safety of all on the mauna and for all on Hawaiʻi Island who use the highway.
  • Progress has been made toward improving access to the mauna by both cultural practitioners and workers other than astronomers. It is our hope that routine shared access can be restored soon for all.
  • Today the State approved a request UH submitted on behalf of TMT to extend the construction start deadline. I believe that the pressure of a deadline, which was largely arbitrary due to extenuating circumstances such as completion of legal processes, has not been helpful in trying to resolve this extraordinarily complex situation. Although the removal of this deadline gives us more time to work together toward peaceful resolution, I acknowledge that some members of our community will be upset.
  • Since there are no imminent plans to move the TMT construction equipment up the mauna, Governor Ige has now lifted the Emergency Proclamation. This follows the departure from Maunakea of police officers from Honolulu and Maui.

I still believe in the educational, inspirational and scientific benefits that TMT and modern world-class astronomy can bring to the people of Hawaiʻi. I realize that TMT now represents a huge source of friction in our work to become a model indigenous-serving university and Hawaiian Place of Learning. We will need many conversations over the months ahead to work on that together. My heart and mind are open as I continue to listen and share.

Let me close with my biggest concern: we need to keep the fabric of our university from being torn apart. In a time of differing opinions, points of view, historical understandings, and lived experiences, we can learn from each other and ultimately strengthen our community. I am committed to accomplishing this with you.

Aloha,
David Lassner
President

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