Hawaii state capitol

University of Hawaiʻi leadership provided an update on the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 24, to a special committee of the Hawaiʻi State Senate at the Capitol.

UH President David Lassner, Vice President of Administration Jan Gouveia and Board of Regents Chair Ben Kudo described the multiple steps the 10-campus, public university system has taken to address the unprecedented health crisis during the hour-long meeting.

“The balancing act for us is how to complete the semester for our students while keeping everybody safe, both our students and our employees,” said Lassner, adding that it would not be possible without the great work and cooperation of the faculty, staff and public unions.

The update covered the following:

  • System and campus leadership teams meet daily
  • UH participating in daily state government COVID-19 crisis calls/meetings
  • Online delivery courses began March 23, after planning for transition began in February
  • Laboratory and CTE classes that cannot be delivered online have been discontinued
  • Employee work-from-home procedures have been implemented
  • Employees encouraged to work from home, where possible, and where it is not possible, service has been limited
  • Construction on UH campuses continues

“We are continuously reevaluating and are always willing to change our path when we come to a consensus,” said Lassner about the leadership team that telemeets every morning.

Senators had questions about student housing and were assured that the remaining student residents on the UH Mānoa and UH Hilo campuses are being properly cared for. The student housing populations at both campuses are below 20 percent capacity.

Senators also asked about refunds. UH officials said that refunds/credits for items like student housing and meal plans are being finalized but that there are no plans for tuition refunds because the academic semester will be completed.

Lassner acknowledged that more difficult decisions are ahead.

“I donʻt think we have ever seen a crisis like this and I have been around long enough to have been through floods, hurricanes, tsunami warnings and the last financial crisis 11 years ago. And this almost has all of it rolled into one, but with a change everyday, almost.”