UH seal in System gold

The University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents approved a resolution on August 20 urging the UH administration to prepare for the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The university, along with all Hawaiʻi state agencies, is expecting what the resolution describes as, “a steep reduction of general fund support” that is expected to directly impact all aspects of operations across the 10-campus system.

The board approved the measure by a vote of nine to two.

“We realize that the decisions of the administration and this board, in the coming months, will affect not only the future survivability of the university but also the personal lives, careers and families of our university community,” said BOR Chair Ben Kudo during the meeting before the board voted on the resolution. “We do not take this responsibility lightly. On the contrary, we take it very seriously and with empathy to all who are involved.”

The resolution describes the current situation as, “a state of emergency,” and calls on the administration to, “expedite the development of a short-term plan to deal with the immediate financial challenges facing the University beginning this fall, and a long-term University plan.”

It also calls on students, faculty, staff and stakeholders to work together to maintain, “the enduring values and continued public service of the University to Hawaiʻi and its citizens.”

About 170 people submitted written testimony (PDF) on the resolution, with the majority voicing opposition to the measure.

Proclaiming an Emergency and Directing Action by the University of Hawaiʻi Administration

WHEREAS, the recent onset of the COVID-19 (“COVID”) pandemic has engendered major and significant adverse challenges to institutions of higher education in the United States, and has correspondingly generated severe negative effects and extraordinary uncertainty upon the economy of the nation and Hawaiʻi;

WHEREAS, the Administration has and continues to develop, research, monitor, and adopt safety and health protocols to protect faculty, students, staff, and visitors from the COVID contagion;

WHEREAS, in light of the foregoing implementation of safety and health protocols, the University of Hawaiʻi system (“University”) had to abruptly shift to an online learning and a predominantly work-from-home modality since March 2020;

WHEREAS, the impact to the economy of the State of Hawaiʻi has been significant and will result in a steep reduction of general fund support for the continued operation of the University, which may be compounded by an overall decline in student enrollment and associated tuition and fee revenues;

WHEREAS, the duration of the foregoing adverse financial impacts to the University, its faculty, students, and staff is anticipated to be for at least several years or longer, and will have direct impact on all aspects of continuing University operations including but not limited to its academic programs; course offerings; repair and maintenance of facilities; and utilization of residence halls, auxiliaries, classrooms, and laboratories;

WHEREAS, the University must play a vital role in assisting the State of Hawaiʻi in pivoting to recover from the adversities caused by the pandemic through growing university research, education, and service focused on community needs, including workforce and economic development in sectors necessary for the economic and social recovery of our State;

WHEREAS, in light of the unknown duration and depth of the pandemic’s impact, the Board of Regents (“Board”) urgently desires that the University Administration expedite the development of a short-term plan to deal with the immediate financial challenges facing the University beginning this fall, and a long-term University plan to incorporate a future vision of what the University will be, and must do to pursue its mission through a long-term financial crisis, and to help the State recover and serve Hawaiʻi for a decade and beyond;

WHEREAS, the University Administration, faculty, staff, and student groups have worked diligently, cooperatively, and respectfully in preparing for and implementing changes to deal with the present and future anticipated effects of the pandemic;

WHEREAS, the Administration has undertaken systemwide efforts to unite the University community in protecting and in advancing the best interests of the University system in the face of the pandemic;

WHEREAS, due to the exigency of the current financial shortfall, the Board desires that the Administration implement management measures, in a timely manner, in order to mitigate against the adversities presented by the COVID pandemic;

WHEREAS, in light of such adverse impacts, the Board declares that a state of emergency exists for the University, and recognizes that time is of the essence and that immediate strategic decisions and actions are necessary to maintain the continued viability of the University as an ongoing concern;

WHEREAS, the Board acknowledges that the emergency response of the University to adopt online academic services last semester is a tribute to the resilience, intellectual capacity, public service, and dedication of our faculty and staff; and

WHEREAS, the Board, once again, calls upon the University community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders to come together and to work with all involved in keeping and maintaining the enduring values and continued public service of the University to Hawaiʻi and its citizens.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Administration be directed to take expeditious but measured action in the best interest of and for the welfare of the University community, as set forth below:

  1. Administration shall work with faculty, students, and staff to seek the broadest possible consensus for the greater good in order to maintain the integrity and continued functioning of the University. The Administration is authorized to provide budgetary restrictions and targets to all units, and to utilize whatever available means it has to reduce the operating costs and expenses of the University, including but not limited to, operating expenses, purchases, and personnel costs, in accordance with applicable University policies and procedures, including RP 9.203.
  2. Correspondingly, the Administration is encouraged to invest in and accelerate the development of revenue-generating activities and facilities to offset some of the anticipated reduction in current funding sources.
  3. The University of Hawaiʻi is established as a higher education system, incorporating multiple campuses and levels of educational programs, degrees, and services. Therefore, the Administration’s systemwide authority is affirmed for the purpose of managing units and campuses, revenues, reserves, programs, facilities, and vacant personnel positions for reallocation of those assets for the benefit of the University as a whole with due regard for the interests, rights, privileges, and agreements belonging to those affected.
  4. In addition, it is acknowledged, that the Administration’s purview extends to the necessary and proper use, deployment and freezing of operating funds, on the hiring of new employees, discretionary pay increases, out-of-state travel, major equipment purchases and new contracts, and any other activity or expense subject to University policies and contractual obligations.
  5. In concert with the short-term and long-term plans, the Administration should consider, as appropriate, the temporary or permanent closure, consolidation, reorganization, restructuring and/or merger of physical plant facilities, academic programs, departments, colleges, campuses, and education centers to achieve additional financial and administrative efficiencies, academic effectiveness, focus on the highest needs of the state, and continued viability and health of the public higher education enterprise in Hawaiʻi.
  6. The Administration will prepare an immediate short-term plan for fiscal year (FY) 2020–2021 to be presented to the Board at the earliest practicable time prior to October 1, 2020, which will outline the measures taken beginning in the fall semester, and how the financial shortfall for FY 2020–2021 will be addressed. The short-term plan shall be subject to the review and approval by the Board as to its proposed strategy and approach. It is expected that reserves shall not be expended in a manner that results in a balance below the minimum (5 percent) level.
  7. The Administration will also prepare a long-term plan, which will incorporate a future vision of what the University must do to help the state recover and serve Hawaiʻi for the next decade and beyond. The long-term plan will re-envision how the University will achieve its diverse statewide mission while achieving greater focus, effectiveness, and efficiencies in operations and in the use of its facilities. The plan shall contain the priorities of the University along with the criteria used to identify such priorities, and a public outreach plan to obtain input from the broader community and stakeholders.
  8. Recognizing the exigency of the crisis and the need for significant change to achieve structural (not one-time) savings, the Administration is encouraged to develop processes and proposals for change and consultation on any measures proposed.
  9. Any management actions taken by the Administration to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic shall comply with Regents Policy RP 9.203, and in the consideration, planning, and formulation of any action, the Administration will consult with faculty, staff, and student organizations in a cooperative and collaborative manner and approach, taking into account the interests of the individuals, groups, and entities involved or affected.

Adopted by the Board of Regents
University of Hawaiʻi
August 20, 2020