Tuition waivers forBy Susan Kreifels
Hawaiians gain support
Aloha Kekoolani, a single mother, is the only one of five children in her native Hawaiian family to get a university degree.
She's working four part-time jobs up to 55 hours a week and has a student loan to get her through her last year of a master's degree in Pacific island studies at the University of Hawaii.
Others in her family dropped out of school because of money.
Kekoolani, 35 and nearly half Hawaiian, was outraged yesterday at the suggestion that education is not important to the state's indigenous people. "There's no way our parents or grandparents didn't want us to get an education," Kekoolani said at a UH Board of Regents committee meeting. "I'm doing this for my daughter's future."
She was one of about 20 students and staff members at the meeting to support a resolution passed by the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii at Manoa favoring tuition waivers for all Hawaiian students.
Regents voted to sponsor public hearings on the issue at every UH campus as soon as possible.
A state Senate bill would give UH $7.2 million for a year of free tuition for all 6,235 Hawaiian students in the university system.
A House bill would grant tuition waivers for 500 additional Hawaiian students; 250 receive them now.
Student regent Wayne Panoke, a Hawaiian, said the board should have taken a stand on tuition waivers long ago. "I cannot as a regent sit here with UH sitting on 16,000 acres of stolen land," Panoke said. "Once and for all, we must take a position that the Legislature might not like. We are an independent governing body."
Lilikala Kameeleihiwa, director of the Center for Hawaiian Studies, said Hawaiians want education, but money is the major hurdle that keeps them from receiving degrees.
She said that education was the key to improving the lives of native Hawaiians and that tuition waivers would be a "turning point in Hawaii history."
Regent Ah Quon McElrath said there was a "thrust against UH to provide free tuition because it sits on ceded land." McElrath raised jeers from the crowd when she referred to 30-year-old research that suggested Hawaiian parents didn't value education.
McElrath said all factors should be considered when discussing education problems of the Hawaiians.
Kameeleihiwa called the research outdated and not reliable.
The University of Hawaii Board of Regents voted yesterday to change the name of the College of Hawaiian Language at UH-Hilo to Ka Haka Ula O Keelikolani, in honor of a former governor of the Big Island in the 1800s.
College named for Keelikolani
Keelikolani was known for her devotion to traditional Hawaiian culture and preservation of the Hawaiian language. People in Hilo believe the governor used her mana to intercede with the goddess Pele to stop the 1881 lava flow near the UH-Hilo campus. UH-Hilo students annually march in her honor during Hilo's Merrie Monarch Parade.