Friday, September 10, 1999

University of Hawaii

‘Huge mistake’
seen in death of
health school

Although the final vote lies
ahead, regents are expected
to pull the plug

Frosh enrollment up at Manoa

By Susan Kreifels


LIHUE -- After more than three hours of emotional testimony yesterday and a year of protest, supporters of keeping the School of Public Health alive watched University of Hawaii regents move to kill it.

"President Mortimer made a huge mistake," said Mamo Kim, president of the UH-Manoa Graduate Students Organization. "Now, we're going to ask for his resignation."

The regents' Budget Committee, taking the recommendation of UH President Kenneth Mortimer, voted to fold the school into the John A. Burns School of Medicine and make it a program offering a master's degree in public health.

The vote brought tears, hissing and yells for Mortimer to resign from health school supporters. After the vote, about 20 supporters stood in a circle, bowed their heads and held hands.

Final approval of the motion did not come today at the Board of Regents meeting at Kauai Community College because it was not on the agenda. UH spokesman Jim Manke said regents might delay a final vote until they have a full reorganization plan in place for the School of Public Health.

Hours before the vote yesterday, there had been an air of optimism.

Kenji Sumida, appointed by Mortimer to head a task force to study options for the public health school, told regents that the "preferred option is to try to rebuild the School of Public Health and get its accreditation back." His comments received loud applause.

At the same time, Sumida said it would be a difficult task. The school will lose its accreditation in June. The Council on Education for Public Health, the school's accrediting body, said that if it had a commitment from the university by next Wednesday to restore the school, it would consider reaccrediting it.

Most important, Sumida said, was to hire a dean and faculty who were research stars.

But that would be difficult, he said, at a school that was about to lose its accreditation.

The task force report, released yesterday, said it would take at least an extra $845,301 to keep the school open.

Mortimer, who has always proposed folding the School of Public Health into the School of Medicine, said he was unwilling to make the recommendation to keep the school open.

Sumida said folding public health into the medical school was a good option, because the medical school's new dean believes it is an opportunity to improve the medicine and public health programs. The new dean said he would give the public health program "a considerable degree of independence."

The report said that making public health a program with a general master's degree would cost an extra $176,738.

Offering six specializations within the program would cost $778,256.

Accreditation reports since 1985 have cited problems at the school.

"Why didn't this happen in 1996, when the handwriting was on the wall?" Sumida asked.

Regent Ah Quon McElrath said: "If I had my druthers, I would keep the School of Public Health and get rid of the School of Medicine. In a crisis situation, you're now asking us to make a decision. Many problems now besetting the school are indeed of our own making."

Student regent Sat Khalsa was the only one to vote against the motion. He called the school "exemplary."

He said that although the task force recommended a program as a good option, "I still don't buy it."

Regent Clyde Kodani blamed everyone for not "stepping up to the plate sooner.""He said, "I'm disappointed the administration could not get together with the faculty. I'm disappointed with myself for not helping."

The school was put on probation in 1996. Supporters of the school have accused the administration of purposely letting it die.

Bill Woods, president of the school's alumni, said he was "embarrassed and ashamed" by the regents' vote. After the vote, he lashed out at Mortimer for spending much money on sports programs and coaches but not on the School of Public Health.

William Wood, who served as an acting dean at the school, said approving the plan to make public health a program would mean the school would immediately lose its accreditation. That meant that students would be studying in a nonaccredited program. "They didn't even think of that," he said yesterday. "This is in an incredible disarray."

However, this morning Wood said he has spoken with Mortimer, and Mortimer said he would try to postpone any change in the status of the School of Public Health until after June.

UH School of Public Health Library

UH frosh enrollment is
up at Manoa campus

By Susan Kreifels


LIHUE -- Preliminary numbers show that freshmen enrollment at the University of Hawaii-Manoa is up 3 percent this fall, despite budget cuts, faculty morale problems and a critical accreditation report released over the summer.

And with an overall UH decrease of less than 1 percent for two years in a row, UH officials believe that numbers are starting to stabilize since bigger drops between 1995 and 1997.

Overall, UH-Manoa figures were down 1.5 percent to 16,577, but UH-Hilo increased 2.3 percent to 2,757, the biggest jump of all UH schools.

Systemwide, UH enrollment dropped 0.9 percent to 44,858. Community colleges were down 0.8 percent to 24,835.


Fall enrollment numbers were presented at the Board of Regents meeting yesterday at Kauai Community College.

UH officials had feared that numbers might be worse, given the state's and region's poor economy and a string of bad news at the Manoa campus.

But UH President Kenneth Mortimer called the fall numbers "good news" and believes enrollment has started to stabilize after steady declines in the last several years. For example, UH-Manoa had a total enrollment of more than 20,000 in 1993.

Colleen Sathre, UH vice president for planning and policy, said one of the best developments was growing diversity among the students. Fall 1998 numbers showed increases in Hawaiian and Filipino students at UH-Manoa compared with a decade ago.

Hawaiians jumped from 5.3 percent to 8.8 percent of the UH-Manoa student population and Filipinos increased from 6.9 percent to 9.2 percent.

At the same time, the numbers of Caucasians and Japanese dropped. Hawaiians total 20.1 percent of students at UH-Hilo this fall.

Sathre also said access to UH education has improved on the neighbor islands.

"The University of Hawaii system of campuses is the primary, and the for majority of Hawaii's people, the only source of access to higher education," she said.

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