Friday, July 19, 2002

At last night's open forum on Kamehameha Schools' admission policy, Ku'uipo Cummings summarized the problems and solutions suggested by each speaker. The forum was hosted by Pau Ike Ahi, a group of educators and students who are beneficiaries of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop.

Kamehameha forum
draws anger

The admission of a non-Hawaiian
brings calls for changes and
trustees' resignations

By Rod Antone

Members of the Kamehameha Schools ohana clearly expressed two things at an open forum last night: smoldering fury and a insatiable need to know the truth about how a non-Hawaiian student was admitted to the school's Maui campus.

"I haven't been able to sleep for days, I've been angry, so, so very angry," said Lilikala Kame'eleihiwa, director of the University of Hawaii Center for Hawaiian Studies.

"We've got a big problem, and we've got to find a solution."

About 50 people gathered at the center's Halau o Haumea to get the jump on community meetings that school trustees have scheduled to begin next month. During an earlier news conference yesterday, trustees said the meetings would focus on getting in touch with the local community about the issue.

"We want to do a better job of providing more information," said Chief Executive Officer Hamilton McCubbin. "We're going to reach as many as we can." He added that there are many Hawaiian people who believe "they don't have a chance" to get in.

Some last night said it might be already too late for that and suggest that substantial changes may be needed to the school's day-to-day operations.

"Wouldn't it be better to privatize Kamehameha Schools?" asked Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association Director Pohai Ryan. "Think about all the problems that would go away."

"Yes, we would pay a lot of taxes ... (but) if this is a constitutional challenge, this is not the first time it will happen. ... Legal precedence has been set."

Jan Dill, president of the Kamehameha Schools alumni group Na Pua a Ke Ali'i Pauahi, suggested assigning a fact-finder to discover how the student, 13-year-old Kalani Rosell, got admitted in the first place and whether anyone needs to be held accountable.

"When we talk about these things, we're talking from ignorance because we have been given ignorance," said Dill. "What we need is someone who has an objective mind and a Hawaiian heart to gather the truth and make it public so we as Hawaiians can make decisions that are pono (right)."

One conclusion that several speakers already have reached is that the current trustees need to step down, no matter what their reasons for allowing Rosell into the school.

"Whether it was a mistake or a plan ... they should resign," said Jonathan Osorio, a UH Hawaiian studies assistant professor. "They do not have the courage and the will to fight.

"If we don't fight now, we will leave nothing for our children to fight with."

Earlier this week, former trustee Oswald Stender asked that the trust cancel its decision to admit Rosell. Last night, however, Stender appeared to have changed his mind, saying that the school could open itself up to a potential lawsuit should the teenager be denied now.

Even so, Stender did emphasize that the school's admission process needs to be changed, if not completely revamped, to avoid more trouble in the future.

Last week, McCubbin said the school accepted the student after the Maui campus admitted all applicants of Hawaiian ancestry who met their admission requirements.

"What the trustees have been saying in the last few days is that our Hawaiian children are not good enough, they do not measure up, therefore they cannot get admittance," Stender said. Later he added, "You can take a child out of an intellectually depressed environment and improve on them -- that's what Kamehameha's job is.

"(Instead) the thinking is to build an elitist institution. That's not what Bernice Pauahi had in mind."

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