[ OUR OPINION ]
Racial bias probes should
wait for Akaka bill passage
WHILE one hand of the Bush administration is negotiating with Congress on changes to the Hawaiian recognition bill, the other hand appears to be applying pressure on the state to abandon programs the bill is intended to protect. Federal investigations into allegations of racial discrimination favoring Hawaiians should be put on hold while talks aimed at acknowledging Hawaiian autonomy continue.
The federal Department of Education is investigating whether a UH tuition waiver for Hawaiians violates racial discrimination laws.
The Journal of Higher Education reported this week that numerous colleges have abandoned scholarships and programs provided exclusively to minorities. The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights is investigating some of those race-conscious programs, including a University of Hawaii tuition waiver for native Hawaiian students seeking degrees in mathematics and the sciences.
Senator Inouye told the Star-Bulletin's editorial board that proponents of the recognition bill sponsored by Senator Akaka are making headway in negotiations with representatives of the departments of Interior and Judiciary to gain President Bush's support, which is essential. Further pressure by the Office of Civil Rights against Hawaiian programs would serve only to interfere with that progress.
The nationwide movement away from race-conscious programs was in reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last June that the University of Michigan could not accept or reject undergraduate applicants solely on the basis of race. Even before that ruling, the Office of Civil Rights had issued a statement saying, "Generally, programs that use race or national origin as sole eligibility criteria are extremely difficult to defend."
Mary Jo Dively, the attorney for Carnegie Mellon University, told the Journal that "practically every scholar around the country and every general counsel with whom I have talked" agreed with her conclusion that "race-exclusive programs -- except in certain extreme factual circumstances -- are not likely to withstand a legal challenge." She said the exceptions involve special legal circumstances such as programs created to settle desegregation cases.
Two advocacy groups opposed to affirmative action had begun threatening to file complaints to about 100 colleges early last year. The Center for Equal Opportunity and the American Civil Rights Institute maintained that such programs violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans racial discrimination at any institution, public or private, that receives federal funds.
The groups later referred to the Supreme Court's Michigan decision citing the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which bans discrimination at schools regardless of whether they receive federal funds. Lawsuits challenging Kamehameha Schools' Hawaiians-only admission policy cite the 1866 statute.
John Goemans, the attorney for Harold "Freddy" Rice, whose lawsuit led to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2000 striking down the Hawaiians-only restriction in the voting for Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees, said he filed the complaint about the UH tuition waiver program. He also is involved in the lawsuits against Kamehameha Schools and other state programs that benefit exclusively Hawaiians.
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Nut power plant
a shell of an idea
HARVESTING more than snacks from its crops, a nut company on the Big Island will burn shells from macadamias to generate enough electricity to power its operations near Hilo while deriving a byproduct its partner will be able to sell as well. It is a smart, resourceful strategy that makes use of wastes to save money and opens another door to alternative fuels.
A Big Island macadamia processing plant will burn shells to generate its own electricity.
Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corp. has linked up with Kona Carbon Inc. to build a power plant that it says will cut as much as $700,000 from its annual electricity bill. The burned shells produce activated carbon used in filtration systems, which Kona Carbon will market.
Mauna Loa will need an increase of about 10 percent in nuts to fuel the power plant and to meet growing consumer demands for its food products, an encouraging signal to island farmers. When the plant is complete, which Kona Carbon hopes will be late next year, it will employ up to 20 people, not a huge number, but in job-short East Hawaii, every new position is counted as good.
Although the plant will produce just 1.2 megawatts of power, it is enough to keep the machinery going and the lights bright at Mauna Loa's facilities. That it will do so without fossil fuels is the chocolate coating to savor.