UH NAVY RESEARCH CENTER DEBATE
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Yesterday's public meeting before the University of Hawaii Board of Regents about the proposed Pentagon-sponsored University Affiliated Research Center drew a large crowd, including these sign-wavers protesting against the project.
McClain, regents listen to 6 hours of testimony
Supporters of a Navy research center at the University of Hawaii urged interim President David McClain and the Board of Regents to keep the controversial proposal alive despite the objections of the UH-Manoa chancellor and faculty senate.
McClain and the regents heard about six hours of testimony yesterday from supporters and opponents of the University Affiliated Research Center, who raised questions about academic freedom, support for native Hawaiians and the development of high-technology jobs in Hawaii.
After the testimony ended, McClain announced that he would make a decision on the UARC by the February regent's meeting.
Board Chairwoman Kitty Lagareta said it is unlikely that the board would act without a recommendation from McClain.
The board had given preliminary approval to negotiate the UARC contract in November 2004 to former Chancellor Peter Englert on the condition that the chancellor return to the board after consulting with various constituencies on campus.
Lagareta said yesterday's meeting was the first chance the board had to hear about the issue from all sides.
UH-Manoa interim Chancellor Denise Konan told the regents she decided not to recommend the UARC because of opposition by the faculty Senate, student government and native Hawaiians and the need for her administration to concentrate on developing research facilities in Kakaako, where the new medical school is now located.
"There is not sufficient evidence that a UARC would be successful," Konan said.
Supporters, including the Chamber of Commerce and high-technology companies in Hawaii, are asking that the regents keep the UARC negotiations going despite the opposition, perhaps establishing it at the UH system level rather than at UH-Manoa.
The UARC contract could bring up to $10 million a year for five years from research that the Navy would direct to the university in fields where the university excels, such as optics, ocean science and engineering.
However, start-up costs are estimated at $3.5 million, and opponents say it is not guaranteed that any money would come from the UARC.
Supporters from the university included faculty from the engineering and ocean sciences departments. Opponents included students, native Hawaiian faculty and members of the ethnic studies department.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
This group of anti-UARC protesters at yesterday's public hearing included Nicki Garces, shown in the forefront.
Ken Yuen, an engineering graduate of UH-Manoa who works for a local high-technology firm, said the UARC would showcase the university as a high-technology center and provide jobs for graduates who would otherwise have to go to the mainland.
"Reject the UARC and you send the message that high tech is not welcome in the state of Hawaii," he said.
Some opponents said the university should support research that promotes peace.
Joan Lander e-mailed testimony saying, "The University of Hawaii is not a place to study war. ... Do not grovel for UARC money."
Both sides also argued about academic freedom. Opponents said classified research conducted through the UARC stifles academic freedom. Supporters of the UARC testified that their freedom to conduct research would be restricted without UARC funding.
UARC opponents, wearing green T-shirts, held up paper signs saying, "Save UH/Stop UARC" while opponents testified, then flipped the signs over to read "hewa," or "wrong" in Hawaiian, when supporters testified.
About 70 people testified yesterday, and most of the board stayed for about two hours after the meeting had been scheduled to end to hear all those who showed up.
The regents also received more than 100 pieces of written testimony.
Honolulu Advertiser Publisher Mike Fisch was among those writing to urge support for the UARC. Fisch cited the high-paying jobs that could be created.
The UH chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists wrote to the regents in opposition, saying that secrecy over classified research is "intolerable and unacceptable."
UARC opponent Hina Wong grabbed the Hawaiian flag from the back of the room and placed it next to her as she spoke. "You need to remember on whose land you stay," she told the regents.
Wong left the room with the flag, saying she would return it when the university was "pono," or righteous.