UH leader to reveal stance on Navy center
University of Hawaii interim President David McClain is scheduled to announce his decision on a controversial Navy research center at the Board of Regents meeting Thursday, according to the meeting agenda.
McClain is slated to give his monthly report to the board after a public comment period. Listed on the agenda as an "information only" item is the "recommendation concerning the University Affiliated Research Center."
The meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. at Honolulu Community College.
Opponents of the Navy's University Affiliated Research Center say the program would boost classified research and violate the school's motto, which calls for a "Hawaiian place of learning," by further militarizing the islands.
UARC supporters emphasize the role it would play in furthering Hawaii's technology industry by attracting research funding from the Defense Department.
Gary Ostrander, vice chancellor for research and graduate education at Manoa, said he was still revising the proposed Navy contract to make its language acceptable to more faculty members.
"There has been a few conversations here and there about some things on the contract," Ostrander said, declining to elaborate.
In the last few weeks, faculty leaders at two UH campuses on the Big Island joined the protest against the multimillion-dollar Navy research center, which could be the nation's first new research partnership between the military and a U.S. university in more than 50 years.
The Hawaii Community College Faculty Senate voted 21-1 on Jan. 27 to back a resolution passed last year by the Manoa Faculty Senate that advised against the center. Last week, the resolution was again endorsed, this time by the College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Senate at UH-Hilo.
Lou Zitnik, Faculty Senate chairman at Hawaii Community College, said a group of professors who passed the resolution wanted to voice their concerns with the center before McClain reached a decision.
"It was with the idea that President McClain might be making a decision soon," he said.
"The Hawaiian community is involved, and people in environmental groups are concerned about the island," Zitnik said when asked which groups have been critical of the center.
At UH-Hilo the College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Senate represents "the vast majority" of professors at the school, said Robert Fox, physics professor and senate chairman.
"It was a statement in support of the decision taken by the Manoa senate," he said.
In November, faculty representatives at the university's flagship Manoa campus on Oahu voted 31-18 against the center.
The country's four Navy-backed centers are at the University of Washington, Pennsylvania State University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Texas at Austin. Hawaii was recommended as the fifth center in July 2004.
Star-Bulletin reporter Craig Gima and the Associated Press contributed to this report.