UH housing office audit sought
Students complain of abuses by dorm leaders and no action by housing officials
A former hall director and a resident adviser at Gateway House at the University of Hawaii at Manoa rented out rooms to students last summer and kept the money without the knowledge of the university housing office, students told state senators.
The allegations came out last week during a hearing on a Senate concurrent resolution asking the state auditor for a management audit of the UH housing office.
UH-Manoa Chancellor Denise Konan said the university recognizes that there are problems with the housing office, and officials will be conducting a management review of housing with the help of national experts from the Association of College and University Housing Officers.
Solomona Nuusa, a former resident adviser at Gateway House, told the Senate Higher Education Committee that his boss rented rooms to two Japanese nationals. He also presented copies of checks for $958 and $100 to the hall director and a statement from one of the renters, who said she wrote the checks for rent and a deposit for her friend. The students were also told to help paint the building as a condition of their staying there, Nuusa said.
Two other friends of the hall director were also permitted to stay without paying, he said.
Nuusa said the hall director told the summer resident advisers to keep the arrangement a secret and that his boss had threatened violence as part of his management style.
Nuusa said he waited until he was sure he would graduate last fall before going to the housing office with two other RAs to complain.
The hall director is no longer working for housing, Nuusa said.
Undergraduate student government senator Christopher Carroll said he was given an e-mailed copy of a check that another student gave to a resident adviser to allow the student to stay at Gateway during the summer.
"If somebody can go out and rent upwards of five rooms and not get caught, there's a problem there," Carroll said.
Neither the former hall director nor the former resident adviser could be reached for comment.
Wayne Iwaoka, the university's interim vice chancellor for students, said the university's lawyers and the housing office are investigating the information about the former hall director. He was also checking about the other complaint, he said Friday.
Other students who testified complained about sexual harassment by private security guards in the dorms and what they characterized as unreasonable and frivolous searches of rooms or bags by untrained resident advisers.
Students complained about being written up and disciplined because a resident adviser smelled marijuana without finding any.
Grant Teichman, president of the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii, said the housing office also refused to distribute mailings from student government about the searches.
"You have a lot of problems at housing," Teichman said. "I really hope we make some moves to correct these problems."
Carroll said when he moved out of housing, he was forced to pay a $306 fee or he would not be able to register for classes. The housing office has an appeals process, but Carroll said he appealed the fee three months ago and has yet to receive any communication from the housing office.
Sen. Clayton Hee, chairman of the Higher Education Committee, said he found it "unexplainable" that police were not called when reports of sexual harassment and rooms being rented out by workers were brought to the housing office.
"You don't need a degree to know that law enforcement should be called," Hee said.
Hee said last week's hearing shows "a lot of work needs to be done to focus on these issues that the students have raised."
In her written testimony, Konan said the housing office has dedicated employees but is lacking a permanent director.
The housing audit comes as the university is considering turning over the management of a new 814-bed dorm, which is to be built where Frear Hall now sits, to a private company.
Besides the university's management audit, Konan said UH-Manoa will be surveying housing residents to see how they are doing and where they can improve.
She said the administration is also forming a Student Housing Advisory Committee and a Chancellor's Task Force on Student Conduct to get student input on ways to settle conflicts.
The new university ombudsman is also getting involved to mediate problems between the student government, resident assistants and housing staff, Konan said.