Bachman face lift has detractors
Some students urge UH leaders to spend the $100 million on more pressing repairs
Some students are questioning why the University of Hawaii's top administration building should get a face lift before classrooms, dorms and other buildings in need of an estimated $100 million in repairs and maintenance.
"The nicest buildings on campus are always for administration," said Grant Teichman, president of the Associated Students of UH-Manoa.
Teichman noted that less senior Manoa administrators are housed in Hawaii Hall, which was renovated in 2001 at a cost of more than $10 million.
"Clearly, there are other buildings that are falling apart," Teichman said.
UH spokeswoman Carolyn Tanaka said repairing Bachman is a matter of public safety.
"It's a public courtyard," she said, "so the repair and maintenance had to be done."
Named after political science professor Paul Bachman, the building, completed in 1949, is home to UH President David McClain's office, the Board of Regents, the UH Foundation and the offices of other senior university officials.
With its soaring columns, open courtyard and Jean Charlot mural in the entranceway, Bachman Hall is also one of the most distinctive and historic buildings on campus and sits at the gateway to the Manoa campus, University Avenue and Dole Street.
But the columns are crumbling, and metal straps were wrapped around them to hold them together. The repair work, which began in April, involves replacing the columns. It will not involve refurbishing the inside of the building, nor will it involve landscaping of the neglected garden in the center of the courtyard.
According to Tanaka, the project is ahead of schedule and expected to finish in late August.
Over the years, Bachman Hall has also been the scene of numerous protests. Students occupied Bachman during the Vietnam War. More recently, opponents of a Navy research center occupied the president's office there for a week last May.
The most recent protest at Bachman occurred in March and April when activists opposed to the university's patents on taro demonstrated there.
The taro protesters say once the renovation of Bachman is complete, they will build an ahu, or altar, in Bachman's courtyard -- a symbol of native Hawaiian government.
"This is symbolic because a sign of our government will sit in the center of the university's government," said Manu Kaiama, director of the Native Hawaiian Leadership Project.
The altar will be built using rocks, or pohaku, taken from a rock garden at Bachman during the protest earlier this year.
"They can leave the ahu there for as long as they need," Tanaka said.
Protesters were directed to take home the rocks, which Hawaiians believe have spirits. According to Kaiama, the garden's untidy appearance showed that "the administration was not taking care of the people."
The rocks were used to make a wooden structure on Bachman's lawn in celebration of Kukahi Day, which takes place when the stars and moon are in the right alignment, Kaiama said. Unused rocks remain on the lawn as a holding area until construction is complete.
"There wasn't really any reaction" when the ahu was built, Tanaka said. "We respected the rights and viewpoints of the organizations."