Tuesday, March 17, 1998

Kamehameha union
vote was justified

THE vote of the Kamehameha Schools faculty in favor of forming a union is another slap in the face of the Bishop Estate trustees. Teachers said the 186-36 vote was not based on economic issues but on a need to protect the right to speak freely about school management and to have a larger role in policy decisions.

There have been many accusations from both the faculty and alumni of Kamehameha that trustee Lokelani Lindsey has created a climate of fear on the campus and foisted oppressive rules on the faculty and students. Lindsey even tried to intimidate a student leader in an attempt to fend off criticism.

The faculty has in effect organized to defend itself against Lindsey and her supporters among the trustees. This amounts to another vote of no confidence in the trustees' management of the schools.

Coincidentally, the co-chairman of the Kamehameha Schools Faculty Association, which will become the bargaining unit for the teachers, is Robert Holoua Stender, a relative of maverick trustee Oswald Stender. Robert Stender said the unionization "is not about money." He said, "We're doing this for school improvement. We're looking to work with the president, the administrators and the trustees to try to form a collaborative union to better our school."

It is that collaboration that has been so glaringly lacking at Kamehameha in recent years, resulting in an unprecedented revolt against the trustees. Union organization can sometimes lead to more friction but in this case it is clear that the faculty needed the protection that a union can provide. Ultimately this decision may lead to greater harmony on the Kamehameha Heights campus -- if the move to oust the culpable members of the board of trustees succeeds.

Bishop Estate Archive

Sex in the military

THE Army's top sergeant has been cleared of most charges of sexual misconduct, but the verdict should put the military justice system on trial. The evidence against Sgt. Maj. Gene McKinney seemed compelling. The supposition that jurors felt it fell short of the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard is implausible. The verdict may have been based at least in part on loyalty, rank and military culture. The decision seems to warrant an extensive review of the military's handling of cases involving allegations of sexual misconduct.

Army jurors in Maryland last year demonstrated their intolerance of sexual assault within the ranks, sentencing a drill instructor to 25 years in prison for raping six female trainees and other offenses.

By contrast, most of McKinney's alleged offenses, which involved sexual harassment and, in one case, coercing a female sergeant to have sex, would not trigger criminal charges in civilian life, but would be grounds for civil suits. However, the Uniform Code of Military Justice sets higher standards of conduct in order to maintain an orderly fighting force and prevent abuses of power in the military's stratified hierarchy.

The prosecution brought forth little physical evidence and the defense attacked the credibility of McKinney's accusers. But the six accusing women, who initially had no knowledge of each other's allegations, gave remarkably similar accounts of their encounters with him. The women came forward with their allegations at considerable risk to their military careers, and the verdict is likely to discourage other women with such grievances from lodging complaints.

The verdict indicates the criminal justice system may be ill equipped to deal with the issue of sexual harassment. The question is how charges of sexual harassment can be addressed in the armed forces in ways other than felony-level courts martial without being trivialized.


China's human rights

BILL Clinton came into office denouncing China's humanrights violations and vowing to withdraw its most-favored-nation trade status. In 1994 he did a sharp about-face on trade. Now the administration is abandoning the campaign to have the United Nations Human Rights Commission condemn China -- an effort that has been going on for eight years, since the 1989 Tianamen Square crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

A prominent dissident, Wei Jingsheng, said the result will be that the Chinese government will "increase the oppression of its people." Wei said the decision "made the work of all human-rights organizations and activists more difficult."

In exchange for the United States' dropping the U.N. resolution, China agreed to sign the U.N. Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. But no agreement Beijing has signed in the past has ever prevented the regime from violating human rights, and this is likely to be no exception. China also may release some political dissidents, but this would be a small price to pay.

Ending China's most-favored-nation status never seemed realistic and Clinton was wise to back away from that position. But limited sanctions and continued pressure in the United Nations and other forums were reasonable alternatives and they should not be abandoned until China reforms.

Although the resolutions failed every year to win passage, the 1995 resolution fell short by only one vote. The annual exercise was a way to publicize Beijing's tactics. It forced the regime to line up governments that would vote in its support. In short, it was an irritant that made China pay at least a small price.

Beijing has never admitted human-rights violations and now it will see even less reason to do so. China is certain to view this decision as a green light to continue repression of dissent and other violations, including the grisly extraction of organs from executed prisoners.

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