Sumida agrees to
lead panel for UH
The five-person group will studyBy Susan Kreifels
whether to keep open a separate
School of Public Health
Kenji Sumida, former president of the East-West Center, has agreed to head a five-person task force to study the future of the public health school at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
UH President Kenneth Mortimer announced the formation of the task force of nonuniversity specialists in higher education, economics, health care administration and health care needs of the state two weeks ago. Other than Sumida, none of the others have formally accepted the invitation, the administration said.
The future of the School of Public Health, which last month became the first in the nation to lose accreditation, has been at the eye of a controversy that included a hunger strike to keep it open.
The administration has proposed making public health a master's degree program under the school of medicine because of UH budget cuts -- an idea that has raised protest from public health faculty, students and professionals who accuse the administration of purposely allowing the school to lose its accreditation.
The Council on Education for Public Health, the accrediting agency, said it might consider reaccreditation if the university showed by Sept. 15 that it has the resources and commitment to keep the school open.
Dean Smith, senior vice president and executive vice chancellor at UH-Manoa, said the administration wants the task force to make recommendations by the Sept. 9 regents meeting.
Smith said the task force will compare and analyze cost-benefits of keeping the school open against other options, hold public hearings, and then make a recommendation to Mortimer, who will in turn make a recommendation to the board.
The issue has become polarized on campus, with numbers and costs varying greatly -- from $50,00 to $700,000 -- to keep the school open.
Regents said they wanted an objective third party to look at both sides.
The Coalition to Save the School of Public Health, made up of student government leaders, public health faculty members and students, and school alumni, yesterday said it would hold its own public hearings next month with the help of U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie.
Abercrombie remains neutral on the issue, but he has agreed to talk at the hearing, the coalition said.
Mamo Kim, president of the Graduate Students Organization and a member of the coalition, said yesterday the coalition wants a public health specialist to be on the task force.
"This is not a financial decision. It's a decision about health," Kim said.
The administration, faced with years of budget cuts, sees the future of the school as a money issue.
John Casken, a school of public health assistant professor, said the coalition would sponsor a fund-raising drive for $50,000 to be used on the school if the regents decide to keep it open.
Casken said $9,000 has already been raised.
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