Saturday, September 11, 1999

University of Hawaii

Public health school
at UH seems doomed

Bullet The issue: The University of Hawaii Board of Regents is expected to vote to eliminate the School of Public Health.

Bullet Our view: Repeated budget cuts have forced the university administration to make tough decisions.

THE University of Hawaii's School of Public Health is expected to lose its independent standing and be absorbed by the School of Medicine. The UH Board of Regents committee on budget and long-range planning voted Thursday to eliminate the school despite a task force recommendation that it be retained. The board is expected to ratify that decision.

University President Kenneth Mortimer recommended the change. A UH spokesman explained that Mortimer isn't willing to support the commitment of further resources to the school.

In these times of repeated budget cuts for the university over much of this decade, it is no surprise that tough decisions must be made. This is one of those decisions.

Supporters of the school mounted a massive lobbying campaign to save the school and it seemed possible that they might succeed. A task force appointed to study the issue found that the preferred option was to try to rebuild the school and get its accreditation back.

However, the task force added that folding the school into the medical school -- the option preferred by the regents -- was acceptable.

For years we have been hearing that the university cannot do everything and that it must concentrate its resources in areas where it already excels, such as marine sciences, astronomy and Asian-Pacific studies. This means that budget cuts should not be made across the board; rather, some programs must be dropped in order to strengthen others.

Clearly, this is the only rational approach. Of course, putting the policy into practice can be painful. Every program at the university has its supporters and presumably has value.

This is certainly the case with the School of Public Health, but the president and the regents have decided it is expendable, and it is their duty to make these hard choices. In view of the pressure for budget cuts, it is difficult to judge that this is the wrong decision.

If the school is eliminated, some public health programs will continue in the medical school.

This won't not satisfy the public health school's supporters, but it will salvage some of its work. Public health studies will continue at the University of Hawaii.

Ulster police reform
could ease tension

Bullet The issue: A commission has recommended reforms for the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Northern Ireland's police force.

Bullet Our view: The recommendations are sensible but are likely to face strong opposition.

THE Royal Ulster Constabulary is the police force for strife-torn Northern Ireland. Overwhelmingly Protestant, the force has long been a focus of Catholic-Protestant antagonism. Now a commission has recommended that the constabulary discard its British symbols, accept a neutral name and recruit Catholics as heavily as it does Protestants.

The commission, chaired by Chris Patten, the former governor of Hong Kong, recommended that the constabulary be renamed the Northern Ireland Police Service and that it should embrace a "human rights culture." The commission said the force should aim for 30 percent Catholic representation within 10 years. Northern Ireland is 40 percent Catholic; the constabulary now is only 8 percent Catholic.

The recommendations are sensible steps toward defusing tensions but it won't be easy to win acceptance. The report fell far short of recommending RUC disbandment, the goal of Catholic Sinn Fein politicians and their allies in the Irish Republican Army. Within hours of Patten's announcement, Sinn Fein staged a "Disband the RUC" protest in Catholic west Belfast.

Before calling a cease-fire two years ago, the IRA killed nearly 300 constabulary officers, singling out Catholics for assassination.

Protestants also voiced objections to the recommendations. The Ulster Unionists, who represent much of Northern Ireland's Protestant majority, decried Patten's call to change the force's name and emblem and to ban the flying of the British flag on police property.

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said the Protestant community is apt to be "so outraged by those changes that it will reject the report as a whole." Trimble's support could be crucial. He is supposed to lead a new Protestant-Catholic administration for Northern Ireland.

However, the major Catholic-supported party, the moderate Social Democratic and Labor Party, responded positively, saying Patten's proposals could produce "a police service which can attract and sustain the support of the whole community."

The commission's 175 recommendations came after 15 months of canvassing opinions from audiences across Northern Ireland. Britain's governor for Northern Ireland, Mo Mowlam, pledged to enact the bulk of the proposals, but wants to give local politicians three months to try to build consensus.

Creating a neutral police force could be crucial to the effort to reconcile Northern Ireland's Catholics and Protestants. The Patten commission has provided a basis for action, but implementation is likely to arouse another storm of controversy in a land that has known little else for decades.

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