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Friday, March 17, 2000

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
The moment it was known that a proposed tuition rate increase
had been voted down, the crowd at the UH Board of Regents
meeting yesterday erupted into cheers.

Students cheer
UH tuition rate
hike defeat

One of the nine regents voting
against the hike says increases
must come, but now
is not the time

By Susan Kreifels


Last night, the University of Hawaii Board of Regents. Next, the Legislature.

Student leaders, feeling empowered by their victory after the regents defeated a proposed tuition increase, plan to march on the Legislature soon to demand a bigger UH budget.

"A lot of time the legislators dismiss education," said Pi'ilani Smith, president of the Associated Students of University of Hawaii, who has led protests for the last few years on UH and native Hawaiian issues. "We want money, accountability and responsibility to education."

Smith said she wants to work with the regents, the UH administration and the community for a unified march.

After almost three hours of testimony against planned tuition increases -- and tension throughout the day after student protesters were locked out of Bachman Hall -- a committee of the Board of Regents voted 9-to-1 against the plan.

Told to eliminate waste

This morning the full board confirmed the rejection of the tuition increase and voted to extend the current tuition for a year.

The regents told the UH administration to find money elsewhere and to wipe out waste and inefficiency before raising tuition.

"We were debating the wrong issue," said regent Nainoa Thompson yesterday. "The real issue is about enrollment, access and getting kids in school.

"The issue of poverty really scares me." he added. "Education is the most powerful tool to combat that."

The proposed tuition increases of 3 to 4 percent throughout the UH system would have raised about $2 million to $3 million.

Everett Dowling was the single regent to support the increases, stressing that UH was not charging close to the true cost of education in tuition fees.

The administration says UH tuition is still lower than schools on the mainland, but students counter that Hawaii's high cost of living has not been considered.

UH President Kenneth Mortimer said it was unclear how UH would proceed.

"Obviously it will make things tougher," Mortimer said. "We've been charged to go back to the drawing board."

Mortimer said he will be looking for new ways to raise money. However, tuition increases can't "be put on the shelf forever."

Regent Billy Bergin said tuition increases must come, but "now is not the time."

First, Bergin said, regents and students must seek more funding from the Legislature by "wearing them down."

Then, he said, they must scrutinize financial aid and "knock on doors" to raise money, become more proactive in improving education for native Hawaiians by resolving the ceded land issues, and crack down on UH waste and inefficiency.

Mauna Kea issue remains

The university sits on ceded lands that had been owned by the Hawaiian monarchy but were taken over by the U.S. government after the kingdom's overthrow.

Some protesters believe all native Hawaiians should be granted free UH tuition.

Students will also be protesting a plan to build more observatories on Mauna Kea. Native Hawaiians consider Mauna Kea sacred land. Regents may take up the plan next month.

Today Donald Kim, the chairman of the Board of Regents, appointed committees to study the Mauna Kea development plan, the ceded lands issue, and the future of the UH lab school.

About 200 protesters gathered Wednesday night for a peaceful "sleep-in" at the campus center. But yesterday morning, 40-50 students were locked out of Bachman Hall when they wanted to attend the regents' executive session.

Later, as regents moved to their open meeting at the Campus Center, three members of campus security grabbed a student who tried to enter the room at the same time.

About 30 security officers from the state sheriff's office were nearby in case of problems, but students insisted they were leading nonviolent protests.

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