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Friday, March 24, 2000


Armed law officers at
UH protest draw criticism

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


University of Hawaii faculty and students say they aren't buying President Kenneth Mortimer's explanation of why 40 armed deputy sheriffs were on the Manoa campus during student protests last week.

"The idea of law enforcement officials on campus -- that should never be allowed unless there is clear, imminent danger to persons, to property," said Ruth Hsu, an associate professor of English, at a public forum yesterday afternoon.

"The university is a free speech zone," she said. "It is a place where people can come and think and talk and debate and disagree ... but it is not a place where we should put the lives of students and faculty and staff in danger with the presence of law enforcement."

The faculty and students say the administration heightened tension on campus as people were protesting tuition hikes and issues related to the native Hawaiian sovereignty movement.

Mortimer told reporters yesterday that the decision to have sheriffs in to assist campus security was made only when students planning on-campus protests told UH officials they could not be responsible for the actions of protesters from outside the university system.

Susan Hippensteele, sex equity specialist in the office of the dean of students, told students at the forum that she had not seen off-campus law enforcement at UH in 15 years of protests and demonstrations.

The difference between those protests and last week's, was that those last week were organized by native Hawaiian students.

"To my mind, that smacks of racial profiling and that is unacceptable," Hippensteele said.

Students and faculty said they don't know whom the administration was trying to protect the public from.

"We're talking about community members and just people," said Piilani Smith, president of the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii. "Does that justify bringing in the extreme number of law enforcement that were armed and ready to move at any given command?"

Mililani Keliihoomalu, a student senator, said students should have been informed that state sheriffs would be on campus during the protests.

Mortimer said that he did not call for the sheriffs to be on campus during the March 16 Board of Regents meeting and that officials will have to think twice before they return.

"I don't believe that we should have armed guards on campus," the president said.

Eugene Imai, UH senior vice president of administration, said that in hindsight, he should have made it clearer that the deputies and accompanying canines and paddy wagons should have stayed off campus.

Mortimer said a review panel, which will include protesters, will take a closer look at last week's events.

UH student newspaper
Ka Leo O Hawaii

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