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Hawaii’s World

By A.A. Smyser

Tuesday, March 28, 2000

How the UH
can be improved

SOME ambitious goals are being set at the University of Hawaii.

Bullet Football coach June Jones wants to reach the Top 20 nationally.
Bullet Business Administration's new dean, David McClain, wants his college to be "the best business school in the world with an Asia-Pacific focus."
Bullet Medicine's new dean, Edwin Cadman, also aims to put his college in the Asia-Pacific forefront.
Bullet Astronomy is an established leader just for its Mauna Kea base.

The university is far better already than many critics allow -- and immensely diverse. How to make it still better?

A UH-Manoa support group called The Forum gathers periodically to talk about this. Architect Francis Oda is the chairman.

Here are some scribblings from its last dine-and-talk session with about 100 people attending, some university-connected, most not:

If you don't change you may become extinct...The fact of change is accepted as inevitable -- but how?

Our reality is a tremendous resistance to change compared to elsewhere...A lot of egos will need to be parked at the door...Dedication to a job culture must not outweigh emphasis on an academic culture.

Chattanooga, Tenn., turned itself around by getting everyone in the city "on the same page"...UH Manoa and its satellite campuses should think of themselves as an ohana. They should promote more speakers to talk about the whole university.

Manoa could learn from its community colleges.

Our community has fallen far short of taking responsibility for the university. Is the community good enough for the university? Is the university good enough for the community?

Students are custom-ers...nontraditional students who take more than four years to graduate will increase...outreach courses will increase.

Problems include sharing patent wealth, internal communications, shifting emphasis from inputs to outcomes, integration with society. It's hard to find something on campus to be passionate about.


U.S. land grant colleges were established beginning in the mid-1800s to help make higher education available at less cost than elite institutions. UH is one. It has responsibility to the public in three areas: basic education, research and community service.

ANNUAL funding from the territory and state of Hawaii since its 1909 founding has been a fact of life for UH but has leveled off. This has forced cutbacks and more reliance on research grants and contributions from UH alumni and the public.

The fund-raising arm of the university is the University of Hawaii Foundation. It has had moderate success in increasing alumni giving, rather more in winning large benevolent grants but still is well short of a goal once envisioned by President Kenneth Mortimer to build an endowment of $500 million to give UH a steady flow of extra income.

Mortimer is optimistic the state Legislature this year will propose a constitutional change to assure UH more autonomy. That will facilitate management. It also may put more people in a giving mood because politics will be minimized.

University of Hawaii
Ka Leo O Hawaii

A.A. Smyser is the contributing editor
and former editor of the the Star-Bulletin
His column runs Tuesday and Thursday.

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