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Saturday, April 22, 2000

UH marine
program needs
bailing out

Budget cuts are sinking
the Marine Option Program,
begun in 1971

Pros urge program's retention

By Helen Altonn


A University of Hawaii-Manoa program that has given thousands of students ocean-related experiences and training needs a $150,000-a-year sponsor to survive.

University of Hawaii The Marine Option Program is a victim of budget cuts in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.

Unless the program is funded and absorbed in the Manoa system, program director Sherwood Maynard said he will stop accepting students.

"It's a real tragedy. It's the students getting hurt," he said. "There is no provision for (150) students currently in programs to see certificates through to completion."

Dean C. Barry Raleigh said the school's state funding is being cut by $1.5 million over three years and that the Marine Options Program is not a core program, so he cannot continue it.

In other moves to shave costs, he said four school administrative support staffers have been laid off, and the Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes in Hilo has been closed.

When faculty members leave, retire or die, only half of the money institutes and departments were receiving for salaries is returned, he said.

"These are all cost-savings measures forced on us by the 4-4-4 plan," he said, referring to the UH administration's annual 4 percent across-the-board budget cuts.

Federal and other research grants make up the bulk of the school's $50 million annual budget. The school receives only about $14 million in state general funds for education and salaries, now being cut, Raleigh said.

Maynard feels Raleigh is targeting the Marine Option Program's undergraduate program and that "once the undergraduate program goes, two graduate programs --ocean policy and maritime archaeology and history -- are going to collapse as well."

At odds with mission

Raleigh said it is a good program but, as most of the students are from other university units, it does not fit with the school's mission of research and teaching undergraduate and graduate students for degrees.

He said the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology created a degree program for undergraduates in marine environmental sciences two years ago and raised private money to support it. "We've done more than most units to create new educational opportunities for undergraduates."

Maynard said Marine Option Program offerings at UH-Hilo and community colleges can continue because they are funded by those campuses. "But they look to the Manoa operation for leadership and coordination. ... They would be decoupled from that."

Since the marine science program began in 1971, he said, 650 students have graduated with certificates statewide. An estimated 10,000 students have gone through the program, involving 11 credit courses.

Most certificates can be earned in two semesters but usually take longer because the work is done in addition to degree programs.

Many students are from arts and sciences and other areas, and just want to learn more about the ocean.

"If you look at most of the ocean-related government agencies and many businesses ... our students are out doing ocean things all over the place ... really around the world," Maynard said.

Budget of $150,000

The Manoa program has a budget of $150,000 in state funds this year. It also has received $225,000 in federal and other grants for student stipends or wages for jobs or projects they undertake to earn certificates, Maynard said.

Last year, the program generated about $85,000 in tuition and fees.

Maynard said Raleigh took away one of his positions last May and is not allowing him to fill two others. All that is left of staffing, he said, "is me and student help."

Raleigh said he told Maynard last summer that "unless something happened to help him out, MOP was in trouble."

He said he suggested that Maynard try to raise private funding or apply for federal funds available for science learning.

Marine Option Program alumni are writing and calling UH administrators to try to save the program, and "they are living examples of how a university education can help somebody live a better, more meaningful life," Maynard said.

His hope is that UH President Kenneth Mortimer will shift the program to the College of Arts and Sciences.

"In principle, everybody seems to agree that would be a good new home for us, but nobody is willing to put up money and positions for us."

Ocean professionals
urge program’s retention

A state aquatic biologist says it is
'irrational' and 'myopic' to let it die

By Helen Altonn


State aquatic biologist Tom Iwai and Kahuku Shrimp Co. owner Bruce Smith are among those urging retention of the Marine Option Program at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.

Iwai, who works at the Anuenue Fisheries Research Station, was the first UH student to receive a Marine Option Program certificate in 1972.

Smith has turned to the program to obtain hatchery specialists for his shrimp-rearing operation.

Iwai was at UH majoring in zoology, with a minor in marine sciences, when John Craven and Jack Davidson started the program in 1971.

"I happened to be an interested student trying to find hands-on experience in the marine science field," Iwai said. "It was very limited at the time and very difficult to get into a networking environment."

The Marine Option Program enabled students to get marine-related experience and contacts, he said.

He earned a certificate in freshwater prawn aquaculture, and has been an aquatic biologist for 25 years.

"It's like an extracurricular certificate," he said, because it is not required. "Private businesses know you have an individual going above and beyond what's necessary to graduate from UH. Attitude in today's business environment is very important."

Source of employees

At the shrimp company, Smith said, "We find it very useful to have a university program that has a focus on the kind of business that we're in.

"When we need hatchery specialists who have a marine biological orientation, the MOP program is a natural for us, and we have made use of them over the years."

He said his company has relied on the Marine Option Program to select candidates for employment, and "from them we have harvested two very successful employees, one of whom is still with us.

"We would like to see it continue for that reason alone."

Iwai said he worked as a program volunteer with Bishop Museum ichthyologist Jack Randall and gained some political insight as a legislative intern following marine-related bills.

He also did research on artificial reefs at Waianae under a National Science Foundation grant to the Marine Option Program, although he had graduated from the program at that point, he said.

He worked with undergraduates before going on to get a Master of Science degree in animal nutrition.

'Devastating' to students

Iwai said it "will be devastating to kids coming through the system" if the marine science program is closed.

Many are in the same position he was, without the opportunity or finances to go to college elsewhere, he said.

Also, the Marine Option Program does not cater only to academic research or marine biology scientists, but has a broader scope -- giving students in all fields an ocean perspective, he said.

"This is very important. Growing up in Hawaii, you're surrounded by water. ... It (the Marine Option Program) makes you a more well-rounded, more well-balanced individual, if you want to live and improve conditions in Hawaii."

Iwai said it is "irrational" and "myopic" to let the Manoa program die. "You have to look at the overall benefit -- not only to students, but to the university and overall community."

The Anuenue Station, operated by the Department of Land and Natural Resources at Sand Island, has some Marine Option Program students working as volunteers. They are gaining experience they probably would not have otherwise, Iwai said.

University of Hawaii
UH Marine Option Program

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