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Wednesday, September 6, 2000


Mortimer urges ‘yes’
votes for UH autonomy

By Suzanne Tswei

Voting "yes" to granting the University of Hawaii autonomy over its internal affairs is "essentially a declaration of independence from the vagaries of bureaucracy," University of Hawaii President Kenneth Mortimer said.

By adding autonomy for the university to the state Constitution, "it establishes in a very permanent fashion the university's right to manage itself relative to its educational mission," he said yesterday at a Rotary Club luncheon.

The remarks by Mortimer, who called himself "the chief bureaucrat" in the 10-campus university system, followed Monday's launch of a public education campaign on television. The television spots, which cost $150,000 for production and air time, feature students, community leaders and celebrities urging the public to learn more about the autonomy issue.

The autonomy amendment will be included in the Nov. 7 general election ballot. It asks whether the university shall have self-governance powers.

Mortimer cautioned that blank ballots will count as "no" votes.

"No great public university can be run like a government bureaucracy," said Mortimer, who has announced he'll be leaving the university in July. Having constitutional autonomy would give the university system authority and power of self-governance over its internal structure, management and operation, he said.

Since 1986, the university has enjoyed increasing autonomy, including greater budgetary and fiscal freedom, the right to keep tuition revenues and relief from government red tape in the procurement process, he said. The amendment would free the university from further government red tape.

The amendment would free the university from "having to complete innumerable state forms and take 20 prescribed procedural steps" for business-related travel arrangements, or to submit payroll information three weeks in advance of getting a signed check from the state, he said.

The autonomy would "permit UH to dedicate its time and resources to community partnerships rather than the red tape and over-regulation that often hamper government agencies and organizations," Mortimer said.

Ka Leo O Hawaii
University of Hawaii

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