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Wednesday, September 20, 2000

UH faculty salaries
are falling behind

Bullet The issue: Faculty pay at the University of Hawaii has lagged national averages as a result of state budget cuts in a weak economy.
Bullet Our view: With the economy improving, the state should be able to provide money to deal with the problem and keep UH salaries competitive.

IT'S hardly surprising that after nearly a decade of economic stagnation the state has fallen behind in the area of comparable pay for University of Hawaii faculty. The UH budget has experienced severe cuts as Governor Cayetano struggled to balance the budget without imposing tax increases.

However, that reality doesn't make the facts any more palatable. And now that the state is undergoing an economic recovery the case for a faculty pay raise ought to be considered.

At a Sept. 7 convocation on the Manoa campus, President Kenneth Mortimer departed from prepared remarks to stress that he's committed to pursuing faculty increases at the 2001 state legislative session. "To compete in a global economy," Mortimer explained in an interview with the Star-Bulletin's Helen Altonn, "faculty talent becomes absolutely crucial." But the university has been able to afford only "very modest" salary adjustments in the last seven years, and the result is "the university's ability to compete has eroded."

This is not a mere matter of filling teaching posts. It's about quality. If the university is to fulfill its -- and the state's -- aspirations to excellence, it's got to pay the going rate for top-flight faculty. Because UH has fallen behind many mainland institutions, it is facing problems of recruitment and retention. UH Senior Vice President Dean Smith commented, "The last time I looked, it was a very depressing situation to see what senior faculty are paid, compared with the institutions we're competing with."

According to data from a survey of faculty salaries of institutions belonging to the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges, the average salary nationally for new assistant professors ranges from $50,148 to $84,095. At UH-Manoa the comparable figures are $34,644 to $51,264. Manoa assistant professors in high-demand disciplines can be extended to a maximum of $64,872, far below averages on the mainland.

Many people in Hawaii earn less than UH faculty, but there is no question that faculty salaries must be increased if the university is to attract outstanding scholars and scientists. In recent years UH has scored impressive achievements in research, but it could lose ground unless faculty pay remains competitive -- to the detriment of Hawaii's youth.

A related issue is a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 7 ballot ensuring autonomy for the university. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the freedom from state control won by the university in recent years will not be rescinded by future legislatures.

This freedom -- for example the right to receive lump-sum budgets rather than appropriations for specific purposes -- is considered essential to further progress. There is concern that the amendment may be defeated through voter apathy, not opposition on substantive grounds.

The electorate can do its part to help the university by approving the autonomy amendment. The governor and the Legislature can do theirs by providing funds for faculty salary increases.

Japan’s sex slaves

Bullet The issue: Fifteen World War II "comfort women" have filed a lawsuit in the United States against the Japanese government for being sexually abused.
Bullet Our view: Post-war treaties and a private fund already set up for reparations are likely to be inadequate as a defense against the suit.

THE Japanese government has defeated legal attempts at home to obtain reparations for Asian women who were forced to become sex slaves during World War II. A private fund has been created to thwart those efforts. However, that fund may be insufficient to quash a class-action lawsuit filed in Washington under U.S. law, and Japan may be unable to claim immunity as a sovereign state.

Historians believe as many as 200,000 "comfort women" from mostly China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia and Korea were forced into sex slavery for Japanese troops between 1932 and 1945. The Japanese government has issued formal apologies, including a letter in 1997 by then-Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto that accompanied payments of about $20,000 from the Asian Women's Fund.

The Japanese government says it has distributed $860,000 to the victims through the fund. That may be a satisfactory response to some criticism of the wartime acts of Japanese troops. However, the fund could be of little use in challenging a lawsuit brought by 15 elderly Asian women alleging multiples rapes by soldiers, confinement in squalid conditions, physical abuse and death threats. The suit was filed on behalf of all "comfort women" as well as their heirs.

The suit was filed using the Alien Tort Claims Act, a law enacted 211 years ago to combat piracy that has been effective in recent years as a means of prosecuting human rights cases. It was used in a Honolulu suit that resulted in a $1.9 billion verdict against the estate of the late Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos and forced the settlement of claims against European governments on behalf of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.

A spokesman for the Japanese embassy in Washington said his government "finally and completely settled" its legal obligations from World War II by post-war treaties. That may be a troublesome defense since those treaties ignored altogether the abuse of "comfort women."

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