Rob Perez

Raising Cane

By Rob Perez

Friday, April 6, 2001

UH in danger of
being lost in the fray

LISTEN to conversations around the office. Listen to the radio talk shows. Listen to the banter in the neighborhoods.

A bunch of folks are talking about the teacher strike. Far fewer are discussing the faculty walkout.

That's partly a function of the numbers. The teacher strike affects more than 185,000 students and 12,500 teachers. The faculty strike involves about 45,000 students and 3,000 professors.

The teacher strike has inconvenienced thousands of parents forced to find day care for their youngsters. The faculty strike has inconvenienced thousands of students old enough to fend for themselves.

"The teacher strike has a more dramatic impact on many, many more people," said C.K. Lowe, parent of an eighth-grade student.

But it's more than just the numbers at work.

People seem more concerned about the plight of Hawaii's public school teachers than they do about the plight of UH faculty. They don't consider professors to be as underpaid and overworked as teachers.

"People are not that sorry for the faculty," said Bill Murray, a Chaminade University professor emeritus who teaches management courses. "The average Joe says they're doing pretty well."

But there's a danger in that kind of thinking. If public support tilts overwhelmingly toward the teachers, the Cayetano administration may be emboldened to shortchange the faculty as it tries to restore labor peace to Hawaii's campuses.

"The danger is, they might try to settle (the teacher strike) and ignore us," said James West, a Leeward Community College associate philosophy professor who was walking a picket line yesterday. "There is a fear among some of our members that we're going to get lost in the process."

Although the lower education system can be considered the heart of the community, preparing young people for the work force or college, the university system is more like its soul, educating many of those who will become the community's movers and shakers, the problem solvers, the critical thinkers.

The UH system also is a big contributor to the state's economy. One state report last year estimated the 10-campus operation generates more than $1 billion in economic activity annually.

A vibrant community needs a vibrant university, one that can attract and retain quality professors. People should keep that in mind if the strike drags on and pressure mounts to get instructors back to the classrooms.

Star-Bulletin columnist Rob Perez writes on issues
and events affecting Hawaii. Fax 529-4750, or write to
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu 96813. He can also be reached
by e-mail at:

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