Price of Paradise


Is there room
for non-Hawaiians?

With public education in Hawaii in low repute and private school tuition soaring, the recent decision by Kamehameha Schools trustees to admit a non-Hawaiian student riveted the attention of Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian parents alike. The "Price of Paradise" asked, was this the right move or should the Kamehameha Schools admit only Native Hawaiians as they have in the past?

Preference was gift | Trustees were right




Hawaiian preference
was the princess’ gift
to her people

By Oswald Stender

WHILE the furor over the acceptance of a non-Hawaiian student at Kamehameha Schools' Maui campus has settled somewhat, misinformation continues to proliferate throughout our Hawaiian communities, spread by the press and those individuals who give new meaning to the will of our beloved Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop and the writings of her husband, Charles Reed Bishop.

We create meanings to the written word influenced by our preferences, our biases, our passions, our life experiences and what someone told us yesterday. We pontificate and make grand pronouncements as to what we "know." This, therefore, is my own -- perhaps biased -- view on the subject of admissions at Kamehameha Schools' Maui campus.

ALTHOUGH no one -- other than the trustees and certain staff members of Kamehameha Schools -- will ever know how and/or why the incident occurred (the admission of a non-Hawaiian student), the only thing that matters now is whether the trustees will demonstrate that "all of us want Kamehameha Schools to serve as many Hawaiians as possible because it is the wish of our beloved princess."

The Kamehameha Schools and their policy of "Hawaiian preference" is a legacy left by Ke Ali'i Pauahi to her people -- the children of Hawaiian ancestry. It is a gift of her private wealth. It is an entitlement freely given to a special group of people she loved.

The princess had a deep concern for their welfare in a cultural environment so foreign that she felt that only through education could her people survive to "become industrious men and women."

THERE IS absolutely no nexus between the Hawaiian preference for admissions and the Rice vs. Cayetano case, the Bob Jones University case, the Arakaki case, the Barrett case, or the U.S. and Hawaii state Constitutions. The Maui admissions incident was not, as some have argued, an IRS issue, a racist issue, or a "1992 Admissions Policy" issue.

The 1999 IRS threat to revoke the tax-exempt status of the Bishop Estate had nothing to do with the admissions policy; it had everything to do with the mismanagement of the trust. In fact, in 1999 the IRS reaffirmed the Kamehameha Schools' tax-exempt status and its admissions policy for the third time.

There always have been threats by those who govern and by those who feel that Hawaiians alone are not entitled to this legacy left by our princess. A threat or a challenge does not make it law, rule, or a lawful case.

AS BENEFICIARIES, alumni, Kamehameha Schools Ohana, and the Hawaiian community, we will protect this legacy until all Hawaiian children have been educated to "become industrious men and women."

We need to touch every child in Waianae, Waimanalo, Anahola, Paukukalo, Waiehu, Keaukaha, Hauula, Kekaha and Hana. We must continue to give preference to our Hawaiian children until all 48,000 -- and all those who come after them -- have been touched by this legacy.

I have always maintained that the most cost-effective way to reach great numbers of Hawaiian children is to charter public schools in neighborhoods that most need it. While this would educate a large number of Hawaiian students, children who are not of Hawaiian ancestry also would benefit from the princess' legacy.

THE CURRENT admissions policy favors only the best and the brightest. It ignores the majority of our Hawaiian children who are falling through the cracks because "... Kamehameha Schools selects applicants who demonstrate a potential for success in this rigorous educational program."

There is great need for educating our Hawaiian children and, until Kamehameha Schools reaches out to touch each of them, some of these children will be lost forever. We cannot let this happen.

Ke Ali'i Pauahi left her legacy to children of Hawaiian ancestry because she wanted them to survive in the Western world. How can we not fulfill her wishes?

Oswald Stender, a 1950 graduate of Kamehameha School for Boys, is an Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee and a former trustee of the Princess Pauahi Bishop Estate and CEO of the Estate of James Campbell.



Kamehameha Schools’
trustees made the right
and best decision

By Beadie Kanahele Dawson

ONCE AGAIN, the wrath of the Kamehameha Ohana has exploded in the faces of the trustees of Kamehameha Schools.

Angry alumni, parents, families and faculty have attacked the trustees of Hawaii's most beloved Native Hawaiian institution because of their "sudden" admission of a non-Hawaiian student into the Maui campus, shouting: "Shame!" "Resign!" "Reconsider!" "Hawaiians only!" "Trustees not qualified!"

Whoa, Nellie! Let's take time out and look at the facts, history and law.

First, the Kamehameha Schools' admission policy was not changed, secretly or otherwise, to admit the non-Hawaiian student. The policy is the same today as it was some 70 or more years ago. Where there is a vacancy and Hawaiian applicants are lacking, a non-Hawaiian applicant may be admitted.

WHAT happened this summer was an unfortunate failure of administrators and the trustees to incorporate the Kamehameha Ohana into the decision-making process before going public.

At a most sensitive time, when more and more Native Hawaiian cultural and land assets are being diminished and eroded by non-Hawaiians, the most important stakeholders of the schools -- the Kamehameha Ohana and the Native Hawaiian people -- heard about the decision after the fact.

Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop's will and the schools' admission policy are rooted in the 1880s when Hawaii was a kingdom. Ke Ali'i Pauahi was aware of the displacement and the decimation of her people (from more than 400,000 to 40,000), the result of foreign disease, a foreign style of land tenure and foreign politics.

Knowing her people often lacked the education and jobs to survive, she wrote a will and trust, which focused principally on education. Her trustees were "... to devote a portion of each year's income to the support and education of orphans and others in indigent circumstances, giving the preference to Hawaiians of pure or part aboriginal blood."

Moreover, the princess gave her trustees "... full power to regulate the admission of pupils. ..." Pauahi's will clearly requires and authorizes the trustees to give preference to Hawaiians at the Kamehameha Schools.

NOWHERE does her will require the schools to educate all Hawaiian children, all the children of Hawaii or only Hawaiian children exclusively. Calls for Kamehameha to exclusively admit only Hawaiians are misplaced. They may jeopardize the trustees' efforts to educate Hawaiian children and place the schools' tax-exempt status at risk.

Any move to open the schools to all children in Hawaii would not only violate terms of the will but also trigger a revolution in opposition, one that I would gladly join.

Defending a Hawaiians-only, racially exclusive admissions policy in court is a bigger problem, however, than finding room for thousands of Hawaiian applicants or calming angry Native Hawaiians.

Under the circumstances, with a limited and exhausted pool of Native Hawaiian applicants for the eighth grade at the Maui campus, the trustees made a prudent legal decision, choosing the only option available to them at the time.

THE LEGAL issues are complex and uncertain and the risks are huge. Some believe the precedent of the IRS revocation of Bob Jones University's tax exemption may apply to the Kamehameha Schools. If so, the IRS could demand back taxes for six years or for the entire 50 years since the schools attained tax-exempt status.

Randy Roth, a professor at the Richardson School of Law, wrote an excellent article on trust law, recent court rulings and IRS decisions in the Star-Bulletin's July 28 Sunday Insight section. Everyone interested in this admissions controversy should read it in its entirety.

Trustees are required by law to preserve the trust in perpetuity and defend its tax-exempt status. Their fiduciary duties include upholding the terms of the will within the confines of the law and in the best interests of the trust and its beneficiaries. They are not, however, required to give priority to the representation of the entire Hawaiian community.

While the trustees may have failed Public Relations 101, they have acted in the best interests of the trust and its beneficiaries. Their decision promises a better future for all.

Should Kamehameha Schools revert to accepting only Native Hawaiian students? Absolutely not. This was never the policy or intention of the trustees.

Should more non-Hawaiians be admitted in the future? Yes, but only if there are no "pure or part aboriginal blood" applicants to whom the trustees may give a preference.

Beadie Kanahele Dawson, a Honolulu attorney and CEO of Dawson Group, Inc., was legal counsel for the Kamehameha Ohana during the 1997-1999 controversy that resulted in the removal and resignation of five Bishop Estate trustees.




'Price of Paradise'
on the radio

Join the conversation Sunday evenings as "Price of Paradise" takes to the airwaves.

Sunday's topic: Should Kamehameha Schools admit non-Hawaiians?
Who: Guests: Hamilton McCubbin, Kamehameha Schools CEO; Beadie Kanahele Dawson, attorney; Oswald Stender, former Kamehameha Schools trustee; and Roy Benham, Kamehameha alumnus. Host: John Flanagan.
When: 8 p.m.
Where: KKEA, 1420-AM
Join in: Call 296-1420 or toll-free from the neighbor islands, 1-866-400-1420 during the show. Cell phones: Star-1420 or Pound-1420.

Letters to the editor on "Price of Paradise" topics appear on Thursdays in the Star-Bulletin. Send letters to:

Mail: Letters to the Editor, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, 500 Ala Moana, Suite 210, Honolulu, HI 96813


Fax: 808-529-4750

Price of Paradise
The Price of Paradise appears each week in the Sunday Insight section. The mission of POP is to contribute lively and informed dialog about public issues, particularly those having to do with our pocketbooks. Reader responses appear later in the week. If you have thoughts to share about today's POP articles, please send them, with your name and daytime phone number, to, or write to Price of Paradise, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana, Honolulu, HI 96813.
John Flanagan
Contributing Editor

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