DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM|
University of Hawaii-West Oahu students marched across the Leeward Community College campus yesterday to protest the possible closure of their school.
UH students push
for Kapolei campus
A regent's comments prompt
a rally by West Oahu enrollees
About 100 University of Hawaii-West Oahu students crowded onto a lanai surrounded by the portable classrooms that make up their small campus and urged the Board of Regents to keep alive their dream of a new school in Kapolei.
"Why limit the educational opportunities for people?" asked student Tiffany Bartholomew, 23. "Where are your priorities?"
Many of the comments were directed at regent Ted Hong, who was booed by students when he was introduced at what was supposed to be a routine campus visit yesterday by state lawmakers and four regents.
At last week's board meeting, Hong suggested UH administration come up with a realistic plan to build the Kapolei campus or close the school.
Hong said yesterday his motion, which was tabled by the full board, was intended to start a discussion on the proposed $350 million Kapolei campus and prod the administration to come up with a plan to build and fund a new campus.
Hong said officials have talked about a permanent campus for UH-West Oahu since 1971.
"Wishes aren't going to get anything done," he said. "Give us more than a wish."
Hong's motion and comments about UH-West Oahu prompted a march and rally yesterday, and sometimes emotional testimony from students who said they would not have a college education without the programs at the campus, where many students have children or work and did not go to college directly from high school.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM|
Eric Flower, right, UH-West Oahu's librarian in charge of academic support, demonstrated a device yesterday to UH regent Alvin Tanaka, left, regent Byron Bender, state Sen. Gary Hooser, regents' Chairwoman Patricia Lee and regent Ted Hong.
"We pride ourselves in providing access to those who would otherwise not have access to higher education," said Bill Pearman, UH-West Oahu chancellor.
The average age of the more than 800 students is 33, and 44 percent of the classes are offered in the evening or on weekends. The school also offers degrees and certificates through distance learning via the Internet or interactive television to Kauai, Maui and West Hawaii.
The current campus does not have any room to expand.
"I humbly ask you not to take my hope away from me," said Waianae resident Keona Leslie, 39, who said he is in recovery from crystal meth addiction and is studying to become a substance abuse counselor.
Graduate James Nelligan, who is studying for his doctorate in history at the University of Illinois, said he got a strong foundation at the school and that because he was a new father, he would not have been able to get his degree if it were not for UH-West Oahu.
State Sen. Gary Hooser (D, Kauai) said he got his degree in public administration from the distance learning program at UH-West Oahu, and that is why he is now in elected office.
University of Hawaii Board of Regents Chairwoman Patricia Lee assured students and faculty at UH-West Oahu that the regents "certainly have no intention of closing West Oahu down."
However, she said the regents are still studying how to pay for construction of a new campus in Kapolei.
Hong said he does not support the plans to build a $350 million campus on 500 acres of state land.
UH spokeswoman Carolyn Tanaka said the administration is working on a revised plan for a permanent West Oahu campus. She added that funding for the campus is not in the current administration bill package for this year's Legislature.
However, Sen. Cal Kawa- moto, a longtime backer of a Kapolei campus, said Saturday that he will introduce legislation to provide $85 million for the first phase of construction, even if some regents do not support it.