Lilikala Kame'eleihiwa, right, outgoing director of the University of Hawaii Center for Hawaiian Studies, was among those who addressed the UH Board of Regents at its meeting yesterday morning.

Hawaiians decry
loss of top UH ally

Students demand reasons for firing

Dozens of native Hawaiian students and faculty at the University of Hawaii protested the regents' decision to fire UH President Evan Dobelle, whom they considered a strong supporter of their community.

"It felt like a stab in the heart," said Lilikala Kame'eleihiwa, outgoing director of the Center for Hawaiian Studies. "Three years is a very short time for a president to prove what he can do. I would've expected them to give him six years."

Several dozen protesters attended yesterday morning's board meeting at the UH Campus Center. Some said they feared that native Hawaiian programs will be in danger without Dobelle's strong support.

Regents Chairwoman Patricia Lee assured them that the board will continue to support native Hawaiian programs, which "will not be jeopardized by Evan Dobelle's departure."

"The promotion of native Hawaiian studies and culture is a key part of our strategic plan," she said.

Lee noted the regents spearheaded a $500,000 allocation this year for the University of Hawaii-Hilo's Hawaiian Languages program.

"While the board's decision (to fire Dobelle) may not be supported by everyone, we would like you to know that the decision was unanimous because the board has access to information to which the public is not privy," she added.

Lee noted that the belief that native Hawaiian programs at the University of Hawaii are in jeopardy is an "unfounded fear."

"(Interim President) David McClain is just as committed, and so is the chancellor and so is the board," she said.

Kame'eleihiwa told the board: "We decided to come here today and to express our views and what's in our hearts and hope that the regents would hear what we have to say, because obviously, yesterday they didn't pay attention. We were there (Tuesday morning) and said, 'Please don't fire President Dobelle,' and they fired him anyway."

Kame'eleihiwa said officials from the Center of Hawaiian Studies plan to attend every board meeting to ensure that their strategic plans for native Hawaiian students are met.

"President Dobelle gave me hope," said Leialii Manoi, a graduate student majoring in Pacific Islands studies. "I'm very shocked. I'm kind of perturbed."


Students demand
reasons for firing

Susan Sanger, president of the Graduate Student Organization at the University of Hawaii, said it's about time UH President Evan Dobelle was fired.

"There has been a lot of questions about the decisions he's made," Sanger said yesterday. "It's troubling to me that we can't pay our professors what they're worth, but we can pay administrators five times that."

Part of the problem is he brought in so many mainland people to fill higher positions in administration with inflated salaries, Sanger added. "I don't think he was right for UH from the get-go."

But still, Sanger and other representatives of UH student organizations said they plan to find out what led to the regents' decision to fire Dobelle.

"I'd like to know exactly how the decision was made, what information was used to make that decision," she said. "Obviously, I have my own reasons for wondering why. Maybe it's not the same reasons."

Some University of Hawaii student representatives said they need more information, also.

Kris Kaupalolo, GSO vice president and legislative co-chairman of the UH student caucus, said students were shocked and amazed by the regents' decision.

"We're still in the dark," said Kaupalolo. "We want to know why the president was released."

"People have questioned Dobelle's performance. ... I think it has been something that has been building up," he said.

The student caucus is expected to meet at 8:30 a.m. June 26 to find out how the regents' decision will affect students.

"The president brought a lot of energy and hope to the campus, especially what he did for native Hawaiians. It was a great step forward," said Kaupalolo.

Mel Hayashi, president of the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii, said his main concern is how the decision will affect students.

"It wasn't what I was expecting," Hayashi said. "We're just going to be in contact with administrators and keep close attention for the next plan of action."

Communications major Teresa Ellazar said she was surprised to hear Dobelle was fired.

"From what I know, he has been doing a good job," said Ellazar, 21. "He hasn't really made any major changes, but had planned to.

"I don't understand. I'm pretty sure they have their reasons. I really don't know what they are," said Ellazar.


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