UH officials say
Hawaiian waivers
will continue

Tuition waivers and reduced tuition for some native Hawaiians at the University of Hawaii will continue, pending an appeal of yesterday's 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision, university officials said.

John Goemans, one of the lawyers who sued Kamehameha Schools, believes yesterday's decision and the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Rice vs. Cayetano will eventually lead to the elimination of all federal and state programs for native Hawaiians.

In 2002, Goemans filed a civil rights complaint against the university over native Hawaiian tuition waivers.

But Mamo Kim, special adviser to the chancellor on Hawaiian affairs, said the tuition waivers and reduced tuition are based on financial need. She said native Hawaiian students would have received the waivers regardless of their race.

Kim also believes trust agreements prior to statehood affirm the policy of granting tuition waivers to native Hawaiians.

Constitutional law expert Jon Van Dyke agrees.

"The University of Hawaii is on ceded lands claimed by the native Hawaiian people. The University of Hawaii and state of Hawaii generally have always felt there's an obligation to recognize and respond to the claims of native Hawaiians," Van Dyke said.

Van Dyke said native Hawaiians are underrepresented at the university and tuition waivers and other programs are a constitutional way to increase native Hawaiian enrollment.

About 100 students receive tuition waivers through the Kua'ana program for native Hawaiian students. UH also grants resident tuition for native Hawaiians who live out of state. Other programs, some of them federally funded, aim to increase retention of native Hawaiians and other students from underrepresented ethnic groups.

Amy Agbayani, the director of the UH Office of Student Equity, Excellence and Diversity, said the university has three programs aimed at underrepresented groups at the university -- the College Opportunities program, the law school pre-admission program and the Imi Ho'ola program at the medical school. Each serves about 10 to 20 students. However, she said, all the programs have multiple criteria, including financial need, and fall under affirmative action guidelines upheld by the Supreme Court in its University of Michigan decision.

Goemans' complaint over native Hawaiian tuition waivers prompted a federal Department of Education investigation into the Kua'ana program.

Federal investigators visited UH-Manoa on the same day federal Judge Alan Kay upheld Kamehameha's admissions policy.

Last week, a U.S. Department of Education spokesman said the investigation had been closed because of the pending court cases on native Hawaiians.

The department could not be reached yesterday to see if yesterday's decision will prompt the agency to reopen its investigation.

Goemans said he believes yesterday's decision reaffirms that native Hawaiian is a racial classification and that any program that gives preference to native Hawaiians is "presumptively unconstitutional."

However, Van Dyke and Agbayani believe the U.S. Department of Education is unlikely to act until the court rules on Arakaki v. Lingle, a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

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