UH warns $30M proposed cut would eliminate hundreds of positions

University of Hawaii's flagship campus in Manoa, Oahu.
University of Hawaii's flagship campus in Manoa, Oahu.(University of Hawaii (custom credit) | University of Hawaii)
Updated: Mar. 18, 2019 at 3:44 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The University of Hawaii is sounding the alarms about a legislative proposal that would cut $30 million ― and hundreds of positions ― from the institution.

In an update posted online, UH Chief Financial Officer Kalbert Young called the proposal “particularly alarming.”

But senators say the proposal is meant to trim unneeded fat from the university’s budget.

The House and Senate are set to convene for conference committees to hash out the differences between the two budget proposals ― and university officials are worried the $30 million cut will be included in the final version.

Young said senators are proposing to cut $10 million from the university in fiscal year 2019-2020 and $19.5 million the following fiscal year. He said the cuts would directly eliminate 220 faculty and staff positions, and potentially more.

Not all of those positions are filled.

But University of Hawaii Professional Assembly Executive Director Kristeen Hanselman said at least 121 of them are.

“We have 121 faculty members that will lose their job,” she said, add that the cuts would affect a number of departments. “They’re very broad. They’re very deep. It would be a very major blow to the institution."

Senate Higher Education Committee Chairwoman Donna Mercado Kim, a frequent critic of the University of Hawaii, said her intention isn’t to hurt the institution ― but make it better.

“We noticed that a number of positions actually had ‘zero’ for number of courses taught, and ‘zero’ for number of awards of grants brought in.” said Sen. Kim.

UHPA says a number of faculty were on leave during 2017 and 2018, and many members did not receive grants those years because they already had funding from previous years.

Sen. Kim says she was specific about what information she was asking for.

“I’ve been hearing now that this data is faulty data, but again, this is what they provided to us. They should be giving us true information,” said Kim.

The proposed budget will be part of conference committee negotiations between the House and Senate.

Sen. Kim said the university is being given the chance to justify the positions identified for elimination.

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