UH denounces professor’s ‘hurtful’ statements about Kamehameha Schools students

Updated: Sep. 19, 2019 at 12:42 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A clip posted on social media late Wednesday over the conflict on Mauna Kea is stirring outrage.

Protesters of the Thirty Meter Telescope posted the clip on Instagram of the voice of University of Hawaii physics professor John Learned.

In the clip, he can be heard saying, “We know that the Kam Schools are academically not successful.”

He also claims that a Kamehameha Schools physics teacher was passing students who could not read.

UH College of Education assistant professor, Summer Maunakea says she recorded the audio when she went to a lecture about TMT two weeks ago to learn about an opposing point of view.

She told Hawaii News Now she recorded it for other colleagues. Near the end of the lecture, Learned, who was in the audience, made his controversial comments about Kamehameha Schools.

Maunakea says there are other derogatory statements on the UH Listserve where Learned wrote to his physics colleagues.

"In no way should we go back a few centuries to a stone age culture, with a few (illegitimate) Kahunas telling everyone how to behave," he wrote.

"I think the University system has empowered this kind of behavior and the institution itself is racist that gives people like John Learned the power to say these statements that are really hurtful and discriminatory," said Maunakea.

Hawaii News Now spoke by phone to Learned, a tenured professor.

"I strongly deny that anything I said was racist," he said.

Kamehameha Schools and the University of Hawaii condemned the remarks.

“We want to apologize to members of our community to the Kamehameha Schools ohana. This one individual does not represent the view of the University of Hawaii,” said UH spokesman Dan Meizenzahl.

“Kamehameha Schools rejects the remarks made recently by a UH physics professor regarding the quality of our education and haumana,” a statement said, in part.

“While we are disappointed by these statements, we know they do not reflect the views of the University of Hawaiʻi. We appreciate that the University’s leadership has apologized to us, and we will trust that they will follow through with appropriate action.”

Pro TMT group, Imua TMT, also condemned the comments.

"We obviously condemn his characterization of Kamehameha School grads," said Sam Wilder King II, co-leader of Imua TMT.

"That's just a ridiculous statement for him to say," he said.

Maunakea says she’s looking into options in terms of a formal complaint process and is advocating for kapu aloha.

UH says it's investigating the recording and emails. Tenured professors are generally protected by academic freedom and their union.

Kamehameha Schools rejects the remarks made recently by a UH physics professor regarding the quality of our education...

Posted by Kamehameha Schools on Thursday, September 19, 2019

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