UH to close College of Education building due to unsafe, unsanitary conditions

Published: Oct. 6, 2015 at 5:44 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 7, 2015 at 9:25 PM HST
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MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - University officials confirm that after Thursday, classes will no longer be held in Building 1 on UH's College of Education campus. This comes less than 24 hours after Hawaii News Now exposed what faculty said were unsafe and unhealthy conditions.

For the second time this year, House of Representatives Higher Education Committee chair Isaac Choy paid a visit to U-H's College of Education.

"I came here in January. I didn't realize at that particular time there were any health and safety concerns," said Rep Choy.

On Monday, Hawaii News Now cameras captured disturbing video. It showed chunks of ceiling that collapsed in classrooms. There was rat feces on the floor, shelves and inside drawers. The only women's bathroom had been closed because of safety concerns.

"We've asked for help for years.  For the university to do something about the quality of the facility here.  We haven't received any help," said College of Education Budget and Facilities chair Christine Sorensen Irvine.

After the video aired Tuesday night, the university made the announcement that as of Friday, classes will no longer be held in Building One.

"Nobody, no instructor, no student should have to undergo the kinds of conditions they have there," said Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom.

Slom says university officials need to be held accountable. Last year the legislature granted U.H. systems a total of $44-million for capital improvement projects. $26-million went to the Manoa campus. The university got to pick which projects it wanted to fund.

"It's not a question of money. It's a question of how you use the resources, it's a question of leadership," said Slom.

University President David Lassner says the level of funding has been inadequate. He added right now the university needs more than $400-million to catch up on needed upgrades and renovations.  He says he's willing to raise tuition to cover the costs.

"Over the past couple decades the university has been requesting money from the legislature and hasn't received it.  In fact in general has not received enough to keep up with all the needed repairs and maintenance," said Lassner.

Lawmakers are leery of tying tuition to repairs saying they want to keep a close eye on the spending.

"I am very curious to find out if there are other situations on any of the other 10 or 11 campuses now in the university system," said Choy.

University officials say they want to demolish Building One and the facility beside it.  They're going to ask the Governor for $670,000 to do it. His office will get that request October 15.

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