Legislative proviso stymies efforts to address backlogged repairs at UH

Legislative proviso stymies efforts to address backlogged repairs at UH College of Education
Published: May. 9, 2016 at 9:11 PM HST|Updated: May. 9, 2016 at 10:52 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Years of backlogged repairs created unsanitary and unsafe conditions at the University of Hawaii's College of Education.

It all came to a head last fall, following a Hawaii News Now report. UH closed a building deemed unsafe, moved students to other classrooms on campus, and asked lawmakers for $600,000 to tear down the condemned building and the one next to it.

In the newest wrinkle to the story, the request wasn't just denied, a lawmaker added a budget restriction that could force the college to move to another campus, presumably UH-West Oahu.

The budget restriction says that as long as the College of Education is on the Manoa campus, it gets no money from of the university's nearly $48.6 million  budget for deferred maintenance.

UH spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said that "it's a bit of a mystery" about where the proviso came from.

He said UH President David Lassner and the university's chief financial officer were both "surprised" about the mandate.

College of Education Professor Christine Sorensen Irvine said the restriction is puzzling.

"It says as long as we're on the Manoa campus, so I can only assume that somebody thinks we should move to a different campus," she said.

State Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, vice chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, wouldn't tell Hawaii News Now who was behind the proviso. "The amendments are offered by members and, you know, I would prefer that you talk the ... that the member give you a call one I get a hold of them," he said.

Dela Cruz does agree with the message the restriction sends to the university, however.

He says he wants the UH Board of Regents to focus on the future.

"The bigger picture of where the system is headed needs to be a lot clearer. We have campuses all over the state," he said.

"There's many duplicative programs and there are only so many resources. Hopefully they consider looking at UH-West Oahu, so that maybe we can consider a brand new building, especially since a number of schools are going to built out in that area."

It's unclear how UH-Manoa's College of Education would move to West Oahu. The college is the largest teacher preparation program in the state, but also offers graduate degrees in different education-related areas. And it's highly-rated, ranking among the top 100 colleges of education in the country.

UH-West Oahu only offers bachelor's degrees, and currently has a bachelor's of education program for teacher preparation.

College of Education professors say moving the college to UH-West Oahu simply isn't feasible, not least of which because of the partnerships students have with other schools on the campus.

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