Dear UH Hilo ‘Ohana,
Since I began at UH Hilo almost three weeks ago, the sense of ‘ohana on our campus has been obvious and one of the reasons I came to UH Hilo is because of this kind, caring atmosphere among ourselves and between faculty/staff and students. Our community has weathered numerous challenges over the years, one of the most recent being last year’s eruption that is still impacting members of our campus ‘ohana, and we continue to pull together and support one another despite our hardships and differences. This is a testament to the care and concern we have for each other.
Today, we face a divisive issue in our community with what is happening on Maunakea. Whether you or members in your families and our community have strong opinions about TMT and Maunakea, and knowing that there is an entire spectrum of ideas, beliefs, and emotions, I encourage us all to promote our campus as a safe space where individuals of our campus ‘ohana are free to learn from one another respectfully and safely, regardless of their views about Maunakea, or any issue, that provides all of us with an opportunity for deeper understanding and respect for difference. I, along with the rest of senior leadership at UH Hilo, believe this is the value of our university and we will continue to support free expression and ask that we all commit to maintaining an environment of respect on our campus. I also ask that each of us remember our role as educators and our shared mission to support our students and their educational journeys while at UH Hilo with the University of Hawai‘i Policy of Free Expression in mind:
The University of Hawai‘i is committed to the free and open exchange of ideas and affirms the rights of members of the university community to engage in speech and other expressive activity guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and by Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution of the State of Hawai‘i. These activities may be conducted at such times and places and in such a manner to assure the orderly conduct and least interference with the University responsibilities as a public institution for higher education and scholarly inquiry.
In addition to ensuring people’s right to free expression and assembly, we also have a collective responsibility to our community and constituents to maintain daily operations, even if some of us may be experiencing conflict with decisions surrounding Maunakea. I encourage engaging in a dialogue with your supervisors should you experience difficulties in fulfilling daily responsibilities, in light of this issue. Employees also have access to the University of Hawai‘i Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which offers counseling support for those facing crises and problems that affect work performance. For more information about the EAP, you may go to the WorkLife Hawaii website or call (808) 543 8445 or toll free at (800) 944-3571. I encourage anyone who wishes to do so to reach out to those services.
I have been talking to campus leadership about how we might best prepare to support our students, regardless of what side of the issue they (or we) may be on. Vice Chancellor Farrah-Marie Gomes’s message to the campus last month contained valuable information about support services for students. As a reminder, if you encounter a UH Hilo student in need of support, you may refer them to Counseling Services, to talk with counseling professionals for free. To make a referral, please visit the Counseling Services website, call 932-7465, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As challenging as it may be right now, I ask that you remember the good work we do, the students we serve, and the future which we build together. There are many of you whom I have not had the pleasure of meeting yet and I look forward to doing so over the coming weeks and months as we continue to build together a university and community that will serve Hawai‘i well into the future.
Top photo: View of Maunakea from the UH Hilo campus, Feb. 2019. By Raiatea Arcuri.