Chancellor’s weekly update on countdown to reopen for fall semester: CARES funding, budget, fall prep, diversity, strategic planning

June 15, 2020 Update. Countdown to Fall 2020: 71 days remaining until fall semester begins

Aloha Kākou,

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie Irwin

I hope everyone is well and beginning to take advantage of the state and county’s slow opening of “non-essential” services.

We are in the last week of Summer Session I. I hope those who are teaching are finding their students engaged and thriving, albeit in a different modality than they might be accustomed to. Thank you for continuing to support our students’ learning this summer!

As we prepare for Summer Session II, the working groups continue to meet and discuss what will be needed for us to have some face-to-face classes this fall. You will find some updates in this message.

You’ll also find some updates regarding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Just as COVID-19 will still be with us in fall in some form, so, too, is systemic racism, and we will continue to work toward a campus whose diversity is more than just a set of numbers.

CARES Funding

Before the end of the spring semester, we received nearly $1.5 million in CARES 1 funding. This money was earmarked for direct aid to students, and because of the hard work of our Financial Aid and Cashier’s Office staff, we were able to disburse over $1.1 million in much needed direct aid for students, on top of the $84,000 emergency aid from the UH Foundation that was made possible by donations, some of which came from our own ‘ohana here at UH Hilo. Another $24,000 is going out this week, and we have some CARES funding left for Fall distribution.

The CARES 2 tranche was also nearly $1.5 million, and that has been allocated to pay for fall preparations: 1) classroom upgrades; 2) cleaning supplies and PPE; 3) student help; 4) stipends and overload to cover online and hybrid instruction training for faculty and staff; other technology tools for academic and student support.

CARES 3 funds, which we received because we are a Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander serving campus, total just over $2.691 million. The projects that will be funded with these dollars will be determined in part by a list submitted from Hanakahi Council, as well as toward other CARES-related expenses from last spring and the coming fall.


While the CARES money will certainly help, we still expect to have a constrained budget in fall. The legislature will come back into session on June 22 to finalize the budget and send it to the governor. We expect to know more by early July. We have received several nominations for members of the Long Range Budget Planning Committee, and the vice chancellors and I will be finalizing the composition and convening the group by the first week in July.

Fall Preparation—Instruction

Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Ken Hon is working with the other UH Systemwide VCAAs and UH Distance Learning group to finalize the types of instruction that will be needed for fall. The goal is to deliver the best education possible to our students, both on campus and online, with an eye to keeping our whole community as safe as we can. I was glad to see in the faculty survey that despite the challenges of spring 2020, many faculty now feel more comfortable in the online environment. In fall, some classes will need to be totally online, some hybrid, some face-to-face; all must be flexible so that we can be ready for whatever COVID-19 throws at us. Faculty will be hearing more from Interim VC Hon soon.

In order to prepare our campus, classrooms have been measured, and seats will be removed or blocked off to ensure appropriate distancing. The Scheduling Committee has been apprised of the new capacity numbers and are adjusting the schedule accordingly. Traffic patterns in and out of buildings, hand sanitizing stations, and other adjustments are being made and funded by the CARES funding referenced above.

Fall Preparation—Housing

Our student Housing staff has been working diligently to devise a plan to house as many students as possible with adequate physical distancing and cleaning protocols in place. We will need to reduce the number of students in the residence halls, but we want to make sure that we serve as many students as we can. Housing offers will be going out to students this week, which will help us determine our fall occupancy.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

I encourage everyone to make time to engage in reflection on our diverse community and how we might strengthen it to provide a truly supportive environment for all members of our ‘ohana. For my part, I am currently reading the book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. We are also working to hold space for members of our community to share the stories of their lived experiences. The Office of Equal Opportunity is partnering with the campus Diversity Committee and Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center to produce a series of courageous conversations, the Huliau.

The Huliau Series aims to provide a safe space for our UH Hilo community to engage in critical conversations around racial disparities and systemic injustices. Through discussion, shared experiences, and guidance from informed community panelists, we lean into this huliau, this pivotal moment for transformation and change, and educate ourselves and each other to develop more conscious, intentional, and actively engaged citizens.

This presentation series is open to all UH Hilo students, faculty, and staff. Seats are limited to encourage deeper small group discussions. Edited recordings may be made available to the greater public with permission from participants.

Huliau Series Discussion 1: Black Lives Matter. June 17, 2020, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. Click here for more information and to register.

Strategic Doing

The committees will be holding its first meetings this week! I look forward to meeting both groups and discussing the future of our great university. Click here for more information.

Have a wonderful, productive week!


Bonnie D. Irwin
Chancellor, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo

Read all weekly updates on Chancellor’s Blog.

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