Chancellor’s weekly update on countdown to reopen for fall semester: Support, physical distancing, distance learning, budget, equal opportunity, resources, searches

Countdown to Fall 2020: 57 days remaining until fall semester begins.

Image looking up the mast of a sailboat, woman at the sail, words: A Framwork for Doing, University of Hawaii at Hilo

June 29, 2020

Aloha Kākou,

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

As you will see from this message, the work of the task groups continues. UH System guidelines for fall 2020 may be coming out this week, and once we align our drafts with the System document, we will be able to circulate more specific guidance to our campus. Faculty will receive information from Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Ken Hon later today regarding teaching modalities, which allow faculty to prepare their classes with the physical distancing guidelines in place. By mid-July, we hope to roll out an app that will allow for daily health check-ins for all members of our ‘ohana who will be coming to campus.

I share with you the following updates:

Academic and Student Support (Farrah Gomes, convener)

The Academic and Student Support working group has been meeting weekly to discuss what virtual services and tech tools are already in place and which ones are needed to better support our students. Additionally, this working group has been discussing what trainings are needed to support faculty, staff and students in the use of the various tools and resources available to them. This work group met last week with the Online and Hybrid Learning working group to collaborate in areas that overlap both areas. Student success videos, writing tablets, and webcams have already been purchased and will be piloted in the month of July for full implementation in August. A list of training topics is being developed so that short videos can be created to further support access to helpful information. The intent is to post the videos on a website where other critical information and resources will be compiled into a single, easy to find location.

Physical Distancing (Kalei Rapoza, convener)

The Physical Distancing working group has met twice in June to create on-campus guidance for distancing. There is focus on maintaining social distancing and creating space in classrooms, labs, offices, and other common areas, as well as providing guidance on face coverings and informing the campus with appropriate signage. The social distancing practices include: 6 feet of separation, removing or restricting seating, adjusting walking patterns, and limiting large meetings and gatherings. We are also reviewing supplies for sanitation on campus, such as cleaning supplies for common areas and increasing locations for hand sanitizing stations.

Online and Hybrid Learning (Joseph Sanchez, convener)

The Online and Hybrid Learning working group came up with the following recommendations:

  • Faculty stipends for summer work toward DL certification/coursework
  • Casual hires through the Library to provide recorded lecture segments of critical course content
  • Develop a list of Wifi locations in community so faculty can distribute to students
  • Assess feasibility/cost of circulating Wifi hotspots to students
  • Develop a plan for test proctoring in the Fall
  • Tweak online and ongoing communication with students and faculty on high-issue needs, such as no link to 24/7 ITS help in Laulima when students can’t log-in


The legislature returned to session last week and we are awaiting decisions regarding our fall budget. Letters of appointment will go out to members of the Long Range Budget Planning Committee this week, and I look forward to convening this group soon.

Office of Equal Opportunity

The Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) continues work to advance diversity, equity and inclusion with our campus partners. In light of recent Title IX legislative changes, training for Title IX coordinators, deputies, investigators and decision makers hosted by the UH Office of Institutional Equity will be held throughout the summer. These sessions will be recorded and will be made available for any employee interested in learning more.

OEO also continues to collaborate with Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center  in our HULIAU Series: Broadening Perspectives Through Courageous Conversations. The first session featured a panel discussion on “What Black Lives Matter Means to Me.” The next Huliau session will be this Wednesday, July 1, from 2:00 pm-4:00 pm with guest speaker Joy Enomoto on “Black Lives Matter and Hawaiʻi’s Historical Connections to Racial Inequity.” Weʻll follow a similar format as the first session, with an informative and educational discussion with Joy, followed by breakout rooms to engage participants in small group discussions. More information, registration and additional resources can be found at HULIAU. Please reach out to Jennifer Stotter for more information or to get involved.

Free Resources/Development Opportunities

The Association for Talent Development Hawaiʻi, the Hawaiʻi Employers’ Council, Hawaiʻi Alliance of Non-profit Organizations, Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals, and the Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network recently hosted a webinar entitled: “The Leadership We Need Now: How Hawai`i Organizations Can Be Taking Action Against Systemic Racism.” You can find the recording here and access it with the password: 8O=@80o4.

The following webcasts are also available on demand by DIVERSE: Issues in Higher Education:

  • Addressing Racism and Structural Inequity in America—What Role Does Higher Education Have to Play?
  • College Athletics After COVID-19; What is the Impact? What Are the Ramifications?
  • Calling Out Xenophobia, Racism and Intolerance During the COVID-19 Crisis
  • Three Big Diversity-Related Questions Resulting from the COVID-19 Crisis

Strategic Doing

The two Strategic Doing teams have had their first meetings and are in the midst of scheduling the next. The Relationships Committee began discussions with the question: What might the university look like if UH Hilo’s relationships were healthy and productive? Discussions included identifying pockets of excellence on campus that we might learn from, the impact that a mentor for each student might have along with clear roles for mentors and advisors, and defining the role of UH Hilo and the scope of that role in relationship to our community. The Importance of Place Committee began their discussions with the question: Imagine the value of making our university’s unique place integral in all that we do at UH Hilo—what would that look like and what would result? Discussions included how we might ensure that our academic programs are anchored to our unique place from an instructional perspective, what training(s) rooted in place UH Hilo should bring to the campus community, and what place-based collaborations might bring more opportunities into our classrooms. Committee members are now reaching out to their networks to explore these and a number of other ideas related to relationships and place.

EM Searches

Virtual campus visits of the finalists for the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences’ position continues this week. Please participate and provide feedback.

My best wishes for everyone for the upcoming long weekend. As always, stay safe and well and rest assured that we are working behind the scenes to make our campus ready for August and the arrival back in Hawai‘i of many of our students. My sincere mahalo for all those serving on a working group and all those making contributions to our fall readiness.

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

UH Hilo’s COVID-19 information webpage