Current Happenings Within the UH Hilo Campus
President Michael Taylor discusses recent developments in the UH Hilo Student Association
Staff Writer Breandain Clarke
Contributing Photographer Leah Wyzykowski
In a combined effort to better help students, University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Student Association's (UHHSA) President Michael Taylor recently reached out with some news students might like to know about. In the current semester, there has been a lot of action taken for the betterment and proper treatment of all students and the campus itself.
Every semester, new students from other states and countries come to the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, either doing a study abroad or exchange program, or transferring completely. With an influx of new students each semester, UHHSA takes extensive measures in making sure their voices are heard and their needs met, as President Taylor said.
“This is something UHHSA is looking into more,” Taylor stated. “It is an interesting thing to tackle, as we want to make sure we represent all students. UHHSA's Executive Committee is looking into how similar university student governments better suit the needs of their exchange or international students. We're looking into things like more communication and collaboration with First-Year Experience (FYE), other similar student services, and international student services”.
Last semester, in an interview Ke Kalahea conducted with Taylor on UHHSA and the elections for the current semester, he voiced an interest in bringing non-gendered bathrooms onto campus in order to promote equality and representation that would further strengthen the campus community. Taylor said, “There are many non-gender discriminatory bathrooms – I will be having senators reach out to some student services to better inform for student comfort. This is a planned outreach, but nothing has been set in stone just yet.”
UHHSA believes that face-to-face communication is a key aspect in our lives. “Just approaching students is working,” Taylor stated. “College of Business and Economics (CoBE) and Executive Senator Kamalii has actually publicized her college's student open forum just through word of mouth. To me, professors and students alike can't wait to have a constructive discussion on the concerns of their college.”
With the end of the fall semester coming closer and closer, UHHSA has been busy working on events that will be made available for students. Taylor revealed some events, including a movie night, a screening in November of the Democratic Presidential Debate, and a social event where students can eat and win UH Hilo merch or other prizes. “UHHSA's Events Committee, as well as PR Committee, have been hard at work for an event sponsorship as well UHHSA-curated events. Some sponsored events have been the open forums with the chancellor as well as tabling opportunities for students to meet their senators.”
This past July saw the transition of the university’s chancellors from Interim Marcia Sakai to the newly-appointed Dr. Bonnie Irwin . “Chancellor Irwin and her team have been very open to communication with UHHSA, and UHHSA's Senate plans to meet with her every other month with [Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Farrah] Gomes,” commented Taylor.
“Chancellor Irwin has made herself more accessible to students through our collaborative open forums with her, and is looking forward to further connections with UHHSA in other areas,” he continued. Bonnie Irwin came to Hilo from a university and region of California very similar to Hilo, as Marcia Sakai brought up last semester during her Spring Media Coffee hour. Sakai also said that this similarity would be very beneficial for the Hilo campus.
At one of the more recent UHHSA meetings, the opportunity to bring guest speakers in to discuss sustainability strategies for the campus became a reality for the near future. “There has been a large interest by the current senate in the UHHSA Sustainability Committee,” said Taylor. “They plan to collaborate with the East and West Hawaiʻi Blue Zones Community group to provide demos on healthy alternatives and sustainable living.”
“They are also looking into advocating for sustainable efforts in campus dining, perhaps providing a resolution to the UH Foundation (as discussed by the UH Student Caucus, a group of all UH System student government's representatives), and much more,” continued Taylor. Opportunities such as this could increase the initiative to make our campus even more eco-friendly. “The UHHSA Sustainability committee wants to make UH known to be sustainable and an overall better campus through providing more information to students,” he concluded. With students more knowledgeable on this information, this can increase furthering sustainability initiatives.
On the same note of sustainability, discussions on bringing in locally-sourced items was brought up. “Right now, the only current effort is in local produce and products whenever we purchase food for events,” said Taylor. “The Sustainability Committee has been doing more research on perhaps providing more hydration stations, bamboo straws, and cutlery; however, they are still doing research to see if there are local providers for this service, as well as getting quality and inexpensive products to promote a sustainable lifestyle in Hilo.” Eco-friendly, efficient, inexpensive, and local economical nourishing strategies.
Near the end of the interview with Ke Kalahea, President Taylor wanted to give a message to the students of the university. “We'd like students to understand that UHHSA is trying its best, but there's a steep learning curve when it comes to proper constituent services – take a look at any government official,” says Taylor. “As our senate is at its largest, and almost at a full roster for the first time in a few years, training the mostly new senators (as there has been a lack of continuing UHHSA senate members) is the toughest part. UHHSA is frustrating, and I know many students have frustrations that need addressing. UHHSA wants to make sure that when our senators do provide assistance, it is not sub-par and is something that our fellow students appreciate.”
Taylor also wants to remind UH Hilo to hold student leaders, as well as local leaders responsible. He says that although UHHSA is comprised of volunteering students and not classified as a job, they still need to be held accountable at the same level as local government politicians. Taylor emphasizes the importance of reaching out to UHHSA about any concerns students have, but to also keep in mind that they are students, too. All student volunteers in UHHSA have joined to help as much as possible because they enjoy meeting the needs of their fellow students, says Taylor.