Editorial: My Farewell to UH Hilo

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Editor-in-Chief Brian Wild
Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Lough

Brian Wild When I first thought about writing this piece a couple weeks ago, I was inspired by Washington’s farewell address; in a way, I had wanted to draft a farewell of my own to Ke Kalahea, and to UH Hilo as a whole.

Washington’s address is, needless to say, vastly different from my own in terms of scope and context. (After all, I’ve only been running a school newspaper, not an entire freakin’ country.)

Nonetheless, I felt I owed it to my fellow students to explain the both the rewards and obstacles I have encountered, in the hope that future student leaders will take heed of my advice.

First, I’ll start with the rewards. Good news: there have been so many!

Truly, I am so grateful to have been doing what I do, and in a place that I love beyond measure. It’s hard to believe that only a few years ago, I was just a bright-eyed California boy eager to spread my wings and go to college in an ‘exotic’ location like Hawai‘i. (Our graphics/comic artist Tiffany would appreciate how much I had in common with her own character, Haole Hailey.)

Indeed, I have grown so much as a student, a writer, an artist, and as a person overall. Members of this community have kindly taken me under their wing, and have taught me so much about the value of being at UH Hilo. Among these people include faculty members – the political science department, Aunty Jackie, etc. – as well as professional mentors, like Ke Kalahea’s own Tiffany Edwards Hunt.

I have also been given so many opportunities to interact with the movers and shakers of this island state: I’ve interviewed everyone from my U.S. representative to the chancellor of my school. I even got the chance to work for one of my U.S. senators!

For sure, I would have never gotten such a level of networking under my belt if I were back in uber-congested California, or New York. And if an ordinary schmuck like me can do accomplish this kind of work, pretty much anyone else can do it too.

Now, as for the obstacles. Sadly, there have been many.

Instead of waxing poetic in a 20-page rant, I figured it might be easier to just put together a condensed list on what I think – in my opinion as a student, and a program leader – needs to change at UH Hilo…

1) UH Hilo administration including the chancellor and the persons who report to him, ought to make sure their attitudes – and more importantly, their decisions – do not appear tone-deaf to student concerns.

To blame UH Hilo’s enrollment and financial woes on Chancellor Straney or his allies in UH is one thing. To at least admit that there is a problem, regardless of who’s at “fault,” I a separate – and less controversial – matter entirely. So long as our school is continually dealing with these problems, expect to keep our administrators’ feet to the fire. Their salaries are paid for with our hard-earned dollars, and don’t let them forget that.

2) UHHSA, our student government needs to get its head out of the sand and figure out a way to better serve students than it’s currently doing. UHHSA is especially deserving of extra scrutiny because unlike other CSO or program officers, their members are supposed to be directly elected by their fellow students.

Unfortunately, UHHSA seems to have been in a rut for quite some time. Of course, some in UHHSA do genuinely try to do right by those who elected them, and even the not-so-good ones aren’t blood-sucking monsters. Nonetheless, our expectations for our student representatives should not be compromised for the sake of not ‘rocking the boat.’

The fact that UHHSA has been sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars for so long, with seemingly no plan in sight of how to spend it to improve the lives of students (through RISOs or other ways) is utterly ridiculous.

Likewise, the fact that UHHSA’s president has constantly been at loggerheads with the Senate over alleged violations of their constitution reeks of pettiness. Perhaps it is time for the students of UH Hilo to have a third branch of government advocate on their behalf: if a student court were put in place, maybe this would keep the executive council and the Senate in line, and not tearing each other apart while students wait for someone to fix their problems. (Then again, perhaps I’m just tickled by the idea of a court, since I’m a soon-to-be law student.)

And the fact that UHHSA was unable to commit to holding a public forum featuring their candidates ahead of elections - after they had informed Ke Kalahea it was something they wanted to do - is shameful. UHHSA can only get away with giving out free pizza and swag for so long, in lieu of concrete proposals to better students’ lives on campus. Sooner or later, students will demand greater accountability.

3) Other student programs and CSOs – including the one that oversees Ke Kalahea, BOSP – have to be more successful in convincing students that their time and money will be well-spent on their behalf. Though perhaps not as dire as UHHSA’s challenges, BOSP and other CSOs share quite a bit in common, and face similar questions. If members of a program, like Ke Kalahea, continue to feel like they’re being short-changed by BOSP or Campus Center, this does not bode well for the long-term future of the relationship between student leaders and the campus bureaucracy as a whole.

Again, I say this not out of anger or desire to sow division. After all, I owe my job to BOSP. (Seriously, I was blown away last year when I found out they picked me to run Ke Kalahea; I thought I had bombed my interview, and did not expect such a reversal of fortune.) And to be sure, I am sincere in saying that I have enjoyed a cordial relationship with all the BOSP members – I have nothing personal against any of them whatsoever.

This does not change the fact, however, that Ke Kalahea’s staff next year expects BOSP to improve upon previous efforts to help our publication fulfill its mission, and to reach its full potential. There were times during this year when that did not happen. Honest mistakes? Maybe so. Was I myself a perfect editor? Hell no. Let this simply be a lesson to the poor, unfortunate soul who takes my place next year. Buckle up, kiddo.

4) As much as I love Ke Kalahea it too needs to step up its game. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of the work that we did throughout the past year since I became the editor-in-chief. But even I cannot pretend that I was some sort of messiah who made Ke Kalahea the greatest it’s ever been.

For one, Ke Kalahea staff members need to have a candid talk with themselves: why am I here, and what can I offer? Do I have enough time and devotion to promote student journalism in whatever medium I best utilize (writing, photography, graphics, etc.)? Or am I just here to collect a stipend and put something on my résumé, without concern for the quality of my work or how it will reflect upon UH Hilo?

As someone who’s had to manage people in a place like Ke Kalahea for twelve months, I can say without a doubt that I’d rather have only 10 staff members who do a great job and really love what they do, versus having 20 staff members who put out half-assed work and never bother to learn from their mistakes.

5) The final message I’d like everyone to know is this: please, please, please, try to care more about your school and your community. Want to know the first step to fixing all of the other problems I listed above? Here’s a hint: it’s also the same thing that will allow our world as a whole to progress from the state it’s in now. And it’s that people have to start giving a damn. Because in so many instances, the only ones who seem to do just that are the very ones rigging the game for themselves, and are happy everyone else is asleep at the wheel while they get away with murder.

Don’t like where your student fees, or your tax dollars are going, for instance? If all you do is bitch about it on Reddit or Twitter (if at all), then you’re probably not going to get far. In short: get off your ass and find someone who wants to help.

Want better library hours? Tell your UHHSA representatives. Afraid of your relatives losing their healthcare? Call your congressman. Hate seeing homeless people raiding the streets of your oh-so-precious suburban oasis? Volunteer at a shelter or a soup kitchen. Bottom line: do something, besides complaining about how life sucks. Better yet, do something that has value to others instead of just yourself.

And remember, you can always hit up your local newspaper. Including this one…

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, a 22-year-old man whose diet and TV-watching habits belong to someone 50 years older. You can find him in the Ke Kalahea office, twiddling his thumbs until graduation day – which is when he’ll jump for joy, grab his diploma, and flip everyone off as he walks out the door.