Board of Regents Discuss Maunakea, Case Numbers, Enrollment

by Lichen Forster

During their monthly meeting, the Board of Regents met to discuss changes to Mauna Kea’s stewardship, COVID-19 case numbers, and increased enrollment. Composed of 11 volunteers who serve terms of five years, the Board of Regents (BOR) oversees the operations of the University of Hawai’i with the oversight of the university president.

During their August meeting, the BOR discussed the appointment of Dr. Andy Adamson, associate director of the Gemini Observatory, to the Mauna Kea Management Board. Adamson would be replacing Doug Simons, who vacated his seat to become director of the Institute for Astronomy at UH Hilo.

In the course of approving Adamson’s appointment, Vice-Chair Benjamin Asa Kudo of Honolulu questioned whether Adamson had any interaction with the Native Hawaiian or business communities on Hawaiʻi Island. UH Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin said Adamson had some, though not as much as Simons. Kudo cautioned that the management board had “increased its visibility and importance in addressing issues related to Maunakea and is working to correct some of the management deficiencies.”

Vice-Chair Alapaki Nahale-a of Hawaiʻi Island also expressed the need for balancing the observatory’s and the community’s points-of-view, but noted that it has become increasingly difficult to convince people to volunteer to serve on the management board as a result of Maunakea politics.

Maunakea telescopes, with palms in foreground

Chancellor Irwin told the board that UH Hilo has tried to recruit Native Hawaiians to join the Maunakea Management Board in the last couple of years, but the university hasn’t been able to successfully convince more to serve. She assured the board that Adamson is “well aware of the expectation” that he be “a voice” for the community and the observatories alike.

Kudo requested that the appointment of Adamson be deferred until the following BOR meeting, pending Adamson’s appearance before the board, a move that the majority ultimately passed.

During their September meeting, the BOR received written testimony from Adamson and heard a few words from Irwin, who reaffirmed her belief in his competency for the position.

After Chair Randolph Moore of Honolulu asked for questions from the board, Kudo said that he and Vice-Chair Nahale-a had gotten to ask Adamson follow-up questions to his written testimony. Kudo believed Adamson was “prepared to assume the role of a board member of this very important advisory committee,” and said that he would be voting in favor of Adamson’s appointment.

Nahale-a then thanked Adamson for his availability and said he believed in Adamson’s knowledge of both the astronomy community on Mauna Kea and the other factors that work on it.

Regent Simeon Acoba of Honolulu then invited Adamson to speak to the board at large. Adamson said that he expected the position to be challenging, but that he was looking forward to it.

After a unanimous vote in favor of the appointment, Adamson was added to the Mauna Kea Management Board. The regents also discussed the university’s budgets for the 2022 and 2023 fiscal years. The budgets were approved in the November 2020 BOR meeting, but the regents noted in their recent meeting that UH Hilo’s budget totals $8.7 million for 2022. It also funds the removal of one of Mauna Kea’s telescopes for $900,000.

Also during the meeting, University President David Lassner discussed the moderate COVID-19 case counts on UH campuses, and the expectation of campuses to report all cases to students and faculty promptly. Lassner told the regents he doesn’t believe any of the cases are because of campus spread, and attributed this to the new vaccine mandate and testing policy. Lassner also mentioned there is an increasing amount of student activity on campuses, and he said that regents can expect more events and activities in the spring semester.

UH’s new policy requires all individuals reporting to UH campuses in the fall semester to upload a full COVID-19 vaccination record or a weekly negative test result to the Lumisight UH app, and present clearance status to university officials when asked. This policy has been in effect since Aug. 23.

After the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer vaccine for those 16 and older, the university will be requiring full vaccinations from all who come to campus in the spring 2022 semester, according to media reports. Those with medical or religious exemptions will be required to submit to weekly testing.

Later, President Lassner discussed enrollment figures, which are seemingly up in relation to previous years. UH Hilo specifically is up 3.1 percent. Census figures had not been finalized and released, but Lassner seemed optimistic about what they will ultimately show.

The agenda and minutes of this meeting can be viewed online at https://hawaii.edu/offices/bor/archive/. The next BOR meeting is on Oct. 21. To view the livestream or submit a testimony, visit: https://hawaii.edu/offices/bor/.

The UH Board of Regents (photos taken from UH website). (From left to right) Kelli K.K. Acopan, Alapaki Nahale-a, William F. Haning III, Robert Frank Westerman, Diane Paloma, Simeon Acoba, Wayne Higaki, Benjamin Asa Kudo, Randolph G. Moore, Eugene Bal III, Ernest Wilson.The Board of Regents; L to R: Kelli K.K. Acopan, Alapaki Nahale-a, William F. Haning III, Robert Frank Westerman, Diane Paloma, Simeon Acoba, Wayne Higaki, Benjamin Asa Kudo, Randolph G. Moore, Eugene Bal III, Ernest Wilson.