The Kilohana Petition

An effort to re-direct student fees

Science and Travel Writer and Photographer Alyssa Grace

Student receiving tutoring at Kilohana

One student has started a petition, aimed at current Chancellor Donald Straney, with a strong message: “I want my tuition to go towards something important - something that helps people. Kilohana helps people get through their courses.” As many students know firsthand, Kilohana is a free tutoring service that can help with any of the following subjects: astronomy, biology, chemistry, computer science, marine science, math, physics, and writing.

Currently, there are four Kilohana locations on campus: the Science, Writing, Computer Science, and Math Centers. Kilohana started in 2009 as a collaborative effort. “Former Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Kenny Simmons coordinated the effort to create Kilohana and former Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Steve Hora secured the commitment and funding from the state Legislature which created the foundation which supports Kilohana in its current state,” said Karla Hayashi, the director of Kilohana.

The online petition called “Kilohana Should be Permanently Funded Through Student Services Fees” was started in February 2017, and currently has 88 supporters. Its purpose is to change the funding source of Kilohana to student fees. Student fees fund facilities like the Student Life Center (SLC), as well as chartered student organizations (CSOs) and their respective programs, including Ke Kalahea.

“Sometimes Kilohana funding can be unreliable - meaning semesters with less staff, less subjects, less operating hours, and less tutor training available. Rather than a funding that waxes and wanes, this petition aims for Kilohana to be funded through student services fees,” said Niki Thomas, a Kilohana math tutor and the petition’s founder.

“As a tutor, I see a lot of struggling students. They come in desperate for help and they usually leave enlightened and proud of themselves,” Thomas said. She adds that she knows how helpful Kilohana was for her own education.

“I used to suck at math,” Thomas said. “My confidence was extremely low. But when I needed to take Calc [calculus] I and II, I busted my butt and went to Kilohana as often as I needed to for help. And it helped immensely.” Now Thomas has a math minor and has worked with prestigious organizations such as the Hawaiʻi NASA Space Grant Consortium., the website on which this petition exists allows for those who sign it to leave a comment, if they wish. Here’s what some of the petition’s signers had to say:

“As a UH Hilo student I routinely used Kilohana for tutoring help in math. For some of the upper division math classes I sought help two to three times a week. The tutors at Kilohana were invaluable to me as they explained and stepped through concepts to help me understand the materials. I support permanently funding Kilohana through student fees.” - Richard Camp

“I have student workers that use this service and they find it very helpful. Without this service they feel that many students could fail. Between class time and having a campus job, Kilohana gives them the opportunity to stay on top of their studies.” - Lorretta Santiago

“We need quality tutoring services to help our students be successful. This requires active support—both financial and personnel.” - Kathy Cooksey, Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy

Despite what funding Kilohana may currently have, it is in no danger of ending or closing, according to Hayashi. “I was not aware of the petition,” Hayashi said. “The petition was initiated by one of our current student employees.”

The Chancellor’s own response to his petition is as follows: “Kilohana is a university priority and currently enjoys stable and reliable funding which includes two full-time, legislatively-funded permanent positions. It also received one-time funds this year to upgrade their computers and additional funds for peer tutoring in English and Mathematics courses. I admit that Kilohana could do more with more funding, but its present level of funding is stable and secure.”

Thomas’s final message to students is this: “If you need help, please don't feel embarrassed to come to Kilohana. It's free and you don't need to make an appointment. Trust me when I say it's worth it. And if you like our services, please sign the petition to get us funded under student services fees. Help us help you.”

If you are interested in reading more about this petition, it can be found here: