The Kanilehua Conundrum

Writer Clara Scheidle
Photos Clara Scheidle

A photo of the Hale Kanilehua Dorm

Recently, there have been disruptions to dorm life at UH Hilo’s Hale Kanilehua: the kitchen cannot be used freely as before, the computer lab hasn’t been open all semester, and the office hours have been shortened. While student complaints may be frequent, those in charge of resident life are working to make sure that they can provide the best college housing experience for Kanilehua residents.

To begin with, the kitchen used to be open at all hours during the week for anyone in Kehau or Kanilehua to use. It was closed about halfway through the Fall 2017 semester. Office Assistant William De La Cruz stated that this was due largely to the fact that residents simply weren’t taking care of the kitchen. “Dishes weren’t cleaned or washed. Food was left all over the place, and rubbish as well,” De La Cruz says.

In addition, there were too many times when the stove or oven was left running, which produces a fire hazard for the entire dorm. The residents of Kanilehua were often made aware of the fact that the kitchen was a privilege that could be taken away if it were not properly taken care of. This was made clear by signs displayed in and around the kitchen stating the rules and warning that it was in danger of being be taken away if not utilized correctly. These warnings were also mentioned in a few of the dorm meetings.

Residents can still use the kitchen by turning in their ID card to an OA, just like they would do to check out cleaning supplies or pool equipment. However, Kanilehua office hours have now been shortened by six hours, opening at 6 p.m. instead of 11 a.m., and closing at 11 p.m. To use any equipment or the kitchen before 6 p.m., Kanilehua residents have to walk to the Kehau office for assistance.

Maximilian Abraham, a resident of Kanilehua, understands the housing staff’s reasoning on limited kitchen use for all intents and purposes, but still he mourns the loss of his “morning tea” that he was able to make when the kitchen’s hours were earlier. Although the situation may be different than it was early last fall, De La Cruz notes that the cleanliness of the kitchen is “way better” than it was before.

Another issue raising complaints in the freshmen dorms is the Wailau Computer Lab, which hasn’t been open since the beginning of this year. Last semester, it was open five or six days of the week with limited hours in the evenings. The computer lab contains several Mac computers with swivel chairs, as well as a television screen.

Abraham points out that while it’s likely that most Kanilehua residents already have their own form of personal computer, the computer lab was largely used as a study space, and now that the area is unavailable, it’s just “a waste of resources.” De La Cruz says that the reason it hasn’t been open this year is because “[the housing staff] this semester has been kind of low,” meaning that there aren’t enough people to supervise residents using the computer lab.

Jenna Waipa, the Interim Associate Director of Residence Life, says that “the Wailau Computer Lab was previously managed by a partnering department” and is now closed. Waipa explained that it was closed “due to low usage” and to further “assess how the space can be restructured and funded efficiently to support the Housing Department and Resident Life mission.” She later adds that just because it is closed now does not mean that the closure is indefinite.

Abraham says that the biggest issue by far is “the lack of trust between staff and the residents.” He goes on to say that because of this, the flow of communication between the two entities has declined, and it is one of the reasons he joined the Residence Hall Association. Being a part of RHA, as expressed by Waipa, is one of the ways that residents can get involved in advocating positive changes in their dorm communities.

A recent example of this is the “Resident Wish List” program that has been implemented in the dorms. Residents are asked how their experience in the dorms could be improved and their responses are considered by staff such as the OA. Waipa affirmed that many of the resident’s suggestions have already been integrated into the system, including a wider array of cleaning supplies, accessible cookware, and more gaming equipment.

Abraham wishes “more residents were willing to sit” through hall meetings in order to express their concerns. “I feel like people are afraid of going against the grain,” he adds. And as De La Cruz concludes: “It’s actually [the residents] that can make a difference.” So if you’re a resident at one of the dorms here at UH Hilo and are unhappy with your current situation, know that change for the better starts with you and your willingness to communicate with the Housing staff. After all, your concerns will never be heard if you don’t say them out loud.