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By Sam Avina. April 4, 2016 - 1:49 am
Last month, and recently within the last week at Hawaii Pacific University’s Loa campus, the HPU community gathered for the discussion forum series “The Future of Hawaii Loa Campus” held to inform students on the current status of Hawaii Loa campus.
After attending the forums, conducting interviews with various faculty and staff, and gathering information on the situation, it would seem the future of Loa campus is coming closer to an end rather than an aspiring future as HPU’s master planning committee intends to move forward in bringing all HPU facilities Downtown and eventually stepping away from the campus we hold dear.
HPU has made movements prior to the forum’s announcement, foreshadowing the move Downtown with the purchase of Aloha Tower Marketplace in 2013 and the initial building of new faculty science laboratories. However, none of the students were prepared for the announcement that all undergraduate and graduate programs will in fact be brought Downtown and HPU will start its initiation to becoming a fully urban university.
The master committee, led by many different directors, executives, and of course the president of Hawaii Pacific University, took on a strong backlash from a majority of students, staff, and faculty when, on many occasions, the audience applauded when questions aimed at the committee could not effectively be answered, leaving the committee silent many times.
What frustrated many students including myself was that when a specific financial question was presented to the committee, the same pattern carried through: an explanation of how this move will benefit the program, the characteristics the committee wants HPU to be associated with, and how there is no other option than the plan that was made—yet still no answer to the original question.
For example, one faculty member asked Janet Kloenhamer, Executive Vice President of Administration and General Counsel, if Downtown parking would be available, and after going through the pattern noted prior, the faculty member (unnamed) stated in frustration, “No, no, parking would not be available for us. That’s what it comes down to.”
Another faculty member went on to make a brash statement to President Banister about moving the university completely Downtown stating, “I don’t know what the cost would be to move everything Downtown, but finding a way to make those slums Downtown to anything like Hawaii Loa campus would cost way less than fixing the roof at Hawaii Loa…by claiming the move would be cheaper it is just that, it is cheapening the experience and the quality of education here at HPU.”
Students though by far took the news hardest, many of whom expressed their resentment by explaining the whole reason they came to HPU in the first place was because of the Hawaii Loa campus, and now with that gone they fear student enrollment and quality of experience will decrease.
This frustration also resonated strongly with the international student population. One international student from Tunisia, who asked to go unnamed, stated, “I was accepted to all schools I applied to and chose HPU because of this Hawaii Loa campus and I can tell you right now you will lose a star on recommendations and international attraction for this school when you lose this campus.”
Multiple students went on with similar claims throughout the forums and were met with the same answer: this is happening and it is not changing.
When I asked my own question of the committee about the logistics of moving Downtown, adding up numbers that were listed in the master plan (available online), and how this move would act as a true long-term investment at HPU, I was met with a quick, almost authoritative answer from our own president Geoffrey Banister who simply stated, “No it would not, it would be too expensive to invest in this land with the cost of bricks and mortar. The university simply can’t afford it.”
And with that question being answered so simply, and seeing the frustration of members of the HPU community, the fact of the matter is this change is going to happen regardless of how the students or faculty feel and the best we can do at this point is adapt to this change and try to be part of the process. Because, after all, if the master plan says so, it must be true and definitive.
Photo courtesy of www.hpu.edu.