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Hawai‘i Faculty Publicly Rebukes State Senate Higher Ed Chair

April 1, 2022

A contentious relationship between the University of Hawai‘i and a powerful state lawmaker hit a breaking point last month when faculty members at seven campuses issued a public rebuke of State Senator Donna Mercado Kim, condemning her for “inappropriate legislative actions.”

Kim, who chairs the Hawaii Senate Higher Education Committee, has introduced a number of bills this session that target the University of Hawai‘i, including one that would alter tenure. Though that bill and others ultimately failed, it was Kim’s attempt to change tenure that prompted faculty leadership to accuse the senator of “undermining university governance and free speech.”

Seven of 10 faculty leadership groups voted in March to publicly rebuke Kim, according to the Honolulu Civil Beat, which notes that some faculty members are also considering sending a request to Hawaii’s Senate president to remove Kim from the higher education committee. However, the paper reported that Kim has the support of Senate president Ron Kouchi.

Beyond Kim’s failed legislative actions this year that would have undercut tenure and limited the authority of the university system in some ways, she has a long history with the University of Hawai‘i that includes grilling leadership over a bungled Stevie Wonder benefit concert in 2012 and an issue with her son’s law school application, both of which played out publicly in recent years.

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Josh Moody

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