University of Hawaii regents approved a tentative $1.3 billion dollar biennium budget to submit to the governor for consideration.
But there was much discussion by some members that the funding plan didn't include enough to support the hiring of indigenous faculty, or more professors at the new UH West Oahu campus.
"If you support the increase in Native Hawaiian faculty, as well as other minority faculty, there is no doubt you increase our graduation rate, our support for our community,” said UH regent Jeffrey Tangonan Acido.
"We had had to hire lecturers and pay a million dollars in fringe benefits because we have had no position lines for faculty and transition positions like custodians. So, I am a bit surprised that there isn’t additional support,” said UH West Oahu Chancellor Gene Awakuni.
He told the board, you only open a campus once.
UH West Oahu is in the throes of a cash flow problem, and is awaiting some $15 million in federal funding that is needed to pay off some of the construction costs of the new campus.
That loan is expected by the end of the month.
In the meantime, a bridge loan advanced by the regents last month has been used to pay off some $9 million in change orders to local venders.
The remaining bills are currently being scrutinized.
The campus is the only one in the UH system that has the authorization to sell or lease lands in order to make money to offset its operational costs.
Awakuni has been negotiating with an unnamed prospective buyer since 2009.
While that long-awaited leeward project has had to deal with funding issues just getting off the ground, regents were briefed about another large-ticket project.
The bio-hazard laboratory proposed for Kalaeloa is expected to come up for a vote by the regents later this year.
Regents were told it will likely operate with a $2-point-2 million deficit.
Area residents had concerns about the costs as well as safety.
They were upset to learn that the U-H Medical School's bio-hazard labs lost their certification recently.
Work is still under way to correct those construction deficiencies.
UH Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple stressed the need for the labs, in the event of an infectious outbreak which required quick diagnosis.
"I really think that we are incredibly exposed, you have seen what happened in Texas with the West Nile, you can imagine a SARS or tuberculosis outbreak here, and the impact that could be so profound because tourism is such a large part of our economy. It could really be catastrophic,” said Apple.
A final Environmental Impact Statement is expected out next month.
The project has support from the National Science Foundation and UH is discussing additional funding support from both the state and federal level.
While the extensive budget was passed, the future of President M.R.C. Greenwood remains unknown.
After meeting for nearly three hours Thursday afternoon, the University of Hawaii Board of Regents failed to come to a decision regarding M.R.C. Greenwood's future with the university.
The president’s administration comes under fire after the university lost $200,000 in the Stevie Wonder concert blunder. The board did not comment after they left the closed door session. The board is treating this as a legal and personnel matter.
The board says Thursday's meeting was a continued discussion and do not know when they'll discuss Greenwood’s contract again. Greenwood did sit in on half the meeting she did not comment on these talks.
This is the second time in less than a week the board of regents met to talk about Greenwood's contract. Last Friday the regents held an emergency meeting and made no decision at that time either