University of Hawaiʻi System Student Opposition of Mauna Kea Thirty Meter Telescope
In President Lassner’s system wide email on October 30th of this year, he expressed his “Call for a Renewed Sense of Compassion and Aloha within the UH Ohana”. More recently, the UH Campus Climate Committee, which falls under his office, held the "Building Beloved Campus Community" event at UHM. The titles of this email and event alone seem remiss of the very issues that we face here at home. For years now, students have been raising concerns regarding “Aloha” and “Compassion” to the President, Board of Regents, and Administration, each time perpetually falling on deaf ears.
As students of the University of Hawaiʻi, designated an "Indigenous Serving Institution", we know that there is no compassion without dutiful ethics and the highest respect for place and it would be ludicrous to promote a sense of “aloha” when we cannot extend “human dignity” to the people from whose language that word comes from. It is due to this severe display of hypocrisy that we as students were impelled to write this letter expressing our concerns and providing what we conceive to be actionable solutions.
Since 2013 there has been a notable student presence forefronting our dissatisfaction with the university's (mis)management of Maunakea, and in particular, the proposed construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope. Consistently, students, faculty, and their community networks have convened at the public hearings held by the Board of Regents (BOR), Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR), and Campus Forums held by the President to go along with our submitted testimonies and petitions voicing our angst with the administrative decisions.
In conjunction with this, we have held numerous rallies, marches, educational events, passed out flyers, and constructed a physically permanent manifestation of our spiritual and genealogical connection to Maunkea in plain view of the administrative offices of Bachman Hall. The Maunakea Ahu exists just as we do as Native Hawaiian students, constant and persistent but ultimately ignored. This disregard and lack of student engagement by the UH President, the UH Mānoa Chancellors, and Administration is simply a cynical reproduction of the existing imperial ideologies set forth by the Committee of Safety in 1893, lending to history’s unfortunate repetition.
The latest example can be found in the newly proposed Hawai‘i Administrative Rules
entitled "Public and Commercial Activities on Mauna Kea Lands". The blatant criminalization of Hawaiian values, practices, and senses of being in these proposed rules could have easily been avoided by heeding student, faculty, and community input.
Aside from the obvious fact that the President is woefully ignorant of all things Hawaiian, he neither shows concern, respect, nor interest in attempting to understand that which he does not. Therefore, there is absolutely nothing that grants him authority over our practices, identity, existence, and vitality, especially as it pertains to Mauna Kea.
With this history of disenfranchisement considered:
First, WE UPHOLD AND SUPPORT the statement released by the University of Hawaiʻi faculty and staff.
Second, WE DEMAND: that all construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea be ceased permanently.
Third, WE DEMAND: that the proposed rules be rewritten to significantly better promote and respect Kanaka Maoli traditional and customary practices and values and to disengage the University entirely from penalizing or otherwise governing kiaʻi on Maunakea.
Fourth, WE DEMAND: that UH Administration and President Lassner respect and meaningfully incorporate student and faculty feedback and concern in all decision-making, especially regarding the TMT on Maunakea.
Only in fulfilling these demands can the University truly consider itself to be a space of “compassion” and “aloha.” Being that this institution serves more Native Hawaiian students and houses more Native Hawaiian scholars than any other university in the world, the institution has a responsibility to appropriately represent us and our knowledge to the world on Kanaka Maoli terms.
This is not just a Native Hawaiian issue but one of justice that asks us as a university to confront the degree of harm we are willing to inflict in the name of research - the degree of damage we are willing to accrue with our community in the name of research. We mahalo the many statements of solidarity that have been put forth by other campus and community groups including the Young Progressives Demanding Action, the Ethnic Studies Student Association, the Democratic Socialists of Honolulu, the Young Democratic Socialists, Oceania Rising, Independent Guahan and the UH Mānoa Students and Faculty for Justice in Palestine. We reaffirm resolution 13-14 passed by the UHM Associated Students of the University of Hawai’i (ASUH) in 2013 and the resolution passed by the UHM Graduate Student Organization (GSO) in 2017, both part of the official co-governing structure of the university and both affirming the administration’s negligence in its engagement with students over the issue of the TMT.
In closing, with this statement, we affirm that we will not yield, we will not concede, and we will not surrender our dignity, our lands, or our ancestry to this institution. We will persist, until the last aloha ʻāina.