We are moving. Below is our first Press Release. We are currently recruiting substantial support from the Native Hawaiian community and small Hawaii farmers. But that's just the beginning. We are also laying the groundwork for similar actions in universities across America, and still further afield. If you want to join our action or start one of your own, contact us. If you don't have any university connections, but have ideas for different types of action, let us know about them. We are open to any suggestion. We will give help and advice wherever we can.
PRESS RELEASE from CONCERNED FACULTY OF UNIVERSITY OF HAWAI‘I.
Yet another matter of critical concern for the University of Hawai‘i is just emerging. Two weeks ago, an Open Letter of Protest signed by more than sixty faculty members from the University of Hawai‘i was sent to Robert Bley-Vroman (Chancellor, Mānoa), Reed Dasenbrock (Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs) and Maria Gallo (Dean, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR)). The Letter concerns two interrelated issues.
The first issue concerns restrictions placed on the academic freedom of Professor Hector Valenzuela, an Extension Specialist in CTAHR. These included his freedom to raise legitimate questions concerning certain aspects of biotechnology, to hold meetings at which such aspects would be discussed, to provide notice to students and faculty of similar meetings organized by others, and to perform other actions that would normally form part of his professional obligations as an extension specialist.
The second issue, which we believe to be the underlying cause of the first issue, concerns practices followed by CTAHR for the last two decades, which have led to specific violations of CTAHR’s own mission statement (detailed in the Letter appended here). CTAHR has prioritized the interests of large out-of-state corporations over those of small local farmers despite its obligation under the Land Grant College Act to support the food producers of the area it serves. While small local farmers mostly produce food for consumption in Hawai‘i, the corporations that CTAHR vigorously supports merely exploit Hawai‘i’s tropical climate for the experimental testing of pesticides and pesticide-resistant crops, thereby creating health hazards for those living in areas where the pesticides are sprayed.
The first and second issues are so closely interlinked that they cannot be separated. Attempts to silence those like Professor Valenzuela who question such practices are a consequence of corporate influence on university policies, a systemic problem affecting universities nationwide.
We requested a preliminary response to our Letter within ten working days, but have received nothing from either the Chancellor or the VCAA. We did receive a response from the Dean, but found it unacceptable, since it avoided any specific engagement with the issues we had outlined, treating those issues as of a kind that could be dealt with only internally by CTAHR, without any involvement of the rest of the University or the general public.
We strongly disagree; both issues should concern every resident of Hawai‘i. The purpose of academic freedom is to ensure that the community has access to a wide variety of views and opinions, rather than only those of a particular interest group. A university standing on “ceded lands” owes to the Hawaiian people from whom those lands were stolen the vital duty of protecting their future livelihood. A university founded under the Land Grant College Act owes to the community that supports it the vital duty of ensuring a reliable flow of pesticide-free food. Yet since the overthrow of the Monarchy the percentage of food produced in Hawai‘i that is eaten in Hawai‘i has declined by nearly 90%--a situation that in times of growing world-wide political instability and climate change puts the entire population of these islands at risk from any event that might interrupt imports of food.
The failure of leading UH administrators to admit the significance of the issues raised in our Open Letter, or even acknowledge their existence, leaves us with no option but to place them directly before the general public. We are therefore initiating a public campaign to discuss these issues. We hope this will contribute to transformations within the University that will help those of us who work in it to better work alongside and serve all who live in Hawai‘i.