LIHUE — Hawaii Peace and Justice — an organization that supports the demilitarization of Hawaii — will be allowed a spot at the upcoming Hawaii College and Career Fair after initially being told it could not participate.
Contacted Tuesday by The Garden Island, HCCF Board President and Kauai Fair Coordinator Bricen Moritsugu confirmed HPJ’s application to participate in the 40th annual event had been rejected.
He called back Wednesday afternoon to retract HCCF’s original decision.
“I did review the policy again and we’ll go ahead and let their organization attend the fair,” he said.
While HPJ members say their group provides a valuable service to the community, career fair representatives initially maintained the group did not fit the newly adopted criteria for participating in the exhibit.
Kauai resident and HPJ volunteer Kip Goodwin said the group’s fair coordinator Sanford Yee received a letter Nov. 7 from HCCF Treasurer and Coordinator Pamela Teehan outlining HCCF’s rejection decision.
“This just came right out of the blue,” Goodwin said Tuesday.
In an email to Goodwin and other HPJ members, Yee referenced the HCCF letter.
“Our organization has rethought its exhibitor policy, to coincide with our mission statement,” the letter reads. “Unfortunately, your organization does not fall within the realm of our goals. We apologize and hope your future endeavors meet your expectations.”
Moritsugu said the fair adopted its new policy this year in response to feedback from the community and other exhibitors. While the changes were not in response to any specific organization, they were necessary, he said Tuesday.
“It brings us more in line with other college fairs happening across the nation,” Moritsugu said.
Goodwin said that for the past several years, he and other HPJ volunteers have manned a table at the event and distributed handouts with information and statistics about the military that are not disclosed by recruiters.
One such handout, provided by Goodwin on Tuesday, is a four-page cartoon called “Sgt. Abe the Honest Recruiter,” which outlines the “sweet” promises recruiters often make and how they can be broken.
“Take the length of enlistment, for instance,” reads one message from Sgt. Abe. “Here, it looks definite and limited. But in fact it’s not. The military can make it longer. If you don’t believe me, turn the page.”
“Think hard before you sign — your life could be at stake,” reads another.
A second handout the group plans to distribute at the fair provides a number of statistics about the low percentage of veterans that use their military skills in their current jobs, as well as the rates of sexual assault, suicide and homelessness among vets.
Among the many exhibitors at this year’s Kauai event, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. Monday at the Kauai Marriott Resort, are the Hawaii Air National Guard, United States Army Recruiting, United States Coast Guard Academy and the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Under HCCF’s new policy, exhibitors must fit one of the following criteria: an educational institution of higher learning; a nonprofit or governmental organization offering information on programs or services in support of higher learning; or an organization or firm offering career information or career opportunities.
Prior to changing his mind about allowing HPJ to participate, Moritsugu said he respects HPJ’s mission, but that the organization failed to meet any of the required criteria. He added that while he recognized that the new policy is a “big change” — one not everyone is going to support — HCCF will continue to evaluate how to improve the fair.
On Wednesday, however, Moritsugu said he met with Goodwin and other HPJ members and came to the conclusion that the organization does fit the criteria by distributing information that could lead to higher learning.
Goodwin said that while he did not fully understand the reasons for Moritsugu’s change of heart, he welcomed the news.
“We are conduits to education and career opportunities not represented at the fair,” he said. “We are not, repeat not, anti-military or anti-recruitment. We believe we are inherently within the mission statement of College and Career Fair and provide valuable service to Kauai youth.”
Chris D’Angelo, environment writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.