University of Hawaii Manoa looks at program mergers, cuts

HONOLULU — The University of Hawaii at Manoa is considering merging, realigning or cutting some academic programs as the school faces a budget gap.

The ideas from a team of administrators were labeled as suggestions to begin discussions among faculty and other stakeholders, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.

All segments of the campus were challenged in April to develop plans producing 5% to 15% cost savings. Administrators have discussed ways to streamline, reduce administrative costs, invest in new growth areas and phase out degrees with little demand.

The proposals include eliminating the Public Policy Center and the Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution.

Other ideas include dropping bachelor degrees in religion, journalism, dance and German and some advanced degrees attracting few students.

Approved changes would not take place until at least the new fiscal year starting in July.

“It is important to emphasize that our suggestions were never meant to be the last word,” Provost Michael Bruno wrote to faculty Friday. He characterized the proposals as the “beginning of an open conversation.”

Bruno sent a message assuring students that changes would take time and they would graduate before any degree program is terminated.

The proposed closure of the Public Policy Center, part of the College of Social Sciences, came as a surprise because of its activity during the coronavirus pandemic.

The center produced five reports on subjects related to the virus including how the state can mitigate the crisis and Hawaii residents’ assessments of pandemic restrictions.

Director Colin Moore said he believes the center plays an important role for the state and its closure would not be an effective way to trim the budget.

“We are a very small center that has a big impact,” Moore said Tuesday. “Most faculty have separate affiliations with their departments, so we don’t understand how this would save money. And we think it would reduce the capacity of the state to evaluate policy issues, which I think we need now more than ever.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

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