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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Greenwood makes case for supporting UH

In her first major address, the new president of the University of Hawaii system, M.R.C. Greenwood, described a strong, vibrant institution that’s vital to Hawaii’s economy and community, and well worth the public investment.

Greenwood was wise to accentuate the positive. And at a time when the UH system is reeling from a $198 million budget cut, the fallout from a contentious labor dispute and persistent criticism that it has failed to live up to its promise as a top-tier institution, Greenwood must continue to make the case that supporting UH doesn’t mean throwing good money after bad.
Her address before the Legislature yesterday was a promising start. Her broad goals — increasing the number of local graduates, preparing those entering college for success, training a workforce to meet Hawaii’s needs, fixing crumbling infrastructure — all make sense and deserve state budgetary support. Even so, Greenwood’s work is cut out for her.
It remains uncertain how UH will pay for its labor contract, which increases faculty salaries after initial reductions.
Persuading the Legislature and governor to support general obligation bonds to invest in undeniably needed facilities improvements — an effort that has failed previously — will require setting priorities for a $300 million-plus backlog that can fulfill Greenwood’s promise of a solid return on investment.
Handling already-record enrollments while increasing the graduation rate will require more efficient enrollment management systems that take students through their coursework in reasonable time.
Greenwood expresses confidence that the UH system is up to these challenges. It’s important that she be right.
As a driver of the economy, UH plays a leading role in attracting research grants, stimulating business initiatives and training the next generation of workers and professionals. A healthy Hawaii depends on a healthy university system.
Leading UH out of the wilderness of this crumbling economy will take a persuasive leader with a lot of patience, doggedness and a solid plan of action.
Greenwood made her case yesterday; elected officials should give her a fighting chance to succeed.