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  • Hawaiian Issues
  • Tracie Ku'uipo Cummings Losch (bio)

On 7 September 2003, Native Hawaiians and supporters from all walks of life flooded Waikīkī, Hawai'i's tourism Mecca, with a sea of red shirts symbolizing the red 'āweoweo (a school of small red fish seen as predicting a big change). Clad in t-shirts that read "Kū i ka Pono!" (Stand for Justice), an estimated 8,000 people marched in support of native rights and institutions and in protest against efforts to dismantle them (Bernardo 2003). The primary sponsors, 'Īlio'ulaokalani (a coalition of kumu hula [hula masters]) and the Kamehameha Schools, were able to rally often-disparate voices within the Hawaiian community. Students, teachers, community leaders, representatives from several ali'i (chiefly, royal) trusts, state offices, and civic clubs stood together as one to face a common threat. Other notables participating in the march were Governor Linda Lingle and Lieutenant Governor Duke Aiona, who delivered a speech from atop a makeshift podium. Even University of Hawai'i President Evan Dobelle,UH Mānoa Chancellor Peter Englert, and other supportive university administrators made the trek down the tourist-lined streets.

The 2003 Kū i Ka Pono march was organized in response to the numerous lawsuits challenging the existence of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, as well as the Hawaiian-preference admissions policy of the Kamehameha Schools—in particular, the Arakaki v Lingle, Mohica-Cummings v Kamehameha Schools, and Doe v Kamehameha cases. Since the march, the Mohica-Cummings case has been settled out of court, allowing the student in question to stay at the school provided he remain in good standing. The Kamehameha Schools prevailed in the Doe case. In Arakaki v Lingle, the courts ruled that the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, a US federal agency, could not be included in the litigation; the case is still pending.

'Īlio'ulaokalani was planning another Kū i Ka Pono march for 6 September 2004, the one-year anniversary of the original march. But this time, one man would be noticeably absent from the ranks of marchers. As a result of a controversial decision by the University of Hawai'i Board of Regents, Evan Dobelle was unceremoniously fired from his position as the university's president.

Evan Dobelle came to Hawai'i with a substantial reputation for enacting change and reinvigorating stagnating institutions. Born in Washington, Dobelle earned his bachelor's, master's, and PhD degrees from the University of Massachusetts and an additional master's in public administration from Harvard. He went on to occupy such positions as mayor of Pittsfield, Massachusetts; chief of protocol for the White House; assistant secretary of state during the Carter administration; chief financial officer of the Democratic National Committee; president of Middlesex Community [End Page 203] College; chancellor and president of the City College System of San Francisco; and president of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

While at Trinity College, Dobelle was credited as the driving force behind the revitalization of surrounding neighborhoods, previously overrun with drug dealers and plagued by crime. The new "Learning Corridor," which includes a Montessori elementary school, a middle school, a high school, a job-training center, and a police substation, rejuvenated the area surrounding the college. On campus, a performing arts center, a studio arts building, and an expanding library made the struggling college more appealing. As a result, the number of applications to the school increased 34 percent in the following years (Wolfe 1998).

Meanwhile, the University of Hawai'i was beset with sliding national rankings, significant budget cutbacks, and a faculty strike in April of 2001. Someone of Dobelle's background was just what the university was looking for to energize and revitalize the institution. His accomplishments stood out among the seventy other applicants to fill former President Kenneth Mortimer's shoes. On 1 July 2001,President Dobelle took the reins, with an annual salary of $442,000 and a seven-year contract (Gima 2004).

Immediately on taking office, Dobelle began remodeling the university by replacing the old community college system with one in which the various regional campuses were components of one cohesive system. He sought to model...


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