Chancellor plans to re-establish problem-solving office

This article was published on Dec. 28, 2015. 

While the campus ombuds office closed almost six years ago, the chancellor has plans to re-start small by creating a position that will assist campus members with where to go when they have a question or a problem.

“In my view, that’s the sort of basic thing that we have to have now,” Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman said. “We can start becoming more elaborate in the future. But what we really need now is that … and it’s not just students who need this, I should say. I mean everybody needs this. Again, my long experience as a dean, just all the time someone would come to you with a problem and even the dean wouldn’t know exactly where you’re supposed to go.”

According to Neal Milner, who headed the ombuds office when it was open from 2006 to 2009, the office’s job was to help people solve their problems and concerns in a confidential manner.

“What it meant was that we would do anything from ‘where can I find this place,’ kind of like navigating, which is pretty routine, all the way to faculty members in a conflict, departments having trouble,” he said.

Bley-Vroman hopes to have someone to function in this new role within a month, though he would be disappointed if it didn’t happen by the end of the school year.

The old office

Milner helped set up the old office and said there was always a need for it.

“Let’s put it this way, you don’t have to do a needs assessment at this university to figure out you need it,” he said. “Any conflicts organization benefits from one. This is, this place is just bizarre enough and anarchistic enough in an organizational sense to know that you need it.”

The old office, located in Krauss Hall, was composed of three ombudsmen and a secretary, and according to previous Ka Leo articles, handled hundreds of cases each year. It followed the ethics and practices of the International Ombuds Association, and some of its work would include mediation as part of conflict resolution and informal investigations.

“So to us the book had many chapters, and mediation was maybe one chapter and we spent a lot of time on that. So that, it sounds drier than it is because it’s a real adventure, you never know what the hell’s going to happen,” Milner said.

The office closed in 2009 from budget cuts. Milner estimates the office had an annual budget around $200,000, with most of it paying for salaries.

A beta ombuds office

It’s important for an ombuds office to report to a high level, such as the chancellor, and be relatively independent, Bley-Vroman said. One function of the office would include reports on campus trends.

“So an ombuds office can tell the chancellor like ‘I’ve been getting a lot of people asking about X,’ and that will let me know that there’s something, there may be a general problem that we need to solve,” he said. “It’s sort of my eyes and ears.”

His plan is to start with the navigator function and build the office out from the recommendations he or she could provide. Right now, he’s looking for someone that has knowledge of university systems, a client-service orientation and knowledge of ombuds offices. The location of the office would need to be convenient and relatively discrete.

Milner said an information giver function is valuable on the Mānoa campus, though one difficulty with starting with this sole position is that it’s only a small part of the work that needs to be done.

“But assuming that’s better than nothing, the problem is that often what starts off as a request for information gets more complicated,” he said.

Milner estimates the cost for an ombudsman at a large university ombuds office would make over $100,000 a year, though the chancellor did not know the exact cost for a navigator position.

A place to listen

Mānoa Faculty Senate Chairman Robert Clooney had testified in support of last session’s House Bill (HB) 96, which would have appropriated funds to establish and operate an ombuds office on campus. The bill has been carried over to the 2016 session. He views such an office as a place one could go and confidentially get advice without fear of retaliation.

“I mean sometimes people feel oppressed but in reality, maybe there’s nothing that can be done for them and so you’re better off finding that out up front and what your options are or what the consequences may be,” Clooney said.

Both the UH Student Caucus (UHSC) and campus Graduate Student Organization (GSO) have passed resolutions asking for the establishment of full ombuds offices on the each of campuses. UHSC’s resolution also gave the option of a system coordinated office.

“If you just do the hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil concept, just because there is no office and no place to go, doesn’t mean the problems don’t exist. You’re just not listening. And so I think that’s a concern,” said Ed Hoogland, a GSO history representative.


Buy, Sell, Or Hold?

This article was published in the February 2016 issue. 

Meredith Mawhar says she settled on her new career because she was excited by the Research Challenge, a prestigious competition for college students sponsored by the  Chartered Financial Analyst Institute.

Mawhar is a student at UH Manoa’s Shidler College of Business who already has a degree in zoology. “I actually chose to become a finance major because I heard about this challenge,” she says. “… I love financial analysis and research. When I was back in zoology, I did a lot of research and I love that process, trying to figure out what’s going on, what factors are at play.”

The team from UH Manoa has won the Hawaii final the past four times it has competed and this year Mawhar leads a team of five that includes two graduate students. “A lot of us want to go into some form of financial analysis or equity research for careers,” she says, “so I think this is a great way to test drive the duties we’d like to do after graduation.”

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Is that really a service dog?

This article was published in the February 2016 issue. 

Brian Kajiyama, an instructor in UH’s Department of Special Education, who has cerebral palsy, has an undeniable need for his trained service dog, Zeus. Such dogs get years of training so they can help their human partners, and Zeus can pick up things when Kajiyama uses sign commands.

Together, he says, they have encountered dogs whose owners masquerade them as trained service dogs. Some are tiny dogs wearing red vests with “service dog” patches that bark at Zeus – a behavior that a true service dog would not do in such circumstances.

“Of course my dog reacts, as he’s protective and also curious,” says Kajiyama, “but this places my legitimate service dog at risk for being seen as untrained or not as professional.”

The prevalence of fake service dogs means Kajiyama is sometimes asked to show credentials for his dog: Once at Kualoa Beach and another time at a Kmart store, he says. Both times, employees explained there had been increases in people bringing in dogs they labeled falsely as service dogs.

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Community group to hold campus memorial Feb. 23

Published on Feb. 19, 2016 .

Campus community members who are still grieving the recent deaths of students, faculty and staff will have the chance to celebrate and remember them through the Compassion Hui’s Celebration of Life event next Tuesday.

“The need is that because there is little to no communication about the deaths of students, faculty and staff on this campus … we have found …. there are a lot of people who are still grieving losses that they haven’t been able to grieve for already,” said Susan Schultz, founder of the Compassion Hui and a UH Mānoa English professor. “We thought that this event would simply create a place and a time for people who are still grieving could come, say a few words, talk to other people in the same situation, and maybe it would help kind of lift morale a little bit.”

The event is the first of its kind on campus, Schultz said. According to Jade Sunouchi, a member of the Compassion Hui and lecturer at UH West Oʻahu, the group hopes the event will become an annual occurrence, whether it’s put on by them or university administration.

“We completely support it just like any other event on campus that’s organized by the members of our community,” UH spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said in a phone interview.

Responding to student deaths

UH Mānoa’s 2006 Procedure in Regard to Deceased Students authorizes a pair of administrators to notify the family of the deceased student and the appropriate student affairs offices. While the document also says the campus counseling center should be notified so that steps are taken in regards to counseling of other students who may be affected, the protocol does not address how UH Mānoa will inform the community.

While Schultz said she has found opposition to reporting every death on campus, she believes there should have procedures in place, including an annual memorial service where community members would know who had died.

“More awareness of the availability of resources and especially if it’s a very public death,” she said. “You know, then I think the chancellor needs to kick in and send a message to the entire community to say, ‘There’s been a tragedy on our campus. We’re very saddened by this and here are some resources to access.’ My preference would be if he would do that every time.”

Associated Students of the University of Hawaiʻi (ASUH) Sen. Todd Simeroth found out that a man died while trying to prevent another man’s suicide at Hale Wainani in August through social media, not campus administration. In September, he and fellow senators drafted a resolutioncalling for the campus to adopt a protocol for consistently addressing and responding to student deaths in a caring and professional manner. His concern was that administration should inform students about available resources, such as counseling and therapy.

“We wanted it to be up to the families. If they didn’t want any personal information distributed, it could be something as simple as saying, ‘There was a student death on campus. If you witnessed it or are affected by it, go seek the counseling center.’ That sort of thing,” he said.

The Graduate Student Organization (GSO) passed a similar resolutionalmost unanimously in September.

“We wanted to say that there is a need for this type of communication and we want it done and we want it done properly,” GSO President Jonathan Dial said.

A sensitive topic

According to Meisenzahl, campus policies and procedures are always in review and received feedback is taken into consideration.

When handling student deaths, the family is the campus’ first consideration.

In Interim Vice Chancellor for Students Lori Ideta’s response to ASUH’s resolution, she said the campus does communicate the death of a student and offers support services to those the student came in regular contact with. Meisenzahl added follow ups are also done in case there are delayed responses.

“It’s something the university takes very, very seriously, but it’s not something that we do in a public spotlight,” he said.

Ideta’s concern with an instant notification — which would state, at most, that a death occurred and refer community members to counseling and support services — would create anxiety and raise more questions than answers.

“The fact of the matter is if we sent out an email blast every time someone passed away, there would be a lot of emails or there might be waves of emails because sometimes these things happen in clusters and what would be the benefit of that?” Meisenzahl said. “If there is one student who might know 100 people in a community of 25,000 people, and if we’re doing what we do to reach out to the vast majority of people who know that student, you know, their teachers, their professors, their classes, what benefit is it? So I guess it’s debatable, what [ASUH and GSO are] proposing. The benefit of it is debatable.”

The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Students has sent out email announcements informing students of available support services, and Meisenzahl said students are alerted through new student orientation and student housing.

Another campus’ example

UH Hilo’s Student Death Protocol authorizes the dean of students to act as the coordinator for all campus responses, including contacting the family and determining whether an all-campus announcement needs to be made.

Kelly Oaks, UH Hilo interim associate vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students, said such a decision is made on a case by case determination. The circumstances of the death and the feelings and concerns of the family are taken into consideration.

The policy, which has been utilized for at least the five years Oaks has been in her position, stemmed from a need for a coordinated response.

“We wanted to have one point of contact for the university, and while individuals may have been making these contacts in different areas and departments, were doing so out of concern and the best intentions, the impact to families who were dealing with a tragedy, it can be significant,” she said in a phone interview.

Under the protocol, the dean of students is responsible for notifying the appropriate university and off-campus personnel and providing consultation and assistance to campus departments who wish to organize a memorial event on campus.

Both Simeroth and Schultz believe the protocol is more detailed and compassionate.

According to UHWO Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Judy K. Oliveira, her campus is also working on a protocol that would include internal processes for reaching out to campus administrators, offices and individuals. Like with the other campuses, campus-wide communication will be made on a case-by-case basis, following consultation with senior administration.

“We try to handle each situation with compassion and dignity – allowing the family members and close friends to inform us of how best to memorialize and/or ‘celebrate the life’ of their loved one,” she said in an email.

At UH Mānoa, Dial thinks groups like the Compassion Hui are setting an example.

“I think this is exactly what needs to happen in these kinds of situations,” he said. “This is the community itself bringing this topic up and it’s showing compassion, it’s showing that the community itself cares about the members of the community, it cares about the students, it cares about the faculty and that everyone is valued. And I think that group is doing a very good job by leading by example where I think the administration is actually failing.”

Event details

When: Feb. 23, 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Where: Hālau ʻO Haumea, 2645 Dole Street

Attendees are welcome to bring a candle, lighter and container. Open flames are not permitted on campus. Candles will also be provided by event organizers.


The Compassion Hui

Susan Schultz founded the group in September 2014 to advocate for suicide prevention, compassionate communication of student deaths and an increased awareness of campus resources. After the death at Hale Wainani in August 2015, the group grew and now has over 50 student, faculty and staff members.

Facebook: uhmentalhealthhui


The kupuna who founded Hoola Lahui in 1986 gave the Kauai nonprofit its name, which means “to give life or health to the nation of Hawaii.”

“They picked the name because they thought it would reflect what was needed, which was to bring up the health or to give health to those who were Hawaiian,” says CEO David Peters.

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One Billion Rising: Campus groups aim to help end violence against women

To raise awareness that one in three women will experience rape or abuse in their lifetimes, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa anti-violence program will host a “One Billion Rising” event on Feb. 10.

“With seven billion [people] in the world, I mean, that kind of equals to one billion [victims] … it’s to raise awareness about gender-based violence, so violence against women, and for people to … take action trying to end it,” said Chris Yanuaria, the respondent advocate in the Prevention, Awareness and Understanding Violence Against Women (PAU Violence) program.

The event will take place at the Campus Center Courtyard from 3-7 p.m. with on-campus and off-campus resource tables that aim to help survivors and get men to be part of the solution. There will also be campus and community performers to celebrate those who join the movement.

According to Leslie Cabingabang, the Women’s Center coordinator, attendees will be able to learn the international campaign dance and community groups will demonstrate martial arts to show students ways to be part of the “movement” to “Stand, Dance and Rise.”

“Many of us know at least one person that has been assaulted,” she said in an email interview. “We all have the power to do something about the small number of individuals that are violent toward others. This event is just one way we can all stand together and say ‘we don’t condone violence.’”

The campus first held the event in 2013 with an activity booth at the annual UH Health Services Condom Fair. Last year, it was a stand-alone event that brought in more than 18 campus community members and 200 participants.

“This event is a clarion call to the structures and individuals who have and continue to systematically oppress and abuse women that this must stop. It is a defiant, global message of freedom and self-expression to bring awareness to the more than one billion women and girls who are beaten and raped in their lifetime,” Sydney Morrow, program officer for the American Association of University Women Students at Mānoa, said in an email.

The organization, which aims to inform community members about issues like the wage gap and Title IX and spread awareness about strategies for the advancement of women in underrepresented areas, will be at the event “throwing our voices and potentially our dance movies into the mix.”

According to its website, One Billion Rising began in 2013. The campaign’s theme of “revolution” was selected in 2015 to reflect the increased demand for justice.

New position will advocate for the accused

Students accused of sexual assault now have a designated person to go to if they want advice and advocacy while under investigation.

“The university and PAU Violence thought that it was really important to be able …to look for solutions… To really help end violence is to be able to engage with both the victim and the respondent,” Respondent Advocate Chris Yanuaria said.

Yanuaria took on this role mid-January under the campus Prevention, Awareness and Understanding Violence Against Women (PAU) program. His job is to advise and advocate for student respondents with information, resources and support in cases of sexual assault, intimate partner violence and other gender-based violence. He also helps coordinate PAU Violence’s prevention education efforts regarding domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

According to Women’s Center Coordinator Leslie Cabaingabang, although the PAU Violence program is still under-funded in its efforts to provide prevention education for UH students, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Students is funding this position.

The same rights

UH Spokesman Dan Meisenzahl says this position for students accused of sex assault is the first of its kind at the university, though Title IX and Judicial Student Affairs staff protect the rights of both the respondent and complainant.

While he does not get involved in sexual assault investigations, Yanuaria helps respondents understand their rights and connects them with resources, such as the counseling center on campus and groups in the community.

“[I] sit down and ask them ‘what’s going on in your life?’ and make a genuine connection so that I would be able to understand how to best care for this person and give them the resources that they need to heal and become productive members of the community. And I do all this with compassion and care,” he said.

Under Title IX and UH’s interim Policy and Procedures on Sex Discrimination and Gender-Based Violence, both the complainant and the respondent have the right to equitable due process and resources.

“We absolutely support and appreciate additional resources for all parties involved in these types of incidents,” Meisenzahl said.

What peer institutions are doing

While some of UH Manoa’s peer institutions do not have a dedicated position, they do offer the resource.

At the University of New Mexico, the LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center primarily works with complainants, though if a respondent needs similar services, arrangements will be made, Director Lisa Lindquist said, as it’s another duty of the overall office.

The University of Kentucky also does this as staff from its Office of Student Conduct or Title IX office will speak with respondents about their rights and what to expect in the hearing process, Rhonda Henry, director of the campus Violence Intervention and Prevention Center said.

Respondent advocacy is offered at the University of Illinois through a list of designated volunteers, according to Molly McLay, assistant director of the campus’ Women’s Resource Center. The respondent advocates work in the university in other capacities and are trained by the campus’ student discipline office to be there for anyone who is accused of sexual misconduct.

For Patricia Lacy, University of Oregon’s director of the student government’s advocacy office, the responsibility of advocating for respondents began last summer.

“Providing a service for respondents is equally important to serving the needs of complainants,” she said in an email. “It is vital that the university prove its case against the respondent and that can more effectively occur if the respondent receives assistance in preparing for the meeting with university officials.”

At the University of Utah, Jolene Des Roches, the assistant dean of students for behavioral intervention, holds a similar position.

While the University of South Florida does not have a position dedicated to this function, it is pursuing different avenues to offer the resource, Renee Hunt, director of communication and marketing for Student Affairs, said.

The need for advocacy

Sydney Morrow, a program officer for the American Association of University Women Students at Mānoa (AAUW-SM), an organization that aims to advance equity for women and girls, said the respondent advocate position is not only appropriate, but long overdue.

“The burden should not be on the respondent to prove, without a doubt, what events transpired,” Morrow said in an email. “The stress of reporting an incident combined with a culture of victim blaming as well as the risk of retaliation puts the respondent at a disadvantage from the beginning of the process. The university must ensure the safety, physical and emotional, of the respondent is protected throughout the arduous process of investigation.”

Campus Civil Rights Specialist Jill Nunokawa said having such a position provides fairness in the process, though she expects there to be debate about this because it’s taken a long time for society to begin addressing issues like sexual harassment and sexual assault.

“I do view it as part of a shift that we’re making, not just in higher education but a shift in civil society, a shift towards, more towards truth and justice,” Nunokawa said in a phone interview.

While the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii (ASUH) has not formulated an opinion on the position, President Kelly Zakimi believes it gives students direct assistance, allowing them to have a support system.

However, Hannah Liebriech, co-chairperson of the Graduate Student Organization’s advocacy committee, is concerned that the focus would be on the accused and there would be more victim blame.

“My concern would be that if you have a … position designated to the accused, when in fact [under Title IX] they have equal access to … the same resources available as the accuser, I think that maybe serves to again perpetuate inequitable distribution of resources in favor of the accused,” she said.

Yanuaria said there’s an impression that he’s taking the side of the perpetrators, though this is not the case.

“I really care about the safety on the UH campus and care about the vulnerable populations and so the way I do that work to prevent violence is by working with those who are the alleged perpetrator,” he said. “I work to help just ensure that abuse doesn’t happen, that no one gets abused again. So my hope is that they really, truly can be productive…And I do this work because I want to help to create a safer and healthier UH community and for all of us and for generations to come. And it’s very difficult work but it’s unbelievably rewarding.”