Faculty, Staff, and Students Urge University Terminate TMT Project

Dec 6, 2018

Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

A group of University of Hawaiʻi faculty, staff, and students is urgingthe University terminate plans for construction of the Thirty-Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea. This comes a little over a month since the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court upheld its decision to allow TMT construction to proceed. HPR’s Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi reports. 

More than 100 University of Hawaiʻi faculty, staff, students, and supporters gathered yesterday on the steps of Hawaiʻi Hall at UH Mānoa in a last-ditch effort to halt construction of the Thirty-Meter Telescope. 

Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

“I think the University has to realize that it’s not just the broader community that is opposing the TMT, but within the University itself,” says Ethnic Studies Professor Davianna McGregor. She helped organize the gathering.

The group is callingon UH President David Lassner, the UHBoard of Regents and the TMT corporation to terminate any and all agreements for the construction of TMT.

“And we’re determined to use our internal structures to challenge the decisions that were made to build TMT, the agreements that were made, as well as the funding that is being diverted from our research grants to fund the legal representation for the construction of TMT,” says McGregor.

Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

The $1.4 billion telescope will allow astronomers to see deeper into space than ever before and with finer detail. UH Political Science Professor Noelani Goodyear-Kaʻōpua says she’s not opposed to scientific research or astronomy. But she says this research comes at a price.

“There is absolutely no way they would approve a research project where I said, well in order for me to do my research its going to result in substantial protest among the community living where I’m doing my research and its also potentially going to result in their arrest, it may result in psychological harm, it may result in their financial lost,” says Goodyear-Kaʻōpua, “There is no way that that would fly.”

Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

The group is also urging the University reject the proposed Mauna Kea Administrative Rules. They say it would, in effect, criminalize those who say they are seeking to protect the mountain.

“Considering both my mother and my brother got arrested on Mauna Kea,” says Goodyear-Kaʻōpua, “I knew it was in my blood for me to stand here.”

UH junior Hiwa Kaʻapuni was the only student to speak publicly during the gathering.

“It’s our right as Hawaiʻi to be on our mauna,” says Kaʻapuni.

Asked whether the Univeristy would even consider terminating the project, UH Spokesman Dan Meisenzahl says...

“It’s a hard question to answer because the fact of the matter is this ship has sailed. Decisions were made that we’re continuing to honor and we’re continuing to support,” says Meisenzahl, “So it’s a challenge right now because how do we bridge that divide? And the honest to God truth is we’re not going to be able to with everybody but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to continue to work at it.