Aloha fellow graduate students!

The legislative session for 2015 is now officially in session, and dozens of bills have been introduced that pertain to the University of Hawaii and its students. As your Graduate Student Organization, we have combed through all of them, and selected those that are most relevant to GSO and graduate students — for your information and for you to track and testify on if you feel so inclined.

First we wanted to share some relevant links:

The HI State Capitol [http://capitol.hawaii.gov/]
How a Bill Becomes a Law [http://go.hawaii.edu/FC]
How to Submit Testimony [http://go.hawaii.edu/vF]
Calendar of Hearings & Deadlines [http://go.hawaii.edu/Fp]

Here’s the list!

GSO’s Top Priority Bills:

SB 638 – http://go.hawaii.edu/1F
HB 553 – http://go.hawaii.edu/Fe
These bills propose an amendment to an existing statute that would allow graduate students the right to unionization. As many of the problems we face as graduate students pertain to compensation, grievances, and job security, we strongly support these bills. Winning the right to collectively bargain would increase the ability of graduate students to work toward improving their own situations without fear of retaliation.

SB 636 – http://go.hawaii.edu/zF
HB 552 – http://go.hawaii.edu/Fu
These bills propose to add three voting members to the University of Hawaii Board of Regents to represent undergraduate students, research faculty, and other faculty. It also converts the existing student member to specifically represent graduate students. We support this because it would substantially increase the student voice in system-level government of UH.

HB 96 – http://go.hawaii.edu/ZF
This bill establishes and funds an ombuds office at UH Mānoa.  Ombuds offices typically handle individuals’ workplace grievances/complaints, especially in administrative affairs. UH had one in the past, but it was cut several years ago for reasons unknown to us. As a result, we do not have a safe and acceptable method for filing and handling grievances, and many students have significant difficulty filing complaints and often choose not to do so. We therefore strongly support this bill.

Other Bills of Interest:

SB 823 – http://go.hawaii.edu/FL
This bill would prohibit the Board of Regents from going into executive session while evaluating the performance of chancellors or the president.  This would enhance transparency when it comes to evaluating and hiring/firing of top-level administrators.  The debacle of Chancellor Apple’s termination is just one example that illustrates the need for greater transparency in this regard.

HB 555 – http://go.hawaii.edu/IF
This bill would mandate that any (undergraduate) program that is not ‘self-sustaining’ and graduates fewer than ten students per year for three consecutive years be cut from the university. To see a list of potentially affected programs, check http://go.hawaii.edu/Fl.

SB 397 – http://go.hawaii.edu/7F
HB 457 – http://go.hawaii.edu/FT
These bills would ensure funding for Title IX compliance. If we are to be totally compliant with Title IX, state funding is likely necessary to avoid cuts in other areas of the university.

HB 451 – http://go.hawaii.edu/5F
HB 597 – http://go.hawaii.edu/oa
SB 923 – http://go.hawaii.edu/aj
These bills would require that the university adopt an affirmative consent policy in regards to sexual assault. This essentially means that the absence of a verbal no or physical resistance during a sexual encounter cannot be used as proof of consent in disciplinary proceedings relating to sexual assaults.  SB 923 also mandates that the Board of Regents adopt specific policies directly relating to sexual assault and student safety.

SB 173 – http://go.hawaii.edu/fa
SB 341 – http://go.hawaii.edu/aG
HB 285 – http://go.hawaii.edu/Aa
These bills provide greater benefits to military veterans and their dependents, including free tuition.

To stay updated on the progress of our top bills, learn about hearing notices, and see how you can help, check our website (http://gso.hawaii.edu/), Facebook (http://go.hawaii.edu/a3), ask your department representative, or email gso@hawaii.edu / our GSO Legislative Fellow Kristine Espinoza (kjespino@hawaii.edu).

Thank you! We are looking forward to a very productive legislative session with you.

Your GSO

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