The UC Board of Regents discussed plans for diverse hiring and the future of the Maunakea telescope during its Thursday meeting.
During the meeting’s public comment session, many speakers spoke in opposition to the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, or TMT. Several speakers also pushed for the university to declare racism as a public health crisis and advocated for the creation of a task force to evaluate future action regarding UCPD.
The UC Office of the President Institutional Research and Academic Planning board reviewed admission and retention rates of underrepresented students. It discussed its plan to focus on ensuring the diversity at campuses is similar to that of the state and also mentioned the creation of a faculty task force to address underrepresented faculty.
This was the last meeting for UC Student Association President Varsha Sarveshwar. During her remarks, she spoke out against campus police and pushed for regents to continue listening to student voices.
During the meeting, the board also heard from multiple speakers regarding the Maunakea telescope.
TMT Associate Director Michael Bolte and Andrea Ghez, a member of the TMT advisory committee, presented a report on plans and updates to the project. Bolte said the telescope will be used to expand the meaning behind the beginning of space and further observe exoplanets, and its creation will be a “Galileo moment.”
Bolte added that TMT partners have the Canary Islands in Spain in mind as an alternative site for the telescope. The location change would require a unanimous vote from the project’s partners, who are still in favor of using the original Maunakea location.
Ghez said it would be the most effective site for their research. She explained that Maunakea’s position near the equator would provide researchers a comprehensive view of the sky.
Mailani Neal, a graduate student at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, also spoke in support of the telescope, from a Native Hawaiian perspective. She added that the telescope would generate career opportunities outside the tourism industry for younger generations of Hawaiians.
According to Paul Jenny, senior vice chancellor for finance and administration at UCSF, the project’s budget has increased to approximately $1.4 billion.
Regents and supporters of the telescope said the Maunakea space could be shared for research purposes. Multiple activists, however, opposed the telescope in regard to Hawaiian cultural practices and answered questions regarding its significance.
Laulani Teale, a member of Indigenous advocacy group Hoʻopae Pono Peace Project, alleged that moving forward with the telescope project would be an act of “genocide.” She added that as a health care worker, she sees the health of the Hawaiian people suffering because of their spiritual connection to the Maunakea land.
Noe Noe Wong-Wilson, executive director at the Hawaiian education organization Lālākea Foundation, said the Hawaiians who have fought against the destruction of their land are currently facing litigation and court appearances as a result. She added that the Hawaiian people feel distrust toward the project.
Five telescopes already on Maunakea were slated to be decommissioned within the last 10 years, Wong-Wilson said. She mentioned that the removal process has not progressed and has the potential to destroy the sacred land the telescopes sit on.
“Our resistance will not cease. … This project continues to tear at our community. No amount of money will fix the permanent and generational damage you caused,” Wong-Wilson alleged.
Nothing was decided at the meeting. Board of Regents chair John Pérez said the board will further discuss the telescope at a later date.