Faculty members in the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy have taken a vote of “no confidence” for Dean Carolyn Ma.
Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Ken Hon on Wednesday confirmed the recent action by the college’s Faculty Senate, but said only tenured faculty voted.
Ma, however, said she was made aware that not all tenured faculty — which makes up less than half of the faculty at the college — were asked to vote.
Ma, who has been dean since 2016, joined the college of pharmacy faculty in 2007. She became chair for pharmacy practice in 2009, and was named interim dean in 2015.
The college has 55 faculty and staff, according to its website.
Hon said the “no confidence” vote doesn’t have any legal standing but is a message to the administration that faculty members don’t particularly like the direction in which the pharmacy school is going.
The university is in the process of restructuring the program in the wake of declining enrollment and changes in the health care environment across Hawaii and the nation.
Former interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai sent an internal email in early May expressing concerns about the pharmacy college, which was formed more than a decade ago out a dire need for pharmacists in the state and nation.
The pharmacy school’s creation came “before the rise of the big mail-order pharmacies,” and there were about half as many pharmacy schools as there are today, Hon said.
Class sizes were set up to be 80-90 students, and UH-Hilo originally had about 1,000 good, qualified applicants for those spots.
However, Hon said over the last few years demand within the state for these jobs has diminished, and the number of pharmacist jobs has decreased because of the rise of bigger pharmacies.
“All those things have kind of conspired to squeeze down the market a little bit,” Hon said.
Three years ago, Hon said, the number of qualified applicants dwindled to 200, before dropping even lower.
Last year, the college had “about the same number of qualified applicants as positions,” he said, but not all students who are accepted to the program necessarily enroll.
This year’s cohort is just under 50 students.
Hon said because there were a lot of students in previous years, there were “a lot of tuition dollars flowing into the pharmacy school.”
But now with less tuition money, there are fewer things the college can do, and “you have to really make sure that what we’re doing is focusing on delivering a quality education to the students in our pharmacy school,” he continued. “So some of the things we were doing have to go away. There is some natural disagreement in how to guide the pharmacy school into this new direction.”
While some faculty will embrace change, Ma said others might be resistant to changes and “are going to have trouble with that.”
“Change and transition is hard,” Ma said. “We’re really going to dedicate ourselves to responding to the health care needs of the state and trying to prepare our graduates for that.”
While she wants to appreciate everyone’s opinions, Ma said this is an “opportunity for me to listen more, to make sure that we try to come together as a faculty … .”
“My concern is we really need to get everybody working together, and that’s what I continue to work on,” Hon said.
Hon said there will be disagreements in any group, but he’s been “pushing that message to everybody — not only the faculty, but also Carolyn — we all have to be on the same team.”
Hon said the goal is “to make sure we remain successful in the future. I know that’s what Sen. Inouye would want, to keep serving the people of the state in the best way we can.”
Hon said he is working with Ma and the rest of the college of pharmacy faculty to “come up with a way we can restructure the academic curriculum to make it more relevant to the health care needs of the state right now and into the next 10 years or so.”
The university has hired a professional facilitator who is working with individuals from Hawaii’s health care and pharmacy sectors to determine what needs in the near future will be, and “we want to develop a curriculum to meet those needs.”
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