UH-Hilo pushes back on student restrictions

  • Bonnie Irwin

As the state prepares to reinstate interisland travel restrictions next week to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, administrators at the University of Hawaii at Hilo have pushed back against further restrictions for out-of-state students.

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim on Thursday told the Tribune-Herald he urged the university and Gov. David Ige to suspend in-person attendance for all out-of-state students for the entire fall semester. If approved, the request would force students to attend classes online only from their trans-Pacific locations.

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However, UH-Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin sent a message to faculty and staff Thursday evening — following a meeting between Irwin, UH-Hilo vice chancellors and Kim — stating that the university is discussing other options.

“(Kim) has been lobbying for this for some time, so far unsuccessful,” the message read. “We informed the mayor that we already have some students on island under quarantine, and there are some programs for which not all classes can be taken online.”

The message went on to say that the university is honoring the 14-day quarantine requirements for out-of-state students and repeatedly reminds them of the consequences of violating quarantine.

Irwin’s message also acknowledged Ige’s Thursday announcement reinstating mandatory quarantines for travelers arriving on the neighbor islands beginning Tuesday, which, she noted, will interfere with students traveling to UH-Hilo to return to school.

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“I respect our government officials who are trying to safeguard our health and safety, but at the same time, I regret the timing of these decisions, which have made the work of many of you that much more difficult,” Irwin wrote.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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