Filipinos make up nearly a quarter of the population in Hawaii but are generally underrepresented in higher education, according to a state Senate resolution.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 132 is asking the University of Hawaii and a Filipino advocacy group to submit a report to next year’s Legislature on the resource and budgetary needs of Filipinos at the university.

The report also would include recommendations on curriculum development and the representation and success of students, faculty and staff. The House Culture, Arts and International Affairs Committee was scheduled to hear the resolution on Wednesday. Once cleared, it will need to be heard by one more committee before being voted on by the full House for final approval.

Amy Agbayani, a member of the advocacy group Pamantasan Council, said the overall goal of the resolution is “to say that Filipinos matter” at the university and the state.

Amy Agbayani is a member of the University of Hawaii Pamantasan Council and co-chair of the Hawaii Friends of Civil Rights. Anita Hofschneider/Civil Beat/2019

“They need that higher education, a state benefit, which should be equally accessible to this significant population,” she said Monday in an interview.

Created in 1987, the Pamantasan Council reviews the status of Filipinos at the university and helps develop recommendations to increase the representation of Filipino students, faculty and staff. Pamantasan means “higher education” in Tagalog.

According to the resolution, Filipino students are mostly represented at community colleges in the islands, although it also points to the low transfer rates to four-year universities.

“While Filipino student representation at the University of Hawaii at Manoa has increased, Filipino students continue to be underrepresented at the undergraduate level and are significantly underrepresented in graduate and professional degree programs,” the resolution said.

More than 3,700 Filipino students enrolled in the university’s community colleges for the spring semester this year. More than 1,600 enrolled at UH Manoa, 704 at UH West Oahu and 211 at UH Hilo,  according to official figures at the university.

Across the university’s four-year colleges – including UH Manoa, UH Hilo, and UH West Oahu – Filipinos make up 3.8% of tenured faculty compared with 47.8% of white tenured faculty.

The resolution faced no opposition. Supporters said they hope it will help address educational equity gaps for Filipinos.

Nicole Alia Salis Reyes is an associate professor of the UH Manoa’s College of Education who is Native Hawaiian and Filipina. She said that Filipino faculty are underrepresented at her college, with only five of 188 identifying as Filipino.

“Of my colleagues, some are in temporary positions that have become increasingly precarious during this time of the pandemic,” Reyes said in written testimony. “These conditions make it difficult for us to be able to do the work that many of us strive so desperately to do, to prepare educators and to do research that will contribute to more socially just, culturally sustaining, and academically excellent educational institutions in Hawaii.”

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