The University of Hawaii’s governing board could be cut from 15 members to 11 after state lawmakers agreed to a bill that would restructure the board.

House Bill 398 restructures the UH Board of Regents by reducing the number of regents on Oahu from seven to five and specifying that three of them must come from the urban areas while the other two must come from rural Oahu.

The UH Board of Regents opposed similar measures proposing the restructuring, saying in a resolution in March that the average number of members on university governing boards nationwide is 12.

University of Hawaii Regents Meeting at Manoa.
The University of Hawaii Board of Regents at a meeting in August 2018. A bill proposes reducing their numbers from 15 to 11. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The board took issue with the provision that divided Oahu’s regents between the first and second congressional district. The division isn’t fair, the board says, because only one UH campus, UH West Oahu, is located in the rural second congressional district while there are five in the urban first congressional district.

The bill also axes the “At-Large” members of the board, or those regents who don’t need to come from a specific county.

HB 389 would also put into law a requirement that the board must hold the UH president accountable.

The board resolution says that’s redundant since holding the UH president accountable is already one of their responsibilities.

HB 389 began as a bill that would require UH to create distance learning programs for students interested in teaching. The idea was to get more qualified teachers in rural areas.

The Senate Higher Education Committee chaired by Sen. Donna Kim plugged in the sections cutting the UH board earlier in the legislative session. And the House agreed to remove the teacher education program from the bill Friday morning.

The bill now moves back to the floor of the House and Senate for a final vote.

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