The Legislature Takes On Frazier

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - May 30, 2007
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When the powers that be in the state Legislature decided it was time to get some ink by attaching themselves to the most overplayed story of the football off-season, the biggest fear was a political dogand-pony show that did little more than offer face time and the perceived notion of importance. Minus Rep. K. Mark Takai, that’s exactly what happened.

The university played its softball role by parading out a roster of employees, and even WAC commissioner Karl Benson to testify how wonderful things were in Manoa and what a spectacular job is being done by AD Herman Frazier. The Legislature countered with a group of individuals who were no more active than the table at which they were sitting. Such is the way of politics.

As it holds many of the purse strings, the Legislature is well within its right to question the goings on at the university. But too much attention in the wrong areas makes the organization seem petty - and being guilty of sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong.

Budgets and fundraising are fine. Parking and schedules are more on the fringe, especially when the questions in those areas ignore the big problems. Takai spent so much time dissecting the scheduling philosophy that he forgot to ask the most important question: Why, in the face of four open dates, when Frazier had Louisville and Texas A&M lined up in December, did he decide that these two schools were just not good enough?

Parking took up another some 15-odd minutes and seemed to exasperate Frazier and interim chancellor Denise Konan, who repeated that the issue was not in the athletic department’s control. Another ignored point to consider: If student athletes are raking up hundreds of dollars in parking fines without coming to the conclusion that finding another locale may be the favorable option, then one has to wonder if the athletes are spending enough time being students.

While Takai missed on some areas, he was without question the star of the show and the only one, it seemed, to have any interest in the subject, and the only one who spent any time investigating the matter. Clearly no one else was ready to dive into and dissect the budget and fundraising efforts, while questioning the $4,000 spent on soap dispensers. Takai stated that a quick trip to Home Depot found similar items for about $130 less than the university paid.

As Frazier’s self-imposed deadline for a 13th game expires this week, the biggest question remains to be answered: What effect, if anything, will all this attention have on the athletic department? If both sides bury themselves in their own self-interest, the university will continue to crumble and the quaint problems of depleted soap supplies will be looked back upon with nostalgia. Using the history of local legislative action and the snail’s pace of change at the university, it is hard to imagine anything being generated but headlines.

Takai and committee chair Jerry Chang said the meeting came about because of public concern expressed in phone calls and e-mails. Fair enough. But with upper campus facing a $114 million maintenance backlog - compared to the $2 million for lower campus - and the state as a whole suffering from spiraling gas prices, uncontrolled development, environmental pollution, low wages, the ice epidemic, homelessness and political cronyism and corruption, one hopes that our elected officials will jump as quickly when those calls of concern come rolling in.

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