A new University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents group will be investigating the school's role in managing Mauna Kea.
The regents approved Friday the creation of what's known as a Permitted Interaction Group. The panel will look into the school's stewardship and governance of the mountain, where a controversial 14th telescope is planned, and make recommendations to the board.
Regents heard more than four hours of testimony from faculty, students, and community members criticizing the university's role in the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope. Several continued calls for UH President and Chancellor David Lassner to resign and stop the project.
Some also question the new group's purpose.
"Why now? And what is its purpose? To investigate what?" asked Kekailoa Perry, an associate professor at UH Mānoa's Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge.
"There's enough evidence, at this point in time, that demonstrates the university and all of the astronomy institutions there have conducted egregious environmental and cultural degradation. It's even in the Supreme Court decision. So what will this new body say or do that will make a difference?"
Perry believes the group will skirt the state's open meetings law, and conduct business outside of public view.
There were also questions surrounding who will be in the new group. Several testifiers expressed their concern that the group will ultimately serve the best interests of the university, and not the environment or community.
"Who is setting up the table? Who is controlling the table?" asked Laiana Wong, a professor at UH's Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language. "We should be the ones who set up the table. We should bring the table to the room. Not be invited to the table because that shows a different kind of power and balance."
"If the University of Hawaiʻi, the Board of Regents, or any other entity is serious about discussing this matter, then they know where to go. They need to go to Mauna Kea," said Perry.
Another public meeting will be held later to present the group's findings and recommendations.