Lā 152: UH-Maui chancellor says he is 'neutral' about Maui telescope

By Associated Press POSTED: 10:06 a.m. HST, Aug 24, 2015 LAST UPDATED: 11:56 a.m. HST, Aug 24, 2015

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KAHULUI » The chancellor of the University of Hawaii Maui College says he is grateful for the grant funding the school receives from construction of a controversial solar telescope, but that overall he is neutral on the issue.

"Anytime we have the opportunity to educate the students and the federal government is going to help with that, it's a good thing," said Chancellor Lui Hokoana.

The college receives $2 million per year from the National Science Foundation, for a total of $20 million over 10 years. The grant is for Native Hawaiian students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics or Hawaiian Studies as part of a mitigation plan from the telescope's developers. Around 350 students benefit from the fund's programs annually, according to The Maui News.

Hokoana, a Native Hawaiian, admitted the construction of the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope is an "uncomfortable" situation because other Native Hawaiians he has worked with oppose the telescope being built on sacred ground atop Haleakala.

"While I appreciate the argument of 'aina (land) and protecting the beauty of the place, I also believe in the realities of life. People need to eat. People need money to build homes. There are many jobs that are being created by the development of the telescope," he said.

Last week, eight people were arrested during a protest against the construction of the telescope. In July, 20 people were arrested at a different gathering. Some of those arrested in July are Maui College faculty.

"I will also protect the right of my faculty and staff members to protest," Hokoana said. "I will also provide that option to share the other side. We will honor the freedom of speech laws that govern us."

Hokoana said he opposed the project in the past, but after learning more about it, he has chosen to take a neutral stance.