This essay was written by members of the board of trustees of Kamehameha Schools: Douglas Ing, Constance Lau, Nainoa Thompson, Diane Plotts and Robert Kihune.
The last two weeks have been painful, not only for the Hawaiian community, but for us, the trustees charged with protecting the legacy of Ke Ali'i Pauahi.
We have felt the overwhelming hurt and the anger from those who fear the trust will fall. The reaction has been resounding and powerful, and we are listening attentively.
If we have learned nothing else from this, it is that Hawaiians want us to educate more of Ke Ali'i Pauahi's children. We couldn't agree more. Indeed, this is the same message that was delivered when the community helped us shape our strategic plan.
Ke Ali'i Pauahi intended the Kamehameha Schools to serve a broad range of students. However, for the last decade, the admissions process has been heavily weighted toward academic performance, which is only one measure of talent and potential.
Although the situation on Maui resulted from an unusually small applicant pool, it brought the problems with the admissions process into sharp focus. As a result, we have pledged to work with the Hawaiian community to carefully review our admissions process so we can align our campuses and programs with the needs of the specific communities they serve.
To accomplish this, we are setting up a series of community meetings.
But as we move forward, we also need to clear up some common misunderstandings:
First, the trustees did not change the admissions policy.
We upheld the school's policy of preference for children of Hawaiian ancestry. That policy was set by the first Kamehameha Schools trustees, under the leadership of Ke Ali'i Pauahi's widower, Charles Reed Bishop. Ke Ali'i Pauahi's will directs her trustees to "devote a portion of each year's income to the support and education of orphans and others in indigent circumstances, giving the preference to Hawaiians of pure or part aboriginal blood."
The original trustees expanded that preference to include all Hawaiian keiki because they believed that was Ke Ali'i Pauahi's intention, but they allowed for non-Hawaiian admissions.
Second, the Maui admissions process was fairly applied to all applicants.
All the applicants on Maui went through the same process and were evaluated by the same criteria. Non-Hawaiians have always been able to apply to Kamehameha, and in the past, some have. All applicants are considered without regard to ancestry.
Ancestry is verified only at the end of the admissions process, after applicants have been notified of their acceptance. In the Maui case, the trustees were told in May that a non-Hawaiian was offered admission.
Again, the trustees were informed after the applicants had been notified and asked to verify their ancestry.
There were no Hawaiian children on the waiting list.
Some have said we should have offered the vacancy on the Maui campus to a Hawaiian student wait-listed on another island. Some have said we should have changed the admissions criteria to keep the non-Hawaiian student out. We couldn't do either of those.
To change the process in midstream would be unfair and unethical, and unworthy of the high moral character and integrity that Ke Ali'i Pauahi expected of her children and her trustees.
Nor did we feel we could change the admissions policy from one of preference to one of exclusion. That would certainly have endangered Pauahi's legacy, which we have vowed to protect and defend. We must stand by the decision, despite the pain it has caused.
We do regret the way the decision was communicated, and we have apologized for that. The process of evaluating individual applicants is confidential and must be kept private in order to protect the integrity of the trust and the privacy of applicants.
Most importantly, we see this situation as something that can help the Kamehameha Schools grow and serve a broader segment of the Hawaiian community. Even as we review our admissions process, we have instructed Kamehameha Schools CEO Hamilton McCubbin to implement the strategic plan that will dramatically expand the schools' reach.
The plan, which spans all age groups, from preschool to adult education, was developed over two years with input from more than 4,000 members of the community. It is a 15-year plan. We project that in just five years, the number of Hawaiians we serve will double.
We all want Kamehameha to serve as many Hawaiians as possible. It is the wish of our beloved princess. Let us unite behind that common goal.
I mua, Kamehameha.