Commentary – UH Hilo Student Reporters Threatened by UH Hilo Security

On Friday, October 30, 2015 at 5:10pm UH Hilo Campus Security told student reporters that they had to leave a public University of Hawaii at Hilo Student Association (UHHSA) meeting or the security guard would have to, “call HPD (Hawaii Police Department).” Campus Security said that because UHHSA requested the reporters to stop recording, and then deemed the recording a ‘disruption’ there were grounds to call the police. See video here

Click to view recording

Click to view recording

UHHSA President Lazareth Sye told the reporters, “if you wish to record that you do so not here.” He then stated, “I’m going to identify it as a disruption since the people who are involved at the meeting are not able to focus on what they are trying to do which is represent the student body.”

The reporters work for UHSUnews, the news outlet of the Registered Independent Student Organization (RISO) The Student Union, at UH Hilo.

UHHSA members maintained the student association has a right to limit access to public meetings and prevent recordings from occurring. UHHSA displayed signs at the meeting informing attendees that student IDs were required to enter the meeting and recording devices were forbidden.

UHSUnews reporters provided documentation to UHHSA and UH Hilo Security informing them of the university policies and laws protecting free press, and allowing recording public meetings.  See pictures here

At the 10/5/15 UHHSA meeting UH Hilo Dean of Students Dr. Kelly Oaks advised UHHSA that nothing could be done to prevent recording public meetings. Oaks told UHHSA, “Hawai’i is a one party consent state as it relates to recordings and that one party and the one party can be the party who is recording if this is an open and public meeting I would say its not something that we can prevent.” To which President Sye said, “ok, so  members, seeing that we are being recorded and to act as such, with that being said,:

In the following 10/23/15 and 10/30/15 meetings President Lazareth Sye claimed the recording was a disruption and closed the public meeting.

Campus Center Director Ellen Kusano was the only UH Official in the 10/30/15 meeting. She was also present when Dean Oaks informed UHHSA that nothing could be done to prevent recording of public meetings. Kusano is one of the defendants named on a lawsuit the University of Hawaii recently settled regarding free speech on campus. As a result of this lawsuit naming Kusano the university was forced to pay $50K see settlement here and was required to update its policy on free expression. See UH Hilo Free Expression Policy here

UHHSA has an annual budget of  approximately $170K and represents 4,000 UH Hilo students.  The UHHSA Constitution states, “All meetings shall be open and publicized.” See constitution here

UHSUnews reporters now say there have been student conduct code complaints filed against them.

Students have complained that UHHSA has been excessively influenced by UH Hilo Campus Center employees. UH Hilo student and Student Union President Ryu Kakazu said, “What you have are university administrators in positions of authority using their influence to promote their interests over the interests of students. It has gone on for far too long.”

A complaint has been filed with UH Hilo Security. UHSUnews student reporters say they will continue to attend UHHSA meetings and exercise their right to record as afforded by UH policy and laws. The next UHHSA meeting will be on Thursday, November 5, 2015 at 8pm in CC306 at UH Hilo. see press release file here

Contact: Student Union Member Shawna Wolff swolff@hawaii.edu or call 494-8784

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