Ethnic Diversity at University of Hawaii is Harmed by Race-Based Tuition Waivers

article top

That headline will come as a shock to all who have heard Hawaiian Activists Haunani-Kay Trask and Lilikala Kameeleihiwa repeatedly claim ethnic Hawaiians are under-represented in the student body at the University of Hawaii.

Each semester more than 100 U.H. tuition waivers are racially earmarked exclusively for students of Hawaiian ethnicity.


The Center for Hawaiian Studies professors, for several years now, have sent cadres of students to pressure the Legislature to give free tuition not just to those hundred-plus, but to all applicants with a drop of native Hawaiian blood (and to heck with everyone else).

The CHS professors want lots more ethnic Hawaiians to attend U.H. (where they can major in Hawaiian Studies, of course, thereby increasing the size and power of the CHS faculty!). One of their main arguments in favor of free tuition has been a claim that ethnic Hawaiians are under-represented in the U.H. student body. But that claim turns out to be false. Not just slightly off-base, but dramatically false. Statistics are provided below.

In addition to tuition waivers, ethnic Hawaiians at U.H. also have race-based scholarships, race-based tutoring and counseling, special advocates or ombudsmen to represent them in disputes with students, professors, or administrators, etc. On Sept. 17, 2002, the student newspaper “Ka Leo” reported on an enrollment party sponsored by the Center for Hawaiian Studies at which it was announced that there were 110 race-based tuition waivers available exclusively for ethnic Hawaiians:

The article said: “The celebration not only offered students and community members a chance to become familiar with each other, it was also available free of charge. The event featured live music … a traditional Hawaiian meal and information regarding resources available to students of Hawaiian ancestry attending the University of Hawaii at Manoa … The main goal of the program is to ‘increase matriculation of Native Hawaiian students on the U.H.M. campus.’ They are trying to get the word out that they have 110 tuition waivers available to qualifying Native Hawaiian students each semester, as well as other supportive services.”

Interest was high when the Supreme Court recently published its controversial decisions in the University of Michigan affirmative action cases. The Court ruled that a public university has a right to give a racial preference as one among many factors in making admissions decisions. The Court broke new ground, saying it can be a compelling governmental interest for a public university to have a racially diverse student body, and that racial preferences can be used, to a limited extent, for the purpose of increasing minority representation to reach a “critical mass.” But although the Court did not say so, it is an obvious corollary that a racial group which is already over-represented should not be given additional race-based enrollment incentives. Indeed, members of an under-represented minority who do not receive race-based incentives would seem to have a cause for legal action against a university that provides race-based incentives to an already over-represented group.

Activists claim that ethnic Hawaiians are greatly under-represented among students at the University of Hawaii. What they seem to be claiming is that the percentage of ethnic Hawaiians among the students attending the university is substantially smaller than the percentage of ethnic Hawaiians in the population of Hawaii. But the facts show the opposite.

During the most recent semester for which data are available (Fall 2002) the University of Hawaii Institutional Research Office reports systemwide ethnic enrollment percentages as: Caucasian 20.9, Japanese 17.6, Hawaiian 13.6, Filipino 13.2, Mixed 11.3, Chinese 6.3, Pacific Islanders 2.6, All others 14.4. And in Census 2000, the five major ethnic groups had the following percentages of Hawaii’s total population: Caucasian 39.3, Japanese 24.5, Hawaiian 19.8, Filipino 22.8, Chinese (including Taiwanese) 14.2.

A quick glance at those data will show that the Hawaiian percentage of U.H. student enrollment is more than two-thirds of the Hawaiian percentage of state population, while Caucasian percentage of U.H. students is barely over half of the Caucasian percentage of state population. Thus, ethnic Hawaiians are clearly over-represented compared to Caucasians (and also Filipinos and Chinese).

The unadjusted U.H. data actually show that every ethnic group is under-represented at U.H.! That surprising (and impossible) result stems from the fact that more than one-fourth of U.H. students are not allocated to any particular group, being either “mixed” or “other.” Another difficulty is that the U.H. method of counting allowed students to choose only one ethnic affiliation, while the Census method of counting allowed people to choose as many ethnic affiliations as they want. Thus, U.H. percentages add up to exactly 100 percent (including mixed and other), while Census percentages add up to more than 120 percent just for the five major groups. Another complication is that ethnic percentages vary significantly from one campus of the U.H. system to another.

A complete analysis of the data, including the sources of the data, is provided at:

The final adjusted results for the University of Hawaii systemwide are as follows: ethnic Japanese are greatly over-represented at U.H., by 21.3 percent; ethnic Hawaiians are significantly over-represented at U.H., by 16.0 percent; ethnic Filipinos are appropriately represented, with a negligible 2.2 percent under-representation; Caucasians are significantly under-represented at U.H., by 10.1 percent; and ethnic Chinese are greatly under-represented at U.H., by 25.0 percent.

This essay has explored only the falsehood of alleged under-representation of ethnic Hawaiians as a percentage of the U.H. student body. Of course the activists give many other reasons why ethnic Hawaiians should be given free tuition and other special advantages. All these reasons are false, but that doesn’t prevent them from being put forward by the Hawaiian grievance industry at every opportunity. For example the following reasons are offered (and each is refuted by the Web page cited immediately after it): Ethnic Hawaiians are the indigenous people of Hawaii. Refuted at:

Hawaii is the homeland of ethnic Hawaiians where they are the hosts and everyone else is merely a guest. Refuted at:

Ethnic Hawaiians are owed reparations for the overthrow of the monarchy. Refuted at:

Ethnic Hawaiians are entitled to free tuition as part of the “rent” the University owes to them for use of the ceded lands. Refuted at:

Also, it is claimed that ethnic Hawaiians are a poor, downtrodden race in need of government assistance. But Census 2000 shows that the median family income for ethnic Hawaiians in 1999 was $49,282 and that 13.1 percent of them had incomes above $100,000 even though their median age was only 25.3 (compared to a statewide median age of 36.2). The data for ethnic Hawaiians, taken from the U.S. Census Bureau and reported at the State of Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) can be found at:

A ballot initiative to be offered in the next election in the state of California may be of interest here. It is called the Racial Privacy Initiative. The proposal is to prohibit the state and local governments from collecting or maintaining racial data about individuals, except for very restricted purposes like medical research into genetically-based diseases. The theory is that government should not be discriminating for or against any individual on the basis of race, so denying racial data to government will help ensure equality under the law. Government should give help to needy individuals on the basis of their individual need; government should not be giving freebies to entire racial groups, or to individuals on account of racial affiliation.

In Hawaii there are over 160 racial entitlement programs for ethnic Hawaiians.

All of those programs are vulnerable to lawsuits that they are unconstitutional; for example, the Arakaki v. Lingle lawsuit claiming that OHA and DHHL are unconstitutional.

The race-based programs are so deeply entrenched in the economy and social structure of Hawaii that both Republicans and Democrats are zealously supporting the apartheid Akaka bill to protect the racial programs even at the cost of long-term balkanization and political instability.

The availability of racial data allows us to disprove some of the victimhood claims of the Hawaiian grievance industry. In any case, needy people should get government assistance based on individual need and not race. But if a racial privacy initiative were to be passed in Hawaii, as is being placed on the ballot in California, it would go a long way toward helping us all think of each other as Americans who deserve to be treated equally by our government. Just imagine a Hawaii where government agencies are no longer allowed to ask for or keep track of racial affiliation; a Hawaii where people who need government assistance no longer have racially segregated agencies or waiting lists; a Hawaii with no “white” and “colored” drinking fountains.

”’Ken Conklin can be reached via email at:”’ ”’More of his work at:”’