Minorities at University of Hawaii: Ethnic groups under and over represented

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BY KENNETH R. CONKLIN, PH.D. — What are the actual data regarding the percentages of Hawaii’s 5 most numerous ethnic groups at each of the 10 campuses of the University of Hawaii? How do those percentages compare with the percentages of those 5 groups in the population of the State of Hawaii?

Such questions are important because activists for “social justice” say special efforts are needed to recruit and support underrepresented minorities: for example affirmative action in the Admissions Department along with free tuition, tutoring, and counseling not given to other ethnic groups. Of course “affirmative action” to achieve “social justice” is enormously controversial. Political conservatives regard it as immoral “reverse discrimination.” The U.S. Supreme Court has issued rulings on affirmative action in college admissions which seem to contradict each other. Certainly we should give careful consideration to facts about who is truly needy.


People sometimes forget that every ethnic group is a minority in Hawaii (including the much-maligned Caucasians), although Asians total 57.4% if all Asian nationalities are lumped together and if mixed-race Asians are included. But is it acceptable to lump all Asian nationalities together? If it’s wrong to treat Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, and Koreans as a single Asian demographic group, then why is it not also wrong to treat English, French, German and Italian as a single Caucasian demographic group?

A recent example of social justice affirmative action is found in the December 2012 report that a $9.2 Million donation has been given to the UH Foundation. Margot Schrire, Director of Communications for the University of Hawaii Foundation, says “[Among other things] This gift will fund scholarships up to full tuition, for up to four consecutive years to undergraduate students in any area of study at any campus in the University of Hawai’i System. … Preference may be given to students in underrepresented groups as determined by the University.”

For many years there have been bills in the legislature proposing to give free tuition to all ethnic Hawaiians at the University of Hawaii, where one of the justifications is the claim that ethnic Hawaiians are underrepresented in the student population.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa has an Office of Student Equity, Excellence and Diversity (SEED) headquartered at the Queen Liliʻuokalani Center for Student Services. According to its webpage SEED “administers, coordinates, and provides programs that support students with disabilities (KOKUA), native Hawaiians (Kuaʻana and Nā Pua Noʻeau), underrepresented ethnic groups (OMSS), women (Women’s Center), academic scholars and underprepared disadvantaged students (COP and GEAR UP), senior citizens and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex students (LGBTI) at UH Mānoa.”

The only ethnic group specifically mentioned in that mission statement is “Hawaiians.” For many years the head of SEED has been Amy Agbayani. Dr. Agbayani is herself 100% Filipina, and Filipinos are generally an underrepresented minority at UH. Nevertheless the group she has championed most vigorously for affirmative action is ethnic Hawaiians, despite the fact that the data clearly show they are the most overrepresented group at all ten campuses, and the amount by which they are overrepresented is huge at seven campuses. The $9.2 Million grant explicitly gives Dr. Agbayani and her SEED office the authority to label which ethnic groups are underrepresented and therefore eligible for largesse from the grant, even if actual evidence shows her selection is based on prejudice rather than fact. Perhaps Dr. Agbayani’s favoritism to ethnic Hawaiians, even at the expense of her own race, is because ethnic Hawaiians are treated as the state racial pet or mascot, similar to our special affection for the nene goose, the Hawaiian monk seal, Kamehameha butterfly, etc. Hawaii is in love with all things “indigenous.”

The Hawaiian grievance industry points out that only 15% of students at UH Manoa are ethnic Hawaiian, which is less than the percentage of ethnic Hawaiians in the population of Hawaii. But what nobody mentions is that EVERY ethnic group of students at UH Manoa (and all the community colleges too) appears to have a lower percentage of students than that group’s percentage of the state’s population. How is that possible? Because a very large number of students (nearly one-third!) are counted as either “other” or “mixed”, thereby short-counting every ethnic group by comparison to the full-count method used by the U.S. Census Bureau. Also, the UH campuses appear to allow each student to be counted in only a single ethnic group (hence each campus’s percentages add up to 100), whereas the Census allows anyone to report as many races as he wishes (hence the census percentages adding up to far more than 100).

This author has done a data analysis to discover which of Hawaii’s most numerous 5 ethnic groups are underrepresented and which are overrepresented in the student body at each of Hawaii’s ten campuses.

Each campus advertises itself and its diversity on a webpage prominently featuring a pie graph showing each ethnic group’s percentage of that campus’s student body. Data from U.S. Census 2010 provide each ethnic group’s percentage of Hawaii’s population. Dividing the campus percentage for an ethnic group by that group’s Census percentage gives a number allowing easy comparison among the ethnic groups to see which ones are significantly underrepresented or overrepresented on each campus. Of course this method of analysis isn’t perfect. For example, it might be argued that a particular community college serves primarily the population of the island, or part of an island, where its campus is located; so perhaps Census data for ethnic groups should be based on that restricted geography. On the other hand, many students travel long distances to specific campuses on account of special programs uniquely available there. Anyone wishing to spend lots of time to justify exactly which geography is appropriate for the Census data related to each campus, and then gathering the data and re-doing the analysis, is welcome to discover whether that makes any difference in the “bottom line” conclusions about which groups are overrepresented and which are underrepresented.

The obvious conclusions from looking at demographic data for each of the ten campuses in the University of Hawaii system are:

Ethnic Hawaiians are the most OVERrepresented ethnic group on each and every UH campus. Their levels of overrepresentation are HUGE on seven of the ten campuses.

Filipinos are sometimes overrepresented and sometimes underrepresented.

Caucasians are appropriately represented on most campuses, somewhat underrepresented on two and somewhat overrepresented on one.

Japanese are appropriately represented on most campuses, somewhat underrepresented on one and greatly underrepresented on two. This evidence about Japanese is contrary to a common misperception that the UH system is overrun by Japanese.

Chinese are somewhat underrepresented on one campus, greatly underrepresented on one campus, and hugely underrepresented on five more of the ten campuses. Among the five races with largest populations in Hawaii, Chinese are clearly the most in need of special attention in recruiting and support.

To see all the data and sources for ethnic group population in Hawaii and on each of the ten campuses of University of Hawaii at the present time, along with the calculations done to determine underrepresentation and overrepresentation, go to

Chinese were also by far the most underrepresented at UH ten years ago as shown on the webpage analysis done by this author at that time.

Clearly SEED has been grossly negligent for at least a decade in recognizing that ethnic Chinese are most in need of help. SEED has devoted the lion’s share of its efforts and taxpayer dollars to help ethnic Hawaiians, who are the most highly favored group which Hawaii’s “social justice” do-gooders love to help.





  1. Nice research. It would be interesting to see the statistics in a table.

    Could Hawaiians be over represented because it 'pays' to be Hawaiian in the sense that aid is directed their way? So students are more likely to emphasize that aspect of their heritage. Or, are Hawaiians 'allowed' a much greater 'mixed' heritage while still be classified as Hawaiians? While other ethnicities are required to have greater percentages of their national 'blood' to be classified in that group. This would explain the large 'mixed' group that is not 'allowed' any classification.


    With regard to under representation of Chinese, are there any statistics on

  2. instead of a link why don't you summarize the numbers in your article since that seems to be the point. "Huge" levels of overrepresentation at 7 of 10 campuses doesn't really tell me anything other than your opinion.

  3. it is grossly negligent to claim this is "data analysis" when you present no data or numbers to support erroneous claims. Hawaiians are NOT over-represented at all UH campuses, that's ridiuclous. At UH Manoa, they make up 15.8% of the undergraduate student population, which is severly UNDERrepresented when you compare that to the approximately 25% Hawaiian state population. Poor "research" presented here…very typical for Ken Conklin though.

    • As the article clearly says (next to last paragraph): To see all the data and sources for ethnic group population in Hawaii and on each of the ten campuses of University of Hawaii at the present time, along with the calculations done to determine underrepresentation and overrepresentation, go to https://tinyurl.com/b5pncvo

  4. …every ethnic group is a minority in Hawaii (including the much-maligned Caucasians)…

    Seriously? Everyone in Hawaii speaks unfavorably of Caucasians?

  5. I think it's strange there are so many differences made between these people….they all come from different backgrounds. they should embrace it!

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