Last week, Native Hawaiians and others participated in the official rededication of the Queen Liliuokalani Center for Student Services. For most University of Hawai'i members, the specific history of how the Queen's name came to the Student Services Center is obscure.
On Sept. 2, 1838, chiefs Kapaakea and Keohokalole had Lydia Paki Kamakaeha Liliuokalani. At birth, she was hanai-ed by chiefs Abner Paki and Konia. She attended the Royal School and succeeded her brother, King David Kalakaua, as Queen of the Kingdom of Hawai'i.
In 1893, U.S. Minister John Stevens landed the Marines and assisted a group of non-Hawaiian businessmen in their attempted coup d'etat. Fearing the safety of her people, the Queen abdicated the throne to the forces of the United States until such time as they could rectify the injustice.
Although the United States found that the actions were unlawful, Congress prohibited the government from doing anything.
In 1895, supporters of the monarchy planned an armed take back of the government. The plans were foiled by the non-Hawaiian businessmen and many were put up on treason charges with huge fines. The Queen was included in the list of men charged with treason. The clever, self-serving businessmen extorted an abrogation of the Queen's sovereignty for the elimination and reduction of the convictions and sentences of many of the men.
In 1898, the United States began a military occupation of Hawai'i based on the so-called "Newlands Resolution". Occupation took on the form of a double-governing structure similar to the territory model and the military base model. In 1907, the occupying government created an "anchor" with its presence with the College of Hawai'i and then the University of Hawai'i.
In 1911, Queen Liliuokalani completed her final deed of trust to provide support and service to orphan and destitute children with preference given to Hawaiian children. On Nov. 11, 1917, at the age of 79, Queen Liliuokalani passed away.
In 1959, the United States changed positions on how to continue its military occupation of Hawai'i. With a complacent settler population in place, the United States switched from an explicit dual governing model to the single governing model the "state" model with the implicit presence of the military occupying forces.
The university's existence has been defined and created by the various forms of racism it has grown from. The university's creation was born from a benevolent racism of white businessmen who thought some of the non-white settlers and natives should get a chance at some form of higher education. They used the Morrill Acts, which gave federal land and subsidies to create a farm and technical trade school.
As the university grew, its form and substance changed. The university came to a point where it replicated the territorial period in both social and labor forms. While whites and Japanese make up 20 percent of Hawaii's population each, most faculty members are white and most support staff are Japanese. Of the top thirteen administrators in the university system, four are Japanese and the rest are white.
Hiring practices that do not reflect the community's ethnic and racial composition is not the limit of the university's institutional racism. Until recently, all buildings on campus were named after white men excepting dorms, eateries, William S Richardson Law School (Hawaiian male), Shunzo Sakamaki Hall and Bilger Hall (white man and woman). The dorm and eateries exception highlights the other side of this coin: most dorms and eateries are named in Hawaiian. The naming principle seems to be the following: intellectual function = white man; food/sleep function = Hawaiian thing.
Then, in the summer of 1974, the Board of Regents named the Social Science Building after internationally noted scientific racism expert Stanley D Porteus. Porteus was famous for claims made in his books about the inferiority of non-whites or in later articles (as recent as the 1960s) theorizing racial inferiority based on closeness to the equator. The "Coalition to Rename Porteus Hall" tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Board of Regents to rename the building the Regents decided it was a bad precedent to go around renaming buildings.
In 1997, then Associated Students of the University of Hawai'i President C Mamo Kim led a coalition of students, faculty, staff and community members to have the name removed once and for all. National attention came to Kim's efforts and the Mortimer gang attempted to "committee" the issue keeping an issue important to the community in committee until the heat decreased. Through Kim's leadership, the "committee" strategy failed and the Regents voted to remove Porteus' name from the building.
Then, last summer, the university decided to rename a couple of buildings around campus the baseball stadium after Coach Les Murakami, the Center for Hawaiian Studies after educator and Regent Gladys Kamakakuokalani Ainoa Brandt and the Social Science building after longtime UH fixtures Marion and Allan Saunders. As then President of the Graduate Student Organization, C. Mamo Kim pushed to have the Social Science building named after Queen Liliuokalani.
Responses to this request were met with "but the Saunders' were so important to the university." Of course, how many white people are so much more important to the University than the queen that spared blood-shed, letting foreign businessmen facilitate the military occupation of Hawai'i by the United States? After consulting with kupuna and cultural experts, Kim returned to the table: have the Student Services Center named after Queen Liliuokalani.
For the first time ever, the university agreed without a fight. The building that provides support and services for all students would be named Queen Liliuokalani Center for Student Services. From a vision, Kim suggested a specific dedication ceremony. The method was selected by the protocol committee and the various Native Hawaiian groups on campus came together to honor Queen Liliuokalani.
Collins, Lance. "UH finally honors queen" Ka Leo 26 Feb. 2002