Porteus Hall to be Renamed
Steve Murray and Christi A. Young, "Ending the
name game: Regents vote to drop name of Porteus Hall, "Ka Leo
O Hawai'i (20 April, 1998).
The end of a 24-year-old fight came quietly Friday
afternoon when the University of Hawai'i Board of Regents approved
the motion to rename the controversial Porteus Hall the Social
About 50 people were on hand as the motion flew
through the BOR without discussion. The vote was 10-0 with two
It was a uneventful moment in an extremely genial
meeting. Even those abstaining were humorous about the situation.
Regent John Hoag, who was on the board when the building was named
after Dr. Stanley Porteus, said although he had reservations about
the change, it was the politically correct thing to do.
"Like a kidney stone, we should let this pass,"
Regent Lee Ohigashi cast the abstention, saying
it would "devalue" the professor's name for the family.
The final end of the motion that began anew last
semester in the Associated Students of the University of Hawai'i
Senate meetings was a drastic contrast to the exuberant reactions
to the BOR committee meeting Thursday afternoon.
Students yelled and hugged Thursday after the
committee unanimously passed the motion. The exuberance spilled
out into the Campus Center where students jumped up and down,
embracing each other and celebrating their victory.
"What a great day for student government," said
Mike Manu, ASUH vice-president and president of the native Hawaiian
student organization Kalai Po.
"We face so much racism for being Hawaiian, so
this is a huge hurdle for us," Manu said. "But this isn't just
a good day for Hawaiians, it's a good day for all the races in
It was standing room only in Campus Center's room
220 as more than 100 students, staff, faculty and community members
flooded into the BOR's Committee on Physical Facilities and Planning
It was a room highly charged with expectation
and enthusiasm, and students greeted every word in favor of the
change with applause, beginning with the testimony of the Interim
Senior Vice-President Dean Smith.
Smith recommended to the committee that the building
be renamed after he read the ad hoc committee recommendation and
some of Porteus' work.
"Porteus' work has not stood the test of time,"
Smith said. "Do I consider Porteus a racist? Not necessarily,
he worked in his time and his work reflects that time."
ASUH President C. Mamo Kim brought in a petition
signed by 200 students for the name change. This was added to
the 2,000 names she already gave to UH President Kenneth Mortimer.
Regent Stanley Roehrig said that he was going
to vote in favor of changing the name of Porteus Hall. He said
this was s difficult decision since he grew up going to school
and playing with Porteus' children. To consider him a racist was
not easy, he said.
Hoag's concerns were about precedence. The BOR
must be aware that they will be overruling the work of a previous
board, he said, which was not racist as many have claimed.
Hoag also said that the vote could open the door
for the possible renaming of building such as Thomas Jefferson
and Kennedy theater.
"I am deeply concerned over the precedent the
board will establish when we try to establish a person's character
50 years after his career has concluded.... I pray we will do
the right thing," Hoag said.
[Winward Community College's Ka Ohana editor in
chief, Jason Serikaku, also contributed to this story].
Murray, Steve and Christi A. Young, "Ending the name game: Regents vote to drop name of Porteus Hall." Ka Leo O Hawai'i 20 April 1998.