Saturday, November 1, 2008

FOLLOWUP TO: A LETTER FROM HILO HAWAII TO THE INTERNATIONAL ASTRONOMY COMMUNITY

Dr James disagreed with our summary of his presentation and discussion afterward in our previous blog. Here is his comment:

My name is David James, and I am the Director of the Hoku Ke`a telescope, and it was I that gave that AstroTalk a few weeks ago.

I am so sorry that you mis-understood what I said concerning both the size of the building and the relationship of the new telescope to the local community.

What I actually said, was that the building footprint was **not** changed or increased because it was against the law for one, and the Office of Mauna Kea Management and the University of Hawai`i at Hilo's planning offices had informed us that we were **not allowed** to change the footprint of the Observatory by one single millimeter -- which we did not !!
The mountain rangers, and Mr Ed Stevens, stopped by the construction site regularly to make sure that we were adhering to the regulations and laws, which I am happy to say, that we did.

The new building is EXACTLY the same size as the old one (which house the 24-inch AirForce telescope). If you want independent verification of this, you may contact the local contractor, Mr Gerald Yamada, or the project manager Mr Dan Kaniho (kanihod@hawaii.edu).
Second, I did **not** say that there were not PhD graduates among the locals, nor did I imply any disdain for the locals whatsoever.

What I did say, was that in astronomy in particular, and in the physics sciences, people of Hawaiian descent are very under-represented, and I wanted that position to change. I did however report that there was not one single PhD-level astronomer or Professor of Hawaiian heritage in any US college or University, which unfortunately is true.

In fact, I specifically came to the UHH to help provide an educational resource to our local students, with the direct goal of getting more local students into jobs which demanded strength in physics and mathematics. I am also applying for National Science Foundation money to provide stipend-support for internships specifically designed for people of Hawaiian descent, so that we can work together to provide more science/mathematics education to our local kids. I want the UHH to be able to boast the claim of the first professional astronomer/professor at the PhD-level, of Hawaiian heritage, in an American college or University.

If anyone would like to discuss these issues with me further, please contact me, and I will gladly listen to your opinions and thoughts,
david.james@hawaii.edu

Aloha
David

Dr. James's claim that "there was not one single PhD-level astronomer or Professor of Hawaiian heritage in any US college or University, which unfortunately is true." was quickly disputed by Lizard King. Apparently, unknown to Dr. James, he has at least one colleague that is Hawaiian and has a PhD at the UH Institute of Astronomy. Dr. Paul Coleman is a published Astronomer teaching at the University.

Here are the details from Lizard_King:

In response to David James comments about Hawaiian Ph.D.s in Astronomy, this announcement from UH Institute for Astronomy:
Dr. Paul Coleman (Institute for Astronomy) "Kanaka Maoli Astronomy: Then and Now" Bishop Museum, Wednesday, April 21, 2004, 7 p.m., Atherton Halau


The University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy (IfA) is pleased to announce that they are co-sponsoring, together with the Bishop Museum, a public talk entitled "KANAKA MAOLI ASTRONOMY: THEN AND NOW". The talk, which is about Hawaiian Astronomy, will be given by IfA faculty member Dr. Paul Coleman. It is one of several special events that have been planned to celebrate "Astronomy Week in Hawaii" which began on Sunday April 18 with an Open House at the Institute for Astronomy and ends on Saturday April 24 at AstroDay 2K4 at the Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo.

The talk will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday April 21, 2004 in the Atherton Halau at the Bishop Museum. Prior to the talk the Bishop Museum will run Planetarium shows beginning at 5:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served after the talk.

Dr. Coleman, will speak about the ancient, as well as modern, Hawaiian traditions concerning astronomy in Hawaii. He will also talk about the history of European astronomy in Hawaii beginning with Captain James Cook, who visited our islands to observe the transit of Venus.
Dr. Coleman, who is a native Hawaiian, was born on Oahu and is a graduate of St. Louis High School. He received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Pittsburgh, while working for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. "

Let us hope his Ph.D. thesis was better researched than his ad hoc remarks about native Hawaiian scholarly achievements. Or maybe he just assumed Hawaiians were too dumb to get a Ph.D. in Physics. Geez, they both work for the same organization, how can somebody be so obtuse?


For us “locals” in Hilo it is hard to understand how a PhD scientist could make an “unfortunately it is true” statement about Hawaiians. Did he research it? When a scientist makes a claim about something being “true” it has extreme credibility as we trust that the scientist researched the facts before making a strong claim, even a ridiculous one such as this.



We remain supporters of Astronomy and the University in Hilo. We think the AstroTalk series and AstroDay are awesome and greatly contribute to the community and understanding of Astronomy. Our request continues to be that the new and visiting Astronomers respect the residents of the island and follow the laws that protect our environment and precious mountain.

7 comments:

dejah said...

I think you people want to find fault with this scientist and therefore nothing he does will please you. You're nitpicking.

In fact, he set the record straight on what HE said about the building, but you insisted on busting his chops about the Hawaiian astronomers. You know that there have been very few native Hawaiians go through to become PHD astronomers; most of us in the community would not have known it either, particularly if that scientist didnt' make a big deal of it himself.

I think you people would make more friends if you stopped chipping away at your own credibility by attacking a man who is trying to do something good.

Now, why not grow up and accept that it's entirely possible that he really didn't know there was ONE Hawaiian PHD astronomer in the world; it probably wasn't out of malevolence... we don't all sit around delving into people's ethnicities in the astronomy community. It would be rude, and no doubt some of you would then bitch about how we were nosing into people's backgrounds.

Sheesh, I can't believe you people.

Dr David James said...

I apologize for my omission of Dr Coleman in my head-counting, and I will do more research to try to find out the exact numbers.

In case, the bottom line is I want to increase the number of people of Hawaiian descent getting into higher education and into professional science careers.

I definitely do **not** think anyone in the local community is dumb, and I will try harder with my choice of words to make sure that this is not the impression that I give off.

Aloha
David

Anonymous said...

Dejah, you are not helping matters. The truth is that a person with a PHD is held in high esteem and people should be angry when comments are made which are not true but are said as if it is fact. You dilute the Doctors credentials by stating that we should not test his words even if they are false. When you have a PHD you need to act with care in your choice of words. Remember, you are in the islands now and the word of someone is important. Don't talk down to us and don't diminish what he has worked for. Let him learn and grow and then we will all be better for it. He is trying and we love people who learn and keep going. Your statement suggests that he does not need to. You are in error and it is this type of reason which brings about untouchable people in power. We do not want in Hawaii what you have in Washington. If you can't take the heat get out of Hawaii. But we will not shut up to please you or anyone else. We hold our leaders, and he is a leader in high esteem.

Anonymous said...

Dejah, I can't belive you use words like "you people". Is this the way you think of us here. God has created us all in his image. Maybe you should learn the same lesson the Dr. is learning. Pick you word wisely. I am sure the Dr. has thick skin and will learn from this. Everyone needs someone at some point in time to help them grow. Just be happy that he sees his errors and is willing to improve. I am sure he will not be happy to see your post.

Anonymous said...

Dr James, please respond to Dejah's post. I can't believe people still use this type of language. Thanks

Anonymous said...

I think Dejah is a little confused. Who is talking about making more friends? Dejah, don't ever in life give your power up to someone just because they hold a higher position than you. And never listen to people who just want you to keep quiet. You shame Dr James with that type of defense. He is not greater than you or anyone else. He is just like all of us. Try not to let a person's position sway you. Be strong and don't look for friends where there are none.
Kimo

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