Posted by: The Amoeba | November 18, 2009

When You Can’t See The Forest For The Tree

I had escaped my university office/lab for a breath of fresh air, and was walking through McCarthy Mall, when I saw, on the normally-barren walls of a vending kiosk, a small, photocopied poster.

Sign the Petition!

Gasp!“, I gasped. “Student activism!” I could hardly believe my eyes; I had thought the species to be extinct in Hawai‘i. I scanned the poster for the cause. Global warming? Corporate bailouts? Afghanistan? The slashing of education budgets?


Right. An impassioned outpouring, complete with website, on behalf of a single misshapen pile of live haole lumber that can’t even be used for bird perches. Standing next to a termite mound prefab building of ancient vintage (euphemistically called an “annex”, and housing … well, the university’s so ashamed of it, I can’t find out which academic unit they’ve stuck in there), which, I reckon, the tree is tearing up by the roots. Literally.

Yes, the tree’s old. So old, in fact, that it was planted just about at the time when the haoles of Hawai‘i decided that the native government of Hawai‘i wasn’t good enough for them. Planted by a haole professor of botany who figured that the native flora wasn’t good enough for them either. (Funny how nobody has mentioned this.)

And it’s this history that makes this tree worth saving until it topples of its own weight (perhaps mercifully taking that annex along with it), rather than chopping it down to make way for the planned recreation center …

The what?!?

Academic department budgets in this year of woe have been slashed by 30%. Academic buildings have been condemned and then quietly reoccupied – until they threatened to collapse. Academic programs have lost teaching staff and course offerings, in the face of record-high student enrollments – and the entire institution faces the prospect of early shutdown (lockout) unless faculty accept wage cuts that will forever dissuade any economically-knowledgeable American from undertaking a career in academia, while the rest of the world aggressively sponsors its intelligentsia.

And this institution is building a recreation center? What is this, a university or a spa?

And the strongest response to this revelation, by the student body, is a one-man campaign to save a tree?!?

Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba never thought he’d see the day when he’d say, in public, “I miss the sixties.” The turbulent, not to mention violent, sixties, when the issues of the day, some of them less momentous than those now confronting university communities, led to debates and demonstrations, arguments and protests, even bricks and tear gas. There was strife and disillusion, and not all motives were selfless. But the world did change.


A university is on the brink of collapse, and a lone voice in the wilderness posts pieces of paper in a feeble effort to preserve a tottering fig. Surely we can do better …

I have it. We’ll get somebody to sucker the Obama Administration into reinstating the draft

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2009 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.



  1. In Iowa City, a fire burnt the golden dome of the old state capitol and, during repairs, the University (which now owns the old building) encased the dome in a black box. When the work was almost done, a bunch of students and professors started an (intentionally ironic) Save The Black Box campaign. I still have a t-shirt somewhere, although it doesn’t fit anymore.

    • A sewer cover should look the part, eh, Dawg? For the temerity of its inmates, I reckon, the university got saddled with the upkeep on a golden elephant of a building, and a cut in its state appropriation.

  2. Sorry Amoeba ol’ pal, but that tree is TOO cool to lose.

    If it’s trying to tear down that ugly annex and blocking the way for a new Recreation Centre, it’s obviously much wiser than the local politicians and administrators, even though look Ma, no brain! It’s doing a great job.

    Also quite pretty.

    • Well, Susan, I suppose the “Save the Tree” campaign could be viewed as a “deep cover” attempt to get the university to reexamine the rec center development plan. Poe’s Law and all that …

  3. I’d laugh if it weren’t so sad. Not to mention a college on the west side is going to be built, while the Manoa campus is crumbling.

    • Y’know, Gigi, people of a conspiratorial turn of mind might see something in the West Oahu development. I understand that the Manoa campus was built over several dead bodies, and it’s currently blamed for much of Honolulu’s traffic congestion. If enough faculty left Manoa in disgust, they could move the rest to West Oahu and shut down Manoa, returning the valley to the shades of the ali‘i. It’d be a great opportunity to readjust UH programs to keep the moneymakers (basketweaving, football) and toss out the red ink generators (those pesky sciences, medicine).

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