Student Veterans At UH Snub Their Own Forum

Student veterans at the University of Hawaii are frustrated over failed attempts to get their own campus center. But now they're rebuffing administrators' efforts to understand and better meet student veterans' needs.

The Student Veterans Organization at UH Manoa plans to boycott an April 26 campus conference entitled "Responding to Student Diversity: Understanding Servicemembers and Veterans," according to an email from SVO president Catherine Drouillard.

Drouillard declined to explain the reason behind the boycott, but her organization and the Oahu Veterans Council are clearly frustrated with university officials. Both groups have lobbied the university since last fall for a veterans resource center on campus, but the administration has not yet provided the space.

The late Fred Ballard, former president of the Oahu Veterans Council, said there are about 400 military veterans at UH Manoa.

"The (student veterans) have been working very hard to obtain suitable space on campus to establish a veterans' center where veterans can meet to support each other, therefore hopefully reducing the anxiety and stress of leaving the service and attempting to integrate back into the civilian community," Ballard wrote in a letter to the UH Board of Regents in October. He added that the student group's efforts have been "largely ineffective because of civilian counselors and employees' lack of understanding veterans and their families' needs."

A recent report compiled by some of Hawaii's top military, business and community leaders demonstrated that many service members need extra help transitioning back into civilian life. The need is growing as a new, young generation of service members return from war overseas looking for educations and jobs.

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