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UH presidential hopeful Wiercinski defends military record

Retired Lt. Gen. Frank Wiercinski’s decades-long military career was top of mind for students who protested a forum where he made his first public appearance Tuesday night as one of two finalists vying to be the next president of the University of Hawaii.

Students shouted concerns about what they called an over-militarization of the islands and the potential for UH to become a military research institution under his leadership.

A few dozen people in the audience held signs and posters that read, “Demilitarize Our Education,” “Universities Shall Serve the Community Not Promote Militarization” and “Hawaiian Values?”

Some booed and hissed as he talked about his leadership style, areas where he thinks UH can improve, and why he’s interested in the job before a standing-room-only auditorium on the UH-Manoa campus.

Wiercinski, who retired in June after 34 years of service in the Army, including eight years of commanding in the Pacific, said his background makes him a strong candidate to lead the 10-campus system.

“I make no excuse that I served in the United States military. … I’ve stood and protected villages, I’ve built schools, I’ve gathered governors together … and I’ve buried 163 of my friends,” he said. “But what I’ve learned in the last eight years … my daily job was building consensus with leaders, it was working the budget, a declining budget — oh, by the way, catapulted by sequestration and trying to make everything fit. …

“You’re not asking me to be a professor or a dean or a chancellor. You’re asking someone to be the president of a system, to get people their resources that they need to do their job. It’s the same,” he said.

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