University of Hawaii President David Lassner met with protesters, who marched on Bachman Hall to protest Lassner’s decision to fire UH Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple.
Lassner said he gave Apple an unsatisfactory performance rating because he was unable to address serious financial troubles at Manoa and failed to assemble a "cohesive" leadership team to run the campus.
"I had several concerns. One was the financial condition of the campus," Lassner said. "I had concerns about ability to lead a cohesive leadership team. I had concerns about divisiveness on the campus, and increasing zero-sum game attitudes about who’s getting whose money."
The crowd grew to at least 100 people as Lassner sat on the ground in a courtyard to address students. He mostly read from talking points, and was clearly flustered at times as students and faculty peppered him with questions and booed him.
Lassner said no outside influences — from deans, legislators or the broader community — factored into his decision.
"There was no outside political influence asking me or directing me or pressuring me to remove Tom Apple," Lassner said.
Students and some faculty members gathered Thursday morning at Hawaii Hawaii, the administrative offices of the UH Manoa campus, and marched to Bachman Hall, where Lassner and other UH system offices are located, at about 8 a.m.
Some of the marchers carried signs that read: "Tom Apple is not a bad apple", "This is our school", "Our money, our choice."
Michelle Tigchelaar, president of the school’s Graduate Student Organization, called Apple’s firing appalling. She said students are upset that their voices were not considered in the decision and described Apple as supportive of students.
"I found it very insulting," she said of Lassner’s decision. "For decades students, faculty, the community, have not gathered behind an administrator like this, we have not had so much support in years, and in spite of all of this support, President Lassner just decides to fire him."
Apple announced Wednesday night he was forced out of office by Lassner, following an unsatisfactory performance evaluation.
Lassner said he became aware of what Apple has characterized as a $20 million annual shortfall in operating funds soon after becoming interim president last fall.
"I came to the conclusion after my service since September and through the last academic year, in my regular conversations with him and watching what was going on, that he wasn’t going to be able to turn that around effectively."
Lassner said he’ll be engaging students and campus stakeholder groups for input on selecting an interim chancellor. He hopes to make a recommendation at the Board of Regents’ monthly meeting August 21.
Apple has three years left on his contract.
His attorney has negotiated a settlement that will allow Apple to be reassigned as a tenured chemistry professor, effective Sept. 1. His chancellor duties have been rescinded immediately, according to a Wednesday "reassignment" memo from Lassner.