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Lassner doesn't want tenure, long-term contract

By Nanea Kalani

LAST UPDATED: 3:44 p.m. HST, Jun 4, 2014

As David Lassner prepares to assume the role of president of the University of Hawaii system following a nearly four-decade career there, he expects the top post will be his last job at UH -- but one he's determined will have the most impact.

Lassner, who started his career at UH in 1977, serving in various technical and management roles that culminated with his creating and leading the university's first systemwide IT support organization, was named UH's 15th president Monday following a yearlong national search.

The Board of Regents has already agreed on an agenda for the new president, laying out 10 aggressive goals that cover everything from expanding student access and improving graduation rates to advancing a commitment to serve Native Hawaiians and expanding university research activities into a stand-alone, multibillion-dollar innovation sector.

"In accepting this job, I'm accepting the agenda. It's a long-term agenda, it's not something that I'll be able to get everything done in one year, and that means that there has to be permanent leadership," Lassner said Wednesday in an interview at his office in Bachman Hall. "I think the work really is to lay it out what do we do first, what do we do second, and to do that collaboratively."

Lassner had been vice president for information technology and chief information officer since 2007 before being tapped last summer to serve as interim president after M.R.C. Greenwood announced she was retiring with two years still left on her contract. 

The regents voted 11-2 to hire Lassner and said his appointment will be "continuous" and come with a $375,000 annual salary.

"I've been an at-will employee of the University of Hawaii since 1989," he said. "It doesn't seem unreasonable to me."

He said he has no plans to return to his old job, despite repeatedly referring to his former IT gig as his dream job.

"When this thing started, I really didn't expect to be sitting here. I absolutely expected that when they completed the search, I would go back," Lassner said. "But I'm not going to hold a place for myself to go back (to my previous position), nor do I necessarily think that would be healthy for whoever the next president is."

While he holds a doctorate in communication and information sciences, Lassner said he will not be asking for a tenured faculty position to fall back on, as past university presidents have.

He also has no plans to move into the university's College Hill residence in Manoa and said he won't be seeking a housing allowance that past presidents were given as part of their benefits package.

"I've been here under six permanent presidents, so there comes a time when it's time to end, and I think I'll know when that is," he said.

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