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Lassner doesn't want tenure, long-term contract

By Nanea Kalani

LAST UPDATED: 03:44 p.m. HST, Jun 04, 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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MariaBetty wrote:
I thought his contract will include tenured return rights?
on June 4,2014 | 12:47PM
localguy wrote:
Tenured return rights to a previous position at the old pay, no special perks and bennies, just like before, would be a god deal from now on. For the next president hired there should not be a paid sabbatical, position, nothing. Thank you for your service, here is your last check, good bye. UH has too many former presidents sucking the life blood/money out of UH. Need to tell them to go find a new job or resign.
on June 4,2014 | 07:39PM
droid wrote:
That sounds good on paper, but I bet you can’t name a single successful company which employs that policy. Top talent usually shy away from contracts with no severance.
on June 4,2014 | 09:23PM
localguy wrote:
I'm willing to bet their are, not going to take the time to look for them. For UH, there is no reason to maintain former presidents on staff at exorbitant salaries. You may recall in the news, unions required the automakers to pay into a "Jobs Bank" for all laid off workers. They received full pay for years in the chance they might be recalled. Idea was cheaper to pay them then train new people. This hurt the automakers badly. Dropped after they almost went bankrupt. UH would do well to learn the lessons of history. Do not follow the wasteful examples of companies paying expensive golden parachutes to bureaucrats relieved for cause. Management bureaucrats are a dime a dozen.
on June 4,2014 | 09:59PM
droid wrote:
Hahaha! I knew you couldn’t name one. If there was one, you would have it off the top of your head with no need to “look for them,” because it would be such a rarity, it would be a national news item for the history books.

Duh! Please get a clue.
on June 5,2014 | 12:32AM
HanabataDays wrote:
Wow, I like the low-key humility Lassner's showing. Quite a contrast to several of those who preceded him in the last couple of decades. He's prudent to turn down College Hill, too. He's been there long enough to remember the hakaka it's caused periodically. Better to steer clear and not get caught in someone else's fight.
on June 4,2014 | 01:51PM
tutulois wrote:
Good for Lassner; this is encouraging for the present. However, if the UH ever does hire someone from the mainland, chances are they will need a housing allowance...maybe not as much as has been offered in the past. Otherwise the cost of housing here could cause some good candidates to look elsewhere.
on June 4,2014 | 01:53PM
nitpikker wrote:
they have college hill. their choice not to use it.
on June 4,2014 | 05:15PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
There is that word again: collaborate. Remember we do not want to dominate and conquer, like a certain person attempted to do from 1933 to 1945.
on June 4,2014 | 02:05PM
bullturd wrote:
So, HonoluluHawaii, What does Franklin D. Roosevelt have to do with the UH. Now if you had put your comment regarding past UH President "Dumb Bell" I would agree with you.
on June 4,2014 | 02:20PM
2disgusted2 wrote:
Do we want to divide and conquer?
on June 4,2014 | 07:26PM
Hawaiiobserver wrote:
I really like this guy!!!
on June 4,2014 | 03:43PM
Cleodog wrote:
Dr. Lassner is off to a great start. We all wish him well, as he is showing good emotional intelligence by asking little and willing to give and compromise on the details and make this a win-win. On the former issues that were contentious, he has shown maturity and a willingness to not repeat the missteps and errors of the past. He will do just fine and let's get him get to work and continue on the pathway forward.
on June 4,2014 | 04:00PM
2disgusted2 wrote:
Yeah, but seeing him kissing the G, doesn't bode well! Hopefully it will not be just the same old, same old! Those two women were homewreckers1 Not in the classic style of literally being involved in breaking up homes, but by supporting the homewrecker!. Hey inHilo, they may not be scary to the men, whom they indulge as "big boys!" But they sure are scary to the wives! And if I were your wife/partner, I'd watch out! Too many Chinese minions around you!
on June 4,2014 | 07:30PM
steveoctober wrote:
Very nice to see Lassner forgoing the coronation crown. Hope he puts out a formal plan to attack the core issues at hand with the UH system and make radical changes that are needed to solve the problems.
on June 4,2014 | 04:08PM
2disgusted2 wrote:
Well, I'm proud of him, but I don't like seeing him kissing the Greedwood! Thought she was on sabbatical?! Why is she there? None of these people wanted to be in Hawaii when they were in office. And now they are hanging around at taxpayer expense!
on June 4,2014 | 07:24PM
Iuki wrote:
What's that about a housing allowance? Previous presidents lived at College Hill. Greenwood got a housing allowance because her partner is disabled and supposedly College Hill wasn't equipped for her. Is Lassner going to live in College Hill, or has it been permanently turned into just a place for receptions and the like?
on June 4,2014 | 08:54PM
droid wrote:
As long as Lassner doesn’t expect a similar “housing allowance,” who really cares if he lives at College Hill? The mansion will cost less to maintain if he doesn’t. It should be looked at solely as a way to gladhand prospective donors and boosters.
on June 4,2014 | 09:29PM
sailfish1 wrote:
After 40 years at UH, Lassner very likely has a nice house in Manoa.
on June 4,2014 | 11:10PM
2NDC wrote:
He'll be gone in a year.
on June 4,2014 | 09:25PM
2localgirl wrote:
Sounds good to me. reading this very late so missed the comments!
on June 4,2014 | 10:42PM
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