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Earning national acclaim is within reach for UH, says finalist for system president

By Nanea Kalani

LAST UPDATED: 08:24 p.m. HST, May 08, 2014

David Lassner says that while he's never aspired to be president of the University of Hawaii in his nearly 40-year career at the university, he thinks UH has the potential to be the leading public higher education system in the nation and welcomes the opportunity to try to make that happen.

"I've actually never uttered those words," he said Wednesday when asked why he wants to be president at a forum marking his first public event since being named one of two finalists for the job.

"If selected, I would pledge to work as hard and as smart as I can in collaboration with all of you and our other stakeholders and everyone else who shares the dream and the aspiration of making us the best public higher education system in the country in service to the people of Hawaii and the world," he said. "There really is a lot to be done, but I really believe we can do it, so let's get on with it."

Lassner, who has been UH's system vice president for information technology and chief information officer since 2007, was tapped to serve as interim president last summer and assumed the post in September after former President M.R.C. Greenwood announced she was stepping down to spend more time with family and deal with health problems, leaving with nearly two years still on her contract.

He said at the time he wasn't interested in the permanent job, but he was nominated for the position via a letter signed by 13 deans and directors of schools and institutes at UH-Manoa.

Following a yearlong national search, a Board of Regents search committee last week announced Lassner, 59, and retired Army Lt. Gen. Frank Wiercinski, 57, as its top picks.

Lassner on Wednesday touched on a variety of topics at Leeward Community College, where mostly faculty and administrators were in attendance at the midday event.

He talked about the need for UH to remove barriers to higher education and help more people become so-called lifelong learners.

He said UH can to do more to meet its mission of being a model indigenous-serving university by educating more Native Hawaiian students, increasing Native Hawaiian leadership at UH and taking seriously its responsibility to promote, preserve and advance Native Hawaiian culture.

He also talked about the need for expanding UH research into a major economic engine for the state.

"The University of Hawaii is the single most important intellectual resource in this state and this is research that advances human understanding around the real challenges that we face," he said.

Lassner described himself as a product of public schools, having attended seven schools in three states before going off to college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he earned a bachelor's degree in economics and a master's in computer science. He came to Hawaii in 1977 for a one-year computer pilot project at UH and never left.

He later earned a doctorate from Manoa in communication and information sciences.

University of Hawaii-West Oahu students Travis Holmes and Alexander Bautista drove into Pearl City from Kapolei to hear Lassner speak.

"I didn't really know who he was," said Holmes, a marketing major in his junior year. "It's good to know who the president might be and how the university works."

"I want to hear both of their takes so we can at least be a little more informed," added Bautista, who is studying business management. "Coming to these as a student doesn't really affect us, but at the same time, it's always helpful just to be knowledgeable."

The students said they're planning to return to LCC Friday evening, when Wiercinski is scheduled to speak.

J.N. Musto, executive director of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, said the candidates "are two very different people." He said Lassner would be a "stabilizing force" for UH, while he described Wiercinski as "high-risk, high-reward — potentially."

Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

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iwanaknow wrote:
What?, no protests?
on May 8,2014 | 01:40AM
what wrote:
Lassner's career at UH is marked by a number of high profile failures that expose his incompetence as a manager and leader. If you read about the data breaches that occurred under his watch, you will see that he was a failure at setting and enforcing effective policy to protect UH's network. I guess that wasn't worthy of protests.
on May 8,2014 | 01:50AM
brb905 wrote:
So true. There is nothing in Lassner's experience or background that deems him ready for being the President of the UH System. There are two lower tiered finalists for the UH Presidency. Lassner is being supported by the Deans and Directors at UH, because they don't want change and because they want Lassner to fire Tom Apple as Chancellor. Apple, while having made some mis-steps is pushing UHM to be better by consolidating units that shouldn't be their own fiefdoms!
on May 8,2014 | 03:56AM
2disgusted2 wrote:
Rotten Apples to the fore! Let's preserve the Hinshaw legacy! I'm for whoever can manage to get Hinshaw off the island ! All the time she was Chancellor, she globe trotted on the tax payer dime complaining she had island fever! Now she is here all the time meddling in politics and other peoples' private affairs! May whatever she has brought down on others go to her and her children 100 fold!
on May 8,2014 | 05:27AM
inverse wrote:
Lassner backed up Hinshaw who backed up Dr Carbone. If Lassner is in, Hinshaw, Carbone and all the rest will remain at UH. If the General is in, only he has the guts to remove people like Hinshaw and Carbone or severely dimish their power at UH. That is what scares faculty, employees and the unions at UH. What they really want is another pushover like Greenwood who don't have a brain and let everyone at UH do whatever they want. Unfortunately that included the Wonder blunder, and former State worker Minaai at UH allowing contractors to charge an extra $100 million or so to build the UH West Oahu campus that will never be more than a community college feeder school to UH Manoa. etc.
on May 8,2014 | 07:51AM
Nevadan wrote:
What you wrote makes sense. Lassner is a neuter gender and does not know whether he is male or female. The Carbone case is clearly a black and white situation. I know. That was my ball game.
on May 8,2014 | 10:16AM
Nevadan wrote:
I shall spell out how Lassner screwed up by doing nothing. He should have told Lassner to tell Carbone to stay out of the professors' grants. Funding agencies in the U S fund individual grantees and hold them responsible individually. The key point is renewal of the grants in 3 years. If the professor does well, she (he) would be renewed. If not, it would be terminated. Any interference from university administration (other than university tax) would be detrimental to the success of the grants. Carbone has no business deciding that his friends can take over the grants. This is a major failing on Lassner's part. He would be a terrible president.
on May 8,2014 | 10:54AM
Nevadan wrote:
Correction: Lassner should have told Carbone to stay out of the professors' grants.
on May 8,2014 | 10:59AM
2disgusted2 wrote:
Time for him to either get a wife or come out of the closet so you can stop calling him neuter gender!
on May 8,2014 | 01:30PM
wiliki wrote:
Nope... Lassner was wise not to get involved in a squabble where change is a big issue. Academic organizations are changing and faculty that wont get with the new organization don't have a place. This is not a problem with personalities-- Carbone, Apple, Hinshaw, Greenwood, etc. and now Lassner.
on May 8,2014 | 04:40PM
Nevadan wrote:
wili. You are so ignorant. This issue would not have been an issue anywhere except UH. All university researchers understand the premise of federal funding, such as NSF, NIH, DOE. All it takes is for the UH president to talk to both parties. If there is still doubt, make a call to the federal agency.
on May 8,2014 | 06:33PM
2disgusted2 wrote:
Ok., I have to agree w you guys, even if you call me a bitter old bat! She however has the body and face to stop a barge! Not exactly a V Stiviano, even if she is as ....as that!
on May 8,2014 | 01:28PM
wiliki wrote:
True although the vision of W. Oahu should be the major campus of the UH System. It has 900 acres to expand.

For example, it had hoped to lease IIRC about 30 acres of the land to the Catholic Churh to build and run lab schools for the College of education at W. Oahu.

There could have been a huge College of Education facility at W. Oahu. Since all the students are out here in the Leeward and Central Oahu areas most of the undergraduate classes could be based here-- leaving more room for graduate and research facilities in Manoa. Not that there's lots of room for affiliated research facilities like the military oriented Applied Physics Lab proposed a number of years ago. But Manoa has always treated W. Oahu as an after thought.

on May 8,2014 | 04:25PM
2disgusted2 wrote:
This is news to me! Deans want Apple out? What? Do they want to kowtow to Mme Mao? Are they up to polishing the big brass door at the center across the street? Mme Poohbah? The music dean at one time tried to reach his boss by asking her to intervene and turning her into a power broker! Better a Rotten Apple than a power broker you have to bribe! Surely they don't want the guy under him! I know atleast one law school faculty member husband of....who will take out an injunction if such is the case!
on May 8,2014 | 01:26PM
localguy wrote:
Exactly. Hard to enforce network security when you are still using Win 3.1, rest of the world has moved on to higher levels of software. Lassner's willful failure to secure UH networks proves he is incompetent in any position. Which is exactly what UH is looking for to follow on after losers like Dobelle and Greenwood. Stupid is as stupid does.
on May 8,2014 | 10:08AM
2disgusted2 wrote:
I still use Word Star and floppies! Geeks on King Street do a great job of converting files!
on May 8,2014 | 01:31PM
localguy wrote:
on May 8,2014 | 04:44PM
Nevadan wrote:
National acclaim by doing nothing? This guy watched on the sideline while the faculty screamed for help; Carbone should have been defrocked. Obviously Lassner had been neutered.
on May 8,2014 | 05:23AM
Nevadan wrote:
Lassner hears no evil, sees no evil.... and does no evil, but collects a big pay check. Who pays? Students and taxpayers!
on May 8,2014 | 06:51PM
2disgusted2 wrote:
Goodness!what politics! Just watched the Johnsrud interview! Why would she want to come back! Lassner seems happy confident, gung ho, enthusiastic! He may just be the shot in the arm that UH needs! He seems really pumped up!
on May 8,2014 | 05:23AM
Nevadan wrote:
Johnsrud would have more credibility than either of the present candidate. Lassner did nothing, and was mostly a spectator sitting on the sideline.
on May 8,2014 | 10:03AM
Nevadan wrote:
"confident, gung ho, and enthusiastic"? So was Adolph Hitler.
on May 8,2014 | 10:25AM
2disgusted2 wrote:
True! I concede, even if you guys call me batty! I'm your new Allie!
on May 8,2014 | 01:32PM
kailua000 wrote:
I'd love to believe this but it will never happen. Too much money under the table, no one takes responsibility for anything (not just wonder blunder), data breaches, nepotism, housing situations...can go on and on.
on May 8,2014 | 05:40AM
Bdpapa wrote:
True, and with the political insiders raiding the tip, and getting jobs for family and friends its going to be business as usual.
on May 8,2014 | 06:02AM
Bdpapa wrote:
Raiding the till!
on May 8,2014 | 06:03AM
Wazdat wrote:
He said he does not want the job so why are we offering him the job ???
on May 8,2014 | 06:08AM
hanalei395 wrote:
To be the lesser of two evils.
on May 8,2014 | 07:02AM
wiliki wrote:
Failure of the selection committee.....
on May 8,2014 | 04:46PM
palani wrote:
High aspirations are fine, but when not tempered by reality, they are merely delusional.
on May 8,2014 | 06:16AM
inHilo wrote:
Just listened to the Johnsrud video and can't believe the BOR pulled this stunt. Like Lassner and not a fan of Johnsrud but she was an experienced, hardworking manager who deserved to be part of a fair process. How does one get a job he or she never applied for? Maybe someone at the next public meeting for the two applicants should ask Mr. Lassner if he is applying for the job.
on May 8,2014 | 06:58AM
2disgusted2 wrote:
She belongs in Texas! Let her duel Diana Natalicio and let's see who wins!
on May 8,2014 | 01:33PM
McCully wrote:
This forum has got to be Lassner most exposure as interim president.
on May 8,2014 | 07:04AM
hanalei395 wrote:
As for comments, it will be way less than it was for that other guy.
on May 8,2014 | 07:12AM
9ronboz wrote:
Why didn't it already happen. Sounds political.
on May 8,2014 | 07:10AM
jshon wrote:
No single president can be a visionary, a manager, a communicator, a leader...perhaps just as important is the team such a person brings to the dance. I hope the BOR has a serious discussion with any candidate of the team they would choose to complement, supplement and enhance their own assets. Without this, the structure, the culture of the institution, the existing and well entrenched staff will learn to "manage" the new prez, and promote the status quo.
on May 8,2014 | 07:13AM
wiliki wrote:
There is a place for leadership. I doubt that anyone "managed" Greenwood.
on May 8,2014 | 04:48PM
false wrote:
Promises, Promises on earning National Acclaim for UH. Back in the day, I heard that statement numerous times, but UH has never been close to it. Lassner is 59 and unless he going to be president till he is 89, it won't happen overnight. The Board of Regents need to find other suitable candidates than the existing two and not be lazy to get a President right away. What's the rush?
on May 8,2014 | 07:20AM
wiliki wrote:
The UH is doing well in many research areas. And yes, the Board should continue looking for candidates.
on May 8,2014 | 04:51PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Old bumpersticker: New York, London, Paris, Waimanalo

New bumpersticker: Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, University of Hawaii

on May 8,2014 | 07:34AM
2disgusted2 wrote:
Hey They want it to be Harvard in the mud Pacific! Ever gone to a talk at the English dept.? They sure like to pretend they are still at Harvard.. Those that are from there!
on May 8,2014 | 01:36PM
Mr Lassner should be given the chance to make the UH System the top public univ system. Would 4 years be an adequate time to accomplish his goal?
on May 8,2014 | 07:53AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
From today's Civil Beat:

The University of Hawaii at Manoa is one of the least popular schools in the country, according to an analysis by eCollegeFinder.org, an online resource for prospective college students.

Dose of cold reality.

on May 8,2014 | 08:00AM
localguy wrote:
So true. Described as stepping back 30 years ago and attending an older institution We are so far behind everyone else.
on May 8,2014 | 10:09AM
kekelaward wrote:
Obviously those miscreants don't know about our football team.
on May 8,2014 | 04:11PM
wiliki wrote:
We have high out of state tuition and a super high cost of living in Hawaii. And it's a research institution. We're not a small undergrad college like HPU. I'm not surprised.
on May 8,2014 | 04:54PM
2disgusted2 wrote:
He is Dr. too. He dies have a Ph.D. I can vouch for that! Had a great well known internationally known director he should acknowledge for his success up the UH ladder!
on May 8,2014 | 01:38PM
Bully wrote:
Its obvious that Lassner is going to get the job and will maintain the status quo.
on May 8,2014 | 08:46AM
krusha wrote:
High risk, high failure seems to be the way UH operates when they try to tap unknowns for high level positions.
on May 8,2014 | 08:49AM
Tanuki wrote:
One year and they can only come up with these two guys - a former general with no higher educational administrative experience, and Mr. Go-Along-To-Get-Along? The UH has less of a chance to become one of the top public universities in the country (forget THE top one) than to join the Pac 10.
on May 8,2014 | 09:12AM
localguy wrote:
Tanuki - As you have never served in the military, knowing your limitations, you can't possibly fathom the highest level management experience the General has. Doesn't matter where it is, management/leadership experience is what it takes to run an organization. Lassner has never been in a true leadership position in his life, always in the sheltered world of academia. Same for Dobelle and Greenwood, the very reason they were such losers. They proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, higher education experience does not directly transfer to management/leadership experience. Those are skills you learn by actually doing the work. Again, something all three at UH never did.
on May 8,2014 | 10:15AM
false wrote:
Blah, blah, same old same old.
on May 8,2014 | 09:34AM
localguy wrote:
I had to turn off my notebook's Shibai Alarm when this came up, "Earning national acclaim is within reach." Really? What is Lassner smoking. UH is so far behind mainland schools, millions in debt for maintenance, capital improvements, way too much deadwood on staff, on and on. UH will do what it always does, rate just like the Nei does in the 45-50 range of the 50 states. This is what UH does.
on May 8,2014 | 10:11AM
kekelaward wrote:
I guess there is a sort of national acclaim in being last place.
on May 8,2014 | 04:14PM
wiliki wrote:
Baloney... the quality of research at the UH is very high....
on May 8,2014 | 04:58PM
Nevadan wrote:
wili. Again you proved that you cannot think and write at the same time
on May 8,2014 | 07:03PM
iwanaknow wrote:
So I took a nap and here I am again. Why doesn't Allie wade in with his/her two cents? Did she/he really go back to the Mainland?....................I look forward to round two of these two candidates.................I suggest offering them NO salary (ie; just pay them food (or eat in the cafeteria) since they get FREE rent and car) the first year til we see results, then back pay the first year if he cuts the mustard..................that's a true servant leader!
on May 8,2014 | 10:15AM
2disgusted2 wrote:
I'm the new Allie! The new whipping gal! Or shall I say batty old bat! Hey I'll get a new discussion board name!
on May 8,2014 | 01:40PM
localguy wrote:
Way to go. We all need a laugh.
on May 8,2014 | 04:46PM
RandolphW wrote:
Welcome back!
on May 8,2014 | 06:21PM
itsok wrote:
allie had more humor. You just hate your mother.
on May 8,2014 | 09:20PM
Skyler wrote:
I'd vote on Nevadan or HAJJA or whatever the sn really is. Nevadan is as acerbic as allie ever was.
on May 9,2014 | 01:16AM
manoamist wrote:
My vote is with the general. If it boils down to just one point then In the least under the DoD he knows security and how important data breaches are. Lassner's failure to protect over 400,000 student records as VP, Chief Informations Technology speaks for itself. At Target both the CEO and CTO have been put out to pasture.
on May 8,2014 | 11:00AM
wiliki wrote:
He doesn't stand a chance. Don't know why the general was even considered....
on May 8,2014 | 04:59PM
lee1957 wrote:
Interesting that Lassner "has never aspired" to be the UH President, did not apply, yet is one of two leading candidates. He thinks UH has the potential to be the leading public higher education system in the country, yet yesterday's article provided comments by two graduate students whose heads were full of conspiratorial mush about the military infiltrating and taking over the campus.
on May 8,2014 | 11:39AM
kekelaward wrote:
I was never enlightened as to why the military would waste their time infiltrating an already destroyed location.
on May 8,2014 | 04:16PM
localguy wrote:
Dirty Harry AKA Clint Eastwood said it best, "A man has got to know his limitations." Lassner knows his, not qualified to be in charge. Directly responsible for the UH security breach. For the General, officer rank goes from 01-10. He retired as an 09. Need I say who has leadership potential?
on May 8,2014 | 04:49PM
WestSideTory wrote:
40 years in UH....he's not the solution to UH whoes, he's the problem!! Time for change, time to put someone in that knows how to actually lead.
on May 8,2014 | 11:40AM
kekelaward wrote:
You forgot the "r".
on May 8,2014 | 04:17PM
localguy wrote:
Touche!! hahaha or he could have said "Ho"
on May 8,2014 | 04:50PM
808noelani wrote:
As far as money goes: Lassner with his nearly 40 years only has to put in 3 years for his high three for retirement. On the other hand retired Lt. General Wiercinski who is already receiving a hefty retirement needs to put in three years for his high three but stay for five years to be eligible for state retirement.
on May 8,2014 | 12:10PM
turbolink wrote:
Most important question: will either of the two candidates live at College Hill?
on May 8,2014 | 01:03PM
2disgusted2 wrote:
No, it is for development officer shenanigans! The Waikiki Prince has list its business!
on May 8,2014 | 01:42PM
Shrek wrote:
Lassner's annointment as the future President of UH was a done deal well before the announcement of him as the interim-president. The BOR needed at least one other nominee so as to not repeat MRC's act of sliding into the top position by default; hence the choice of Wiercinski, an individual who doesn't stand a chance simply due to his military background.
on May 8,2014 | 01:58PM
localguy wrote:
Shrek - You cannot possibly fathom the levels of higher responsibility and decision making the General has experienced in his career. Lassner spent his career in the sheltered world of academia. His hardest decision was what to have for lunch.
on May 8,2014 | 04:51PM
kekelaward wrote:
Sounds like the fix is in.
on May 8,2014 | 04:05PM
localguy wrote:
Exactly. Lassner is out, da General is in.
on May 8,2014 | 04:52PM
localguy wrote:
L M A O !!!!
on May 8,2014 | 04:45PM
RandolphW wrote:
In your dreams, and certainly not with the present slate of Regents.
on May 8,2014 | 06:18PM
wayneki wrote:
"best in the country?" They cannot even manage faculty housing! Lassner says that he never really aspired to the job ... "but if selected."
on May 8,2014 | 08:44PM
Skyler wrote:
Lassner sure doesn't sound convincing to me at all, and reading the comments makes me even less sure about his abilities. But will the regents stand for a military leader? Or was he just a token candidate? Stay tuned....
on May 9,2014 | 01:19AM
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