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UH to suspend search for new Manoa chancellor

  • GEORGE F. LEE / 2016

    University of Hawaii President David Lassner.

University of Hawaii President David Lassner has recommended suspending for two years the search for a chancellor for the Manoa campus, following an unsuccessful nationwide search to fill the position.

He plans to continue serving simultaneously as interim chancellor and system president.

A 20-member search committee Lassner convened last spring had identified three mainland finalists who participated in a final round of in-person interviews and campus forums over the past few months. The finalists were Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture; Lauren Robel, executive vice president and provost at Indiana University Bloomington; and John Valery White, acting chancellor for the Nevada System of Higher Education.

In an email this morning to UH-Manoa students, faculty and staff, Lassner said he reached out to one of the finalists, but that the candidate withdrew from consideration.

“This was a superb Search Advisory Committee that did everything correctly, and I had no disagreement with their conclusions,” Lassner wrote.

He said he could not comment on the reasons for the withdrawal. “But I will say that the reasons in no way reflected on UH-Manoa or the qualifications, suitability and genuine interest of the candidate in the position,” Lassner said in the email.

“Based on the committee’s assessments, with which I am in full agreement after my own meetings with the finalists, I am unable to recommend a new chancellor at this time,” he added. “The committee’s assessments are confidential and I will not comment further on details and reasons.”

Lassner reiterated his view that the president and chancellor positions are two separate jobs.

“I recognize, perhaps better than anyone, that the UH presidency and the Manoa chancellorship are two distinct, large and difficult jobs. So I am absolutely not recommending that the positions be combined,” he said. “I believe that the question of campus leadership should be revisited in two years to determine how to fill the chancellor position. In the meantime, I believe I can mitigate the conflicts that will naturally arise from time to time. And this arrangement will also provide for a closer relationship with the Board of Regents and with the system vice presidents as we advance the campus.”

The regents in August approved a recommendation from Lassner that he serve as interim chancellor with no additional pay for the added duties. (As president, Lassner earns a $375,000 annual base salary.)

He replaced outgoing interim chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman, who did not want an extension and has returned to a faculty position.

Bley-Vroman was tapped in August 2014, following the dismissal of Tom Apple as chancellor. Lassner said at the time that he gave Apple an unsatisfactory performance rating because he was unable to address serious financial troubles, while Apple maintained he was forced out two years into his five-year appointment.

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    • Yep, I think pretty much most of the budget is usually from personnel costs. Dobelle really screwed things up when he duplicated all the admin positions on campus and quadrupled their pay too.

  • I wish the article explained why it requires a two year wait until another person or search committee is taken up. Usually if your number one choice falls through, you go to plan B, your second choice. Why no plan B? Instead we now have a plan C, which is to wait. Does Lassner have 23 years with the State and needs these last 2 years to get a full pension?

  • Hmm, maybe they need to keep the seat warm to let someone they WANT in to be groomed for the position…? Two years seems like a nice time for that individual to percolate in another post within the UH system, to shine or implode? No secret that backdoor deals are made promising positions to people. The bigger secret of course is that there are MANY holding positions of administrative power at UH campuses outside of Manoa that would normally be held by someone with a terminal degree, a REAL terminal degree. Or…those that want to be called “faculty” without having taught a single day at a preschool, never mind at the college level,

  • This just shows how many top positions aren’t needed in government when one person can do “two distinct, large and difficult jobs”. To me if one person can do two jobs, that means that person wasn’t doing 100% in their job as it’s impossible to do more than 100%. There’s no such thing as 110%, 150%, 1,000% etc. In doing a job – 100% is max.

  • So what happens to the salary savings?
    Answer: It is used to pay other High Salary/ Low output leaders and administrators tucked throughout UH Manoa, the Med School, and the Cancer Center.

      • How easily you all forget! Remember how tenaciously Apple was criticized on this board? Everyday! All the time! Especially on football and athletics! They had no choice but to let him go! It seemed to the Regents etc., that public opinion was against him and he wasn’t good PR!

  • Regarding:
    “A 20-member search committee Lassner convened last spring had identified three mainland finalists who….”

    Would someone enlighten me why only “mainland” finalist ?
    Does that imply no “local” can qualify for the job ?

    • Lets all be honest about all of this. UH is controlled by mainland Caucasians and the DOE by local Asians. Both will use tokens as camouflage but the last token Caucasian in the DOE was a Schatz brother and he split for UH. The last time an Asian was put in any leading position at UH was Fujio Matsuda from 1974 to 1984. Had to look that one up. It is ironic that Caldwell’s wife and ex HGEA union boss Okata, both local Asians, in the height of their influence at UH could have changed things up but their decision was to choose MRC Greenwood who got fired from the Univ California system (if she did not resign she would have been fired). Everyone knows how well that turned out with Greenwood

      • Yes Greenwood is indeed a good example. Another one almost identical is the hiring of Dan Grabauskas who was hired for HART
        after a disastrous stint in Boston for their Big Dig Tunnel project from which he was fired.
        Either the pipeline for certain favored individuals on the mainland is fairly extensive or we have a talent to find and recruit
        incompetent people and pay them big bucks to boot.

  • In two years, UH Manoa will be in yet another financial crisis and no more attractive than it is now. Sounds like faculty are leaving as they get to do more bureaucracy instead of teaching and research. Then again in two years we might have a better board of regents, or not.

  • Gosh! Just don’t go back to the guys who were sent packing! I admire Lassner especially for his stamina! 2 more years? Hope he can hang in there! Wonder what mafe the candidate withdraw at the last minute?

  • This morning Inside Higher Ed posted that the pay gap between male and female administrators still remains! Almost posted that they hadn’t heard of Hinshaw and MRC!!!

  • Wish someone gad warned some other families not to move to Hawaii! Though must say that the then Chair of Chinese had in fact done so! Have you seen what happens to these people? The last VCAA seems to gave turned into a Law Prof clone and looks like the ” What me worry” kid from Mad magazine!!!

  • On another subject concerning UH its the search for a new Women’s Volleyball Coach. Maybe they should suspend that too as i can’t see to many coaches applying for that job especially when it won’t come available until Shoji retires and who knows when that will be.

  • Would seem after all this time and putting the search on abeyance an additional 2 years +, the UH Chancellor position should be eliminated? If it truly is that important the search should continue until one is hired. Yet another black eye for UH and our State.

  • Lassner, keeps doing and trying to make it better, mahalo

    David, pick a good one, don’t rush it.

    we live is a great place, we have our share of problems, but we keep trying to make it better…

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