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.