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Growing UH voices demand Apple’s reinstatement

The Faculty Senate Executive Committee has added its voice to the swelling call for Tom Apple's re-appointment as Chancellor of Mānoa.

Will Caron

Photo by Jimmy Edens

The Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate (SEC) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UH) was invited by President David Lassner to make an internal UH Mānoa recommendation for a replacement for recently ousted Chancellor Tom Apple. In an attempt to appease faculty at the flagship campus and diffuse the tensions that removing Apple has garnered from a large portion of Mānoa’s instructors (not to mention students), the president was likely hoping that making this invitation to the SEC would help smooth things over.

The SEC, however, has refused to play ball, standing firm on previous faculty demands that Apple (who is still faculty) be reinstated. In an email to faculty, the SEC explained its position:

At the invitation of President Lassner, the Senate Executive Committee considered what qualifications and qualities a candidate for the Mānoa Chancellor must have and who might best lead the Mānoa campus in the future. After due consideration, the SEC is submitting the attached letter to the President indicating that, by far, the best candidate for the Chancellor’s role is Tom Apple.

We continue to believe that it is destabilizing to UHM to fire a Chancellor when no charge of malfeasance has been brought forth. We are extremely concerned about the lack of consultation with the Mānoa Faculty Senate over these issues, in violation of the concept of shared governance.

The SEC has been informed by the Chancellor that what has been called a hard “hiring freeze” is really increased scrutiny of unit expenditures, with a focus on long-term commitments, especially on tenure-tack hires. The process of consultation between Vice Chancellors and Deans, which is now under way, should allow academic programs to move forward and provide classes for our students for this coming academic year. While the “hiring freeze” is of concern to all faculty, the SEC is especially concerned that the sudden termination of the Chancellor harms the stability and welfare of Mānoa.

We continue to believe that the firing of Chancellor Apple was ill-conceived and poorly executed; it should be reversed.

Of particular interest in this email is the fact that the “hiring freeze” is actually increased scrutiny over unit expenditures. Remember that Dr. Apple tried twice to remove unit director Michele Carbone because of extreme fiscal mismanagement of the UH Cancer Center (UHCC) (not to mention a host of ethical violations), but was forced to stop dealing directly with the UHCC by outside political influencers.

This “freeze,” therefore, must have been Dr. Apple’s last attempt to rein-in the UHCC through the indirect process (the only option left to him) of “increased scrutiny” over unit expenditures. Shortly after announcing the “freeze,” it seems, Dr. Carbone’s political supporters—the same outside influencers—rushed in to “save” Dr. Carbone from this “increased scrutiny,” believing (for reasons still unknown) that Dr. Carbone should be allowed to continue his mismanagement and wasteful spending.

On top of this, they actually strong-armed the Chancellor into releasing more money to Dr. Carbone, and subsequently fired Dr. Apple, presumably so that he would be unable to make further attempts to restrain the UHCC and its director.

The SEC’s letter to President Lassner makes it clear that they will not be a part of the president’s attempts to sweep this whole episode under the rug:

Dear President Lassner,

Thank you for meeting with us on August 1, 2014.

In light of your remarks about the qualities that have led to so much support being shown among students and faculty for Chancellor Apple and the need to find those qualities in his successor, we have considered your request for recommendations for a potential interim replacement.

Based on a review of potential internal candidates at Mānoa, the Mānoa Faculty Senate Executive Committee has come to the conclusion that those qualities are not to be found in anyone else.

Accordingly, we recommend to you and the members of the Board of Regents that Chancellor Apple be reinstated. The SEC has no other recommendations beyond that.

With both the Associated Students of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (ASUH) and the Graduate Student Organization (GSO) demanding that Apple be reinstated and now the SEC refusing to nominate any other candidate besides Tom Apple, it is increasingly unlikely that this episode will blow over quickly and quietly as the president likely hopes.

If President Lassner ignores both the voices of the student governing bodies and the executive committee of the faculty governing body, the lack of trust and confidence in his all-but-new administration that already exists will be compounded and multiplied to the point where there is likely a zero percent chance of him ever being effective at any point in his term.