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Mānoa faculty demand System reform

A group of UH Mānoa faculty members have sent testimony to the Board of Regents urging the board to fix serious flaws at the System level.

Will Caron

The Independent received copies of the testimony the faculty members prepared for today’s Board of Regents (BOR) meeting on Maui. In it, the faculty members call on the board, which has a new chair and several new members, to either fix aspects of the University System that they believe are problematic or resign.

This comes after previous BOR Chair, John Holzman, interfered with former Mānoa Chancellor Tom Apple’s attempt to fire a problematic Mānoa Unit Director who was incurring losses through wasteful spending and has had a record number of grievances filed against him. After being hired by Holzman’s board to be System President at the beginning of the Summer, David Lassner quickly fired Apple with no input from faculty or students, angering many of them.

To the Board of Regents,

We support and applaud the Graduate Student Organization (GSO) for passing the vote of no confidence in President Lassner and the vote of no confidence in the Board of Regents.

We have learned that the previous BOR Chair John Holzman gave Tom Apple an executive order to withdraw his decision to fire Michele Carbone, director of the Cancer Center, despite ample evidence warranting the dismissal.

Instead, President Lassner, who was elected to his post largely thanks to the scheming of John Holzman and a dozen powerful deans/directors, fired Tom Apple for no specific reason. Furthermore, the current BOR approved Lassner’s decision to remove Apple, the one person who has garnered the trust of students, a majority of the faculty, the Native Hawaiian community and even key legislators, without these stakeholders’ input. Apple is the one administrator who has made admirable progress in accountability, transparency and sustainability in UH Manoa’s management of financial, personnel and operational priorities. 

The current UH System is faulty. It works against its faculty and students.

Regents, we suggest that you all either become part of a solution to fix the UH System or resign from your position so that the UH can start afresh.


Unhee Lim, Associate Professor, UH Cancer Center
Pui Lam, Professor/Chair, Physics and Astronomy, UHM
Bret Polopolus-Meredith, GSO Employment and Compensation Chair
Marguerite Butler, Associate Professor, Biology, UHM
Monique Chyba, Professor/Associate Chair, Mathematics, UHM
George Wilkens, Professor/Graduate Chair, Mathematics, UHM
Cheryl Albright, Professor, School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene, UHM
Susan M. Schultz, Professor of English, University of Hawai`i-Mānoa
Lilikala Kameeleihiwa, Professor & Director, Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies and Kualiʻi Council
Keali’i'olu’olu Gora Administrator, Kūaliʻi Council, UH Mānoa
Adrian Franke, Professor, Cancer Center, UHM

I Mua Mānoa, an advocacy group comprised of concerned University of Hawaiʻi faculty, students and staff that formed after Apple was fired, also sent testimony to the BOR today. The group has 102 members and is growing. Most members are from UH Mānoa, but the group says it now has several members from the community colleges as well.

“Our concerns revolve around lack of transparency, accountability and shared governance within the UH system,” wrote group conveners Marguerite Butler and Pui Lam, both Mānoa faculty. “A group of our members testified at the September 25 BOR meeting where we asked a number of direct questions. As of today we have had no response nor any acknowledgment from [either] the BOR or President Lassner. This follows on the lack of response to student and faculty concerns from the August BOR meeting.”

The group asks that the BOR do them the courtesy of responding to their inquiries and concerns and asks that the group be allowed to meet with each board member individually. The remainder of the testimony is comprised of additional questions the group says must be answered in order to get the bottom of this damaging episode.

The questions reveal a serious lack of communication between the System level and the campuses. A growing number of voices at the Mānoa campus are demanding a change be made.

Questions of Transparency:

Why did the BOR push through the process of appointing President Lassner despite stakeholder and community concern over a tainted process?

Why is it that a system President can fire a campus Chancellor without sufficient cause or explanation to the campus community and without any meaningful consultation?

Why is it that a Chancellor cannot fire a dean/director for cause, when cause is abundantly documented? What was the role of the President and the BOR in this?

It is widely believed across campus that a group of powerful Vice Chancellors and Deans supported the hiring of President Lassner (coming out publicly to the media while candidates were under review—highly improper), as well as instigating the firing of Chancellor Apple. Is this true? (see the list of deans on the Hawaii News Now report in March 2014).

Is there a quid-pro-quo occurring with this proliferation of executive administrative positions?

Questions of Fiscal Sustainability:

What is the sustainable budget model for UH Manoa?

Why does UH follow an incremental budget model (adjustments from last year), rather than a model that better tracks enrollment and fiscal health?

Across campus, enrollments have gone up.  However, allocations to academic units that generate the tuition money have remained flat—therefore costs are rising, and departments are going into deficit. Under this model, there is a disincentive to higher enrollment at the college/department level.

Departments across campus are temporarily absorbing the budget deficit by not replacing faculty and staff, causing tremendous strain on the rest of the faculty and staff.

Some classes traditionally staffed by faculty are now being staffed by lecturers, instructors, and in some cases, graduate students.

This will soon reach a crisis situation with cuts in TA/GAs, lecturers, and other non-tenured staff, which will lead to loss of revenue (tuition).

How are tuition dollars spent? Why are the students paying more money for reduced services?

Why are more monies going into programs that are fiscally insolvent (UHCC, JABSOM, athletics) amidst concerns over management (UHCC), while units that are performing well are underfunded?  Most especially, why are undergraduate tuition funds being used to fund UHCC and JABSOM?

What are the facilities priorities at UHM? Why do some units have excessive facilities upgrades whereas undergraduates suffer with very poor or, in some programs, no facilities?

Many units on campus have been very successful in obtaining extramural awards. Why is there so little investment in research infrastructure on the main Mānoa campus?

Questions of Shared Governance (in addition to those above):

Who responds to the faculty, students and staff? We have not gotten satisfactory answers from the Interim Chancellor, and we have not gotten any answers from the President or BOR.

What is going on with the strategic plan that engaged the entire UH Mānoa community over the past year? How can the inputs of thousands of stakeholders be disregarded?

Unanswered Questions from September 25, 2015 BOR meeting at UHWO

Why was Tom Apple fired? Your answers do not make sense.

Why was the firing of Chancellor Apple done in secret?

Why during the summer?

How did the Board of Regents form a consensus without an agenda item to discuss the issue? 

Why is it that a Chancellor cannot fire a dean/director for cause, when cause is abundantly documented?

What was the role of the President and the BOR in undermining and nullifying the efforts made on two occasions by Chancellor Apple to fire Director Carbone, in clear violation of his appropriate line of authority?

If a Chancellor cannot fire a subordinate, what power does s/he have?

Why is it that a system President can fire a campus Chancellor without sufficient cause or explanation to the campus community and without any meaningful consultation?  That is, in total disregard of shared governance?

We are very concerned over the lack support for UH Mānoa in governing its own affairs, and for the blatant disregard for shared governance.

Why has no action yet been taken on the director of the Cancer Center?

There have been 25 workplace grievances ruled against the Cancer Center director Michele Carbone and his leadership team, with 5 additional grievances pending. These serious violations of UH rules and ethical standards were overlooked by former Chancellor Hinshaw and former President Greenwood.  Chancellor Apple was fired when he attempted to protect his faculty from abusive management. There have been no meaningful consequences to Dr. Carbone.

Why is President Lassner and possibly the BOR protecting Dr. Carbone?

Why is the Cancer Center actively recruiting 16 new positions while the rest of Manoa campus is in a hiring freeze? 

How is this exception to the hiring freeze justified while there is mounting evidence of financial, personnel and scientific mismanagement by the director Carbone?

By whose authority are the hiring freeze policies circumvented at the UH Cancer Center?

What is the justification for taking undergraduate tuition dollars and giving them to the Cancer Center?  Have you asked the parents how they feel about this? 

What is the sustainable business plan for the UHCC?

Why is there no demand for a balanced budget from the UHCC?

The Cancer Center receives huge amounts of state support [Hawaii Cancer Research Special Funds from the cigarette tax amount to = >$19M (in 2009), $18.4M (2010), $17.6M (2011), $16.5M (2012), in addition to G funds from the state coffers for faculty salaries] and yet Dr. Carbone reports the Center will have a deficit of >$9M a year starting in 2 years. 

How can we spend more resources in support of bad fiscal management?

Where do the student tuition dollars go? We don’t understand how tuition dollars are spent, and so far no one else does either.

Why have tuition allocations to academic units remained flat, even though enrollment is up?

How is spending reviewed? Especially within high-cost units.