Statement from University of Hawaii President David Lassner
February 18, 2023
In 1997, Hawaii’s Economic Revitalization Task Force recognized that strengthening the University of Hawai’i would help drive the local economy and that greater operational ﬂexibility,often referred to as “autonomy,” would unleash a stronger entrepreneurial approach that would enable the university to achieve world-class standing in speciﬁc areas and diversify its funding base. Legislation enacted in 1998 implemented that ﬂexibility and a constitutional amendment approved by the public in 2000 clearly stated that “The board [of regents] shall also have exclusive jurisdiction over the internal structure, management, and operation of the university.”
The members of the task force appointed by the Governor, Speaker of the House and Senate President, as well as the 1998 legislature that enacted Act 115 were exactly right. The ﬂexibility provided through their foresight has enabled UH to exceed all expectations. UH has diversiﬁed its operational funding far beyond the one-ﬁfth to one-third anticipated in the 1990s.Extramural and philanthropic funding has increased ten-fold or more to the highest levels in history. Student success has blossomed across our islands. UH has indeed achieved world-class distinction in multiple ﬁelds including astronomy; Earth, ocean and environmental sciences; climate change and resilience; energy; international business; advancement of Indigenous people; studies of Asia and the Paciﬁc and more.
The positive economic impact of what UH has accomplished for Hawai’i utilizing the ﬂexibility provided is truly staggering. To highlight just a few ﬁndings from UHERO in 2021, in ﬁscal year 2020 each dollar of state general fund spending at UH translated into $7.21 of total business sales, $2.01 of employee earning and $0.37 of state tax revenue. In addition, the 9,345 degrees conferred to UH students in that one year are expected to produce more than $7 billion in net lifetime earnings beneﬁts for UH graduates over the next 40-50 years.
Over the past years we have seen an erosion of the authorities of the board of regents provided in the 1990s. This, along with multiple examples of proposed legislation, has impacted both the morale and ability of those within the institution to serve Hawai’i without undue political inﬂuence. Nonetheless, we all remain deeply committed to our higher education mission and the people we serve across the State. And we are proud of the work we do every day and the successes we achieve as the institution most vital to a thriving future for Hawai’i.
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Defending Against Micromanagement of UH
UHPA News Release, February 14, 2023
Holding Power In Check to Protect UH Faculty
UHPA is not afraid to speak up to those who abuse their power since it ensures those with authority stay in their lane. As the exclusive bargaining representative for UH faculty, UHPA never hesitates to voice our concerns when there is a threat to UH faculty.
UHPA was asked by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (“Key state senators call for University of Hawaii President Lassner to resign” see also PrintReplica link) to share our perspectives about a few Hawai‘i State senators who are asking for UH President David Lassner’s resignation.
Unwarranted Attacks on UH Hurts Us All
Any unwarranted public attack on the UH President is an attack on the entire UH community with potential negative implications on funding for the UH. These irresponsible actions by a few legislators give our families pause to consider sending their children to UH. Who would want to attend a university that legislators keep (falsely) accusing of waste and ineffectiveness? A recent Star-Advertiser editorial has similar sentiments:
“Senate committee leaders, who do help shape the budget enacted for the university, thus should back off their impulse to micromanage policy decisions, the hiring of the president chief among them. This public airing of tensions could damage perceptions about UH among research funding institutions and the general public.”
“Unclear, unwise attack on Lassner” see also PrintReplica link
Let’s Recognize Positive Accomplishments
While we have had our differences with the UH administration, we have always managed to reach amicable solutions. We expressed our support for the UH and the progress we have made in delivering results for Hawai‘i students and research in collaboration with the President and the UH Administration, particularly during the pandemic. The senators should recognize the President’s accomplishments as a result of the meaningful and productive collaboration with UHPA faculty and the positive impact it has had on the students obtaining degrees, diplomas and certificates to enter the workforce here in Hawai‘i. UH is high in national rankings and our families should feel proud to send their children to any one of the ten campuses in the UH System.
A Deeper, Recurring Challenge
We see a recurring pattern that is very disturbing – something that is much deeper and seething. These disrespectful attempts of legislative micromanagement are a flagrant disregard of the established governance structure of the UH system.
The UH Structure Was Designed to Protect Against This
While lawmakers are certainly entitled to their opinions, there are legal limits to their authority. The UH Board of Regents is constitutionally empowered with exclusive management of the UH system. The governance structure of the UH was intentionally designed to maintain order and stability for the UH. These protocols must remain in place to prevent any circumventions that will usurp the authority of the Board of Regents and allow legislative micromanagement of UH affairs .
UH Autonomy is Backed by the State Constitution
The Hawai‘i State Constitution, Article X (Education), Section 6 clearly defines the power of the UH Board of Regents:
“The board shall have the power to formulate policy, and to exercise control over the university through its executive officer, the president of the university, who shall be appointed by the board. The board shall also have exclusive jurisdiction over the internal structure, management, and operation of the university.”
And Supported by Hawai‘i Law
The current Hawai‘i Revised Statutes (HRS) under §304A-105 further validates this:
“The board of regents shall have management and control of the general affairs, and exclusive jurisdiction over the internal structure, management, and operation of the university.”
We Will Protect Faculty
UHPA will always vehemently defend our faculty against unfair attacks by lawmakers. We point to our UHPA-BOR Agreement agreement based on Hawai‘i Revised Statutes (HRS), Chapter 89, §89-6(d)(4), which defines the Employer as: the Governor, the UH Board of Regents, and the UH President. There is no law that defines legislators as the UH Employer.
We’re purposely putting this in big, bold type so everyone understands: UHPA Will Staunchly Defend Faculty Against Micromanagement, Especially From Legislators.
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Not on Board with Aloha Stadium Boondoggle: Key state senators call for University of Hawaii President Lassner to resign
SA: … Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chair of the Senate Ways and Means committee, and Sens. Donna Mercado Kim and Michelle Kidani, who are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the Senate Higher Education Committee, said in separate Honolulu Star-Advertiser interviews that there has not been one particular trigger that has led them to feel Lassner should resign, but a pattern they perceive of too-slow progress by the university to meet the needs of students and the state.
(FUN FACT: Kim’s son, Micah Po'okela Kim Aiu, finally did go to UH Law school a year after lying to his mommy about it. Then he became general counsel for Nan Inc--where he today 'earns' $100-150K /yr. Now he ‘represents’ HD32 encompassing Aloha Stadium. Nan Inc, led by convicted felon Patrick Shin, is a partner in the 'Wailoa' group competing to redesign Aloha Stadium.)
However, Lassner over the weekend gave no indication that he plans to step away in the near future. And expressions of support for Lassner and/or the university also have emerged in response from diverse sectors, including all four members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation, the executive director of the UH faculty union and the head of the state House Higher Education and Technology Committee….
The three state senators expressed frustration over a lengthy list of concerns, also including numerous complaints they say they received in confidence about UH and Lassner from students, parents and university employees; persistent disagreements over whether all professors are teaching enough classroom hours to fulfill their contractual obligations; uneven faculty morale, student enrollment and facilities use; and objections to the way UH carried out the expansion of the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletic Complex to meet NCAA requirements.
The senators and Lassner also have had showdowns in the past over spending, construction and other issues, including former UH head football coach Todd Graham. A tense Senate hearing Opens in a new tab led by Kim and Dela Cruz in January 2022, where accusations flew about Graham’s treatment of players, led Lassner to say testimony was “cherry picked” and positive testimony was unfairly disallowed.
State Sen. Kurt Fevella at the time called for a petition to have Lassner, Graham and athletic director David Matlin removed. Graham resigned a few days later. Matlin last month announced his intention to retire in June….
(Translation: This is all about Aloha Stadium. Under Lassner UH is shifting to TC Ching. The scamsters want a president who will commit to play UH sports in their new Aloha Stadium. They don't care what happens to the rest of the University. I hear Dobelle is available for the job.)
read … Key state senators call for University of Hawaii President Lassner to resign
HNN: Board of Regents Chair Randolph Moore told Hawaii News Now the next board meeting where the matter could be discussed is on March 2. Moore added the board will evaluate the president like they do every year around April and May.
Feb 19, 2023: UH Power Game: Mercado Kim’s Next Move?
SA Editorial: Divide over University of Hawaii’s autonomy deepens
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STATE SENATORS RESPOND TO ARTICLE MISCHARACTERIZING REGARDING UNIVERSITY OF HAWAI’I PRESIDENT
News Release from Hawaii State Senate, Feb 12, 2023
Honolulu, Hawai’i – State Senators Michelle Kidani (District 18), Donovan Dela Cruz (District 17), and Donna Mercado Kim (Distict 14) issued a joint statement today responding to a Honolulu Star-Advertiser article that mischaracterized their concerns regarding University of Hawaiʻi (UH) President David Lassner:
"The recent article in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser portrayed our stance on the University of Hawaiʻi and its administration in a distorted manner.
We did not call for the resignation of President David Lassner outright.
Our criticism stems from our interactions with him and feedback that we have received from students, faculty, parents, former regents, and members of the university community who feel that a change in leadership may be necessary.
As legislators, it is our responsibility to convey the concerns of our constituents and ensure accountability of all government agencies, including the University of Hawaiʻi, and their leaders.
Despite our position on President Lassner’s performance, we firmly believe that the final decision on the leadership and future direction of the university system continues to rest with the Board of Regents."