The Board of Regents approved Robert Bley-Vroman as interim chancellor at its meeting today.
“We intend to honor the settlement agreement with Chancellor (Tom) Apple and have approved the appointment of Dr. Bley-Vroman as interim chancellor,” Regent Chairman Randy Moore said after the vote. “Dr. Bley-Vroman brings to the role decades of experience at UH Mānoa through which he has gained a deep understanding of the campus as a faculty member, faculty leader and dean.”
Lassner chose Bley-Vroman, dean of the College of Languages, Linguistics and Literatures, last Thursday to replace Apple, who is stepping down to a tenured professorship in the campus’ chemistry department Sept. 1.
According to Moore’s statement, the Board and Lassner recognize that additional steps are needed to strengthen critical relationships at Mānoa.
“Dr. Bley-Vroman has committed to maintain the high standard for campus communications that students and faculty have made clear they expect and that we all believe they deserve in their chancellor,” Moore said. “In addition, the Board and president will establish additional mechanisms for informal discussions with faculty and students at Mānoa and throughout the system.”
After hearing concerns about the process used to evaluate the chancellor, part of which already includes input from faculty and student leaders, Lassner has committed to invite campus governance groups to provide their own direct assessments.
“We will amend applicable policies to ensure this practice is institutionalized,” Moore said.
UH will also assess the administrative structure of the campus and its relationship to the UH System and other campuses to “improve management, decrease administrative costs and increase focus on academic excellence,” leaving some faculty concerned.
“As we discussed at the Faculty Congress this week, there is a good chance the next step in the dismantling of Mānoa will likely be the elimination of our chancellor position,” said R. Kelly Aune, Communicology chairman, in an email to faculty. “…I read this passage as indicating time to get ahead of this is very short, if not past. I think the blitzkrieg on Manoa is still in full force.”
According to James Dator, Hawaiʻi Research Center for Futures Studies director, there was debate about the utility of the chancellor’s office when the position was created.
“Mānoa has not had, and then had, and then not had, and then had again a Chancellor during my time at Mānoa,” he said in an email to faculty. “I and some others were opposed to the creation of the office, arguing that in a system as small as ours, all important decisions would be kicked up to (or end-rounded to) the president, and that the proliferation of minions around the chancellor would duplicate those at the president’s level in many cases, and suck yet more money out of faculty work to administrivia.”
According to minutes from a 2001 BOR meeting, the board approved a plan that year to establish a UH system office, which included the Office of the President, that would separate the president position from the chancellor at the Mānoa campus.
The faculty, Dator says, should carefully consider and possibly then decide to eliminate that level of bureaucracy since “it neither protects nor promotes our interests…”
College of Education Dean Christine Sorensen said the UH system has not learned to operate as other systems do at a broad policy level over all the institutions.
“Rather, the UH system continually mucks around in Mānoa issues in ways it seems not to do with the other institutions under its authority,” she said in an email to faculty. “… I firmly believe Mānoa needs its own leadership whose role is to do what is best for Mānoa, and not to have other competing interests. I also believe system needs to get out of Mānoa’s business — including athletics — and stop allowing other upper level Mānoa administrators to go around the Chancellor to get decisions changed. System’s behavior has basically removed the authority of any Chancellor to actually lead Mānoa.”
The Board will also expedite the review of the Cancer Center, which will determine how the center can be strengthened to ensure that it maintains its National Cancer Institute designation and can contribute to the fight against cancer and improved health care in Hawai‘i.
“President Lassner has been very clear with Chancellor Apple and in meetings with students and faculty in the past weeks that no outside pressure was brought to bear on him. The Board accepts President Lassner’s explanation that his actions were based on his assessment of Chancellor Apple’s performance,” Moore said.
Since news of Apple’s termination broke, students and faculty have voiced concerns.
On Tuesday, campus faculty members called for a vote of no confidence in the Board and Lassner because of their decision to fire Apple, according to a previous Ka Leo article. The faculty members said they were upset that the regents and Lassner chose to fire Apple without any input from the students or faculty.
“The Board of Regents and President David Lassner greatly appreciate the deep concerns and ideas shared by students and faculty in face-to-face meetings as well as by written and oral testimony over these past weeks,” Moore said. “The fact that there are different perspectives on personnel matters and how they are handled does not mean that the concerns are not being heard.”