Dobelle: "I'm Astonished." - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Dobelle: "I'm Astonished."

U.H. Board of Regents Fired Evan Dobelle As University President U.H. Board of Regents Fired Evan Dobelle As University President

may have been fired, but nobody bothered to tell him.  The ousted U.H. leader told News 8 he read about his termination in the newspaper.  The University of Hawai’i Board of Regents announced Dobelle’s termination late Tuesday night.  Dobelle is on the mainland looking at colleges with his son.  News 8’s Darren Pai spoke with him by phone Wednesday.  Below is the transcript of that interview.

Darren Pai:

First of all, your reaction to the action that the board has taken.

Evan Dobelle:

I’m amazed and astonished…I really don’t know what to react to, because I haven’t heard anything by the board of regents…any kind of message whether it be oral or written.  I only know what I read in the newspapers.  I went out of town on a long planned vacation which the regents knew about.  My understanding is they were going to have a board meeting where they would discuss my 30 odd page self evaluation of the past three years and send me a letter, which I would react to mutually agreed upon goals and objectives for the next three years.  I have no idea what this is all about.

Darren Pai:

Do you feel this was politically motivated in any way?

Evan Dobelle:

I try not to go that way, but certainly that has been the overwhelming judgment of the people who have been calling all day long.

Darren Pai:

Your discussion over your evaluation has dragged on for some time now…in your mind was there anything so egregious that would warrant termination for cause?

Evan Dobelle:

I can’t imagine it.

Darren Pai:

Do you plan any legal action at this time?

Evan Dobelle:

We have to first see what the situation is and I’m here with Harry and my focus is on Harry and looking at colleges with him I’m not going to allow this to interrupt my family responsibilities.  I’ll get back Monday, I’ll know more about it and I’ll make some determinations at that time.  My interest is the University of Hawai’iand I don’t want to make any comments at this time or do anything to injure the university.

Darren Pai:

What would you say are some of the highlights of your time in office at the university?

Evan Dobelle:

Well I think what we were hired to do was to make change and I when I came, as I think the people of Hawai’i remember, the faculty had just been on strike.  The accrediting agencies had just almost suspended the accreditation at Manoa.  Three years later we have a six year contract and a 31 percent pay increase for the faculty, a full tenure accreditation for manoa, a reorganized system.  We raised over 60 million dollars, we built a new medical school, getting money for cancer research, started a film school, we have had nothing but success including enormous success at the community colleges.  So we’re very proud of the circumstances.  When you do these things, when you make change you challenge the status quo.  I’m understanding of that, but I think that’s what the people of Hawai’i wanted.  They don’t want promises and big talk, they want to see action.  We’ve taken action.  I gather that’s not gone over well with a lot of people who benefit from the status quo.

Darren Pai:

There’s been considerable support for you on campus, particularly from faculty at the Center for Hawaiian Studies.  Do you think any more public support from the faculty or anyone else in the university community might have made a difference?  How do you feel about getting that support?

Evan Dobelle:

I’m obviously grateful to my colleagues on the faculty.  A university president is only as good as how they are in helping other faculty and their researchers and their students.  So for the faculty to be supportive of me…I’m grateful.  Most university presidents have complications while they are president because of problems with the faculty or with the students.  I’m the opposite; the faculty and students and I are very solid about bringing the University of Hawai’i to the next level.  Obviously the regents think differently, what their reasons are I don’t know, but they have never addressed my evaluation, they’ve never addressed our success and I find that rather sad.

Darren Pai:

Where were you when you first heard the news?

Evan Dobelle:

I never heard about it, I read about it when I went downstairs at the hotel and went online like I do every morning to read my email and to read the newspapers.  I read it in the newspaper.  I must tell you that’s a pretty amazing headline to come up on the web.   But you know you deal with it, it’s something that was extraordinary.  To leave town and to have people do things in secret I find to be amazing. 

Darren Pai:

What do you plan to do when you return to Hawai’inext week?

Evan Dobelle:

What I plan to do is talk to the chairman of urban regional planning and ask them what they might want me to teach this fall. My commitment is to the people of Hawai’i and to the University of Hawai’i and this circumstance will take care of itself.  I’m very proud of everything I’ve done as president of the University of Hawai’iand these circumstances are odd at best.

Darren Pai:

Do you see that there was any problem with your style or the actions that you are taking?

Evan Dobelle:

I really can’t speak to that.  I don’t know what the circumstances are.  All I know is everyone has their own opinion about things in life.  You can’t have your own set of facts. The facts are as I laid out in our strategic plan and as I’ve laid out in our evaluation that we’ve had direction and we’ve accomplished everything we said we would accomplish.  I can’t speak to style; sometimes people will always challenge a person’s style when they don’t want to do the right thing.  I’m happy about making the university a significantly better university than it was when I came and it was already a good university but not one that was perceived as that.

Darren Pai:

Do you feel that things might have been different had you not endorsed Maize Hirono?

Evan Dobelle:

You have to do what’s in your heart.  I don’t know that, that’s conceivable I guess, but as I said before I’m proud of everything I’ve done as president of the University of Hawai’i including that.  

Darren Pai:

Is there anything that you would like to add?

Evan Dobelle:

I am very proud of the University of Hawai’i and I’m very privileged to be a citizen of Hawai’i and I’m extraordinarily grateful for the unbelievable outpouring of support today in email and phone calls.  It has really been interesting to see how people reacted so quickly and with such anger at what’s gone on.  People have wanted this university and they want Hawai’i to be so much more than it is, because it can be so much more and when they see someone in a situation like I’m in, they are personally offended by it and I want them to understand that we’re going to get through this together and in other ways we’re going to make the university and the state of Hawai’i everything it can be.

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