Grad student organization votes 'no confidence' in UH Presidential search

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the University of Hawai'i Board of Regents move closer to making a decision on the next system-wide President, the UH Manoa Graduate Student Organization announced Thursday they passed a resolution voting no confidence in the search process.

GSO incoming president, Michelle Tigchelaar, revealed its position at Thursday's public board meeting, citing several concerns about both finalists -- interim President Dr. David Lassner and retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Frank Wiercinski.

"We think that the search process did not illicit faith in the resulting candidates regardless of their individual merits or qualifications of these two candidate and therefore we would like to ask the board of regents to reinitiate the search process," said Tigchelaar.

GSO cited their belief the rules were bent to allow Dr. David Lassner, who holds the interim position, to be considered for the permanent job

"Initially, the presidential search committee agreed that it would not be appropriate for whoever held the interim position to be considered for the job permanently but then they allowed him to be nominated," said Tigchelaar.

They also voiced concerns about Gen. Wiercinski lacking what they described as the "minimum requirements" set out by the presidential search committee

"He does not have the degree in higher education the doctoral degree that was sought by the committee and he also does not have any experience working within a university or the University of Hawai'i," said Tigchelaar.

Lastly, GSO says the public forums were scheduled at a time that precluded more involvement of students, faculty and staff because they were held during the last week of the semester, right before finals.

Regents' Chair John Holzman says the board respects GSO's opinion, but says there is no intention to begin a new search.

"If we were to stop the search now and begin a new search, no one on the search committee nor on the board felt that we would -- that there would be a wider diversity or more qualified candidates than we've already gone through.  We've done this for about a year now.  We've looked hard.  We've encouraged people to apply.  We've encouraged people to nominate, and you work with what you have," said Holzman.

Holzman says the board takes feedback from the community very seriously.

"We have tried to make this as public, as open, as transparent and as accountable as we possibly can," Holzman said.

"The board decided that there was a difference between a nomination and an application," said Holzman, addressing the concerns GSO raised regarding their shift in policy.  "People have spoken about the question of fairness on this and it is a good question because it does seem that the person who is an internal candidate, wherever that person comes from would have an advantage over others, and fairness is important but equally important is getting the best people you can possibly get for the university and I think that was part of what was on the board's mind too," Holzman said.  "To exclude a person who was nominated by many very knowledgeable and respectable people who care very deeply about the University, we felt that it was okay to have that person to be considered."

Holzman says the board has assessed Gen. Wiercinski's background and finds him extremely qualified.

"No one can question his abilities as an executive.  There is a difference between the military and academia, but military officers have succeeded in other universities as have executives from other parts of the business world.  To simply say that he cannot do it would be incorrect.  Our assessment is that he's a qualified candidate and that's why he is where he is," Holzman said.

Officials confirm there will be another public meeting scheduled for later this month, in which both finalists will appear before the Board of Regents for questions and comments.

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