A day after State Senate President Donna Kim called on the University of Hawaii Board of Regents to re-open the search for UH president, gubernatorial candidate Mufi Hannemann said Wednesday he agreed the board should re-start a search.
"I believe they should have more than two candidates. They should keep the two they have now, I think they are good candidates. The fact that they said at the outset, they would have five to six, to me they really have to identify that," Hannemann, who is running for governor as an independent, told Hawaii News Now.
Hannemann said women and business people should be among the finalists considered.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie declined comment. State Sen. David Ige, who's challenging Abercrombie in the Democratic primary for governor, was traveling on Kauai and not immediately available for comment.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Duke Aiona did not take a stand on whether the regents should re-start their search but released a statement that said: "The University of Hawai'i plays a vital role in both our economy and our state's future. What's most important is that the Board of Regents select the right person for the job and that the selection process remain independent from politics."
The online petition Kim started at 3 p.m. Tuesday had gathered more than 300 signatures as of late afternoon Wednesday.
Kim said the regents should keep looking for presidential candidates after three finalists dropped out, leaving just two candidates: Interim UH President David Lassner and retired Lt. Gen. Frank Wiercinski, the former commander of the Army in the Pacific.
In a statement, the UH Board of Regents said it "believes that to open the selection process at the 11th hour would do significant damage to the university." UH did not specify what kind of damage that would be and did not answer an email asking for specifics.
Meanwhile, Hawaii News Now has learned a top UH dean asked the regents to appoint Lassner to the president's job outright early this year.
Dr. Jerris Hedges, dean of the John A. Burns School of Medicine, testified before the UH Board of Regents January 15 and asked the panel to consider ending the president search, appointing Lassner as a permanent president of UH for a fixed term and then revisiting a presidential search in three years.
Hedges told the regents that an immediate appointment was needed to address what he called significant fiscal and leadership challenges at several UH campuses for which interim leadership was not sufficient to take action, according to regents' minutes of the meeting.
Hedges was one of 13 UH Manoa deans and two directors who signed a letter to the Regents Chair John Holzman March 6, backing Lassner for the president's post and saying his appointment should happen as soon as possible.
"Dr. Lassner's longevity and accomplishments at the university place him in a unique position to being advancing UH initiatives immediately," they said in the letter.
Other top UH Manoa academic leaders who signed the letter: William S. Richardson School of Law Dean Avi Soifer; UH Cancer Center Director Dr. Michele Carbone; dean of the Shidler College of Business, Vance Roley; Peter Crouch, dean of the UH College of Engineering; Peter Arnade, dean of the department of Arts and Humanities and Donald Young, dean of the College of Education.
Lassner supporters who signed the letter also include: Brian Taylor, interim vice chancellor for research and dean of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology; Thomas R. Bingham, interim dean, School of Architecture; Mary Boland, dean of the School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene; William Chismar, dean of the Outreach College; Gunther Hasinger, Director of the Institute of Astronomy; Noreen Mokuau, dean of the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work; and John Pezzuto, dean of the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy.
Wiercinksi turned in an application that listed references from Irene Inouye, widow of the late U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye; Eric Shinseki, the U.S. secretary of Veterans Affairs; and Art Ushijima, president and CEO of Queens Health Systems and Queens Medical Center. JN Musto, executive director of the UH faculty union, UHPA, wrote a letter of reference for Wiercinski, saying he was speaking for himself and not representing the union.
Others who served as Wiercinski's professional references for the UH post were Beadie Dawson, president and director of the Hawaiian Native Corporation; Allen Hoe, general counsel to the Plumbers and Fitters Union, Local 675 and former civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army; and Lauren Kahea Moriarty, a retired ambassador and former dean of academics at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.
The regents have scheduled a special public meeting with both Lassner and Wiercinski Tuesday May 27 beginning at 9 a.m. at the UH Information Technology Center on the UH Manoa campus.
At that meeting, both candidates will meet with the board in separate public one-hour sessions during which they will answer questions from the regents. Following the public portion of the meeting, the regents will meet behind closed doors to discuss the candidates.
On Monday, June 2 at 1 p.m., the board will meet at the same location to conduct a formal vote on the next UH president.
Click to read UH Deans' Letter Supporting David Lassner - http://bit.ly/1qWE88M