UH presidential search wraps up

MANOA (HawaiiNewsNow) - The search for the next University of Hawaii president is wrapping up. The two candidates publicly answered questions from the Board of Regents for the last time before next week's vote.

The finalists, Interim President David Lassner and retired Lt. Gen. Frank Wiercinski, have faced intense scrutiny in recent weeks. The regents asked lots of questions on Tuesday about the candidates' qualifications. They also wanted to hear answers about university issues such as tuition hikes, infrastructure and enrollment.

"We're going to have to find efficiencies and we are going to have to make sacrifices and they are going to have to be tough choices. To say it any other way would be wrong," said Wiercinski.

"We need to be an environment in which we're communicating our successes and achievements proudly," said Lassner. "When something goes wrong, we need to admit it, fix it, share what we've done about it."

The public testimony included praise and criticism of both finalists.

"David Lassner would be able to hold the community together. I don't need to tell you that a divided University of Hawaii would not be a good thing," said UH Manoa professor Cristina Bacchilega.

"It is those kinds of qualities to me that we look for in a leader - someone who listens, integrates, thinks about leadership and executes. I personally know Frank and I support him," said Lauren Moriarity, former Dean of Academics at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.

The ongoing controversy about the selection process also came up during the testimony.

"It is simply not pono, and for you to march ahead because you believe that you have the right and to ignore the public perception, is for you to do this at your own peril," said UH Manoa professor Vilsoni Hereniko.

"Reopening the search, in our opinion, the non-regents members of the committee, will not net us better candidates. As a matter of fact, we've probably pretty much flushed the pool," said Walt Niemczura, a member of the UH Presidential Selection Committee.

Both finalists said that they learned a lot during the grueling selection process.

"Being able to influence everything about teaching and learning, scholarship and administration in public high education for all of a state, and particularly for all of Hawaii, that would be a dream job," said Lassner.

"The more I did the research and the more I thought about it, I felt I could help. My entire life has been in service as a servant leader and trying to help," Wiercinski said.

The Board of Regents met behind closed doors in executive session after the public testimony. Members will take a formal vote on June 2 to pick the next UH president.

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