MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Under growing pressure from on- and off-campus to reverse his decision to remove University of Hawaii at Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple, UH President David Lassner Tuesday released a statement saying he is sorry the impending firing has become a “public spectacle.”
Hawaii News Now first reported Saturday night that Lassner has told Apple he will be removed and negotiations have begun between Apple's lawyer and UH. Apple remains on the job.
Tuesday afternoon, Lassner said university personnel matters must remain confidential out of respect for its employees.
In a statement, Lassner said: "Experience teaches that personnel issues are best addressed in private, and when a change in leadership is necessary, it is best accomplished with as much dignity as the circumstances permit."
Lassner’s statement came as student government groups announced they will hold a sit-in protesting Apple’s ouster while faculty and native Hawaiian groups released statements strongly supporting him and calling on Lassner to reverse his decision to let Apple go.
Reached for comment, Apple’s attorney, Jerry Hiatt, said, “Tom Apple greatly appreciates the overwhelming support he’s received from the community to remain in his position. The community of students and faculty seems to believe that a change in leadership is not necessary.”
Lassner’s statement went on to say: "It is my job as President to hold the executives who report to me accountable for their performance and the effectiveness of their leadership.”
Lassner said that spans the full range of an executive's duties and is not a reaction to specific incidents.
Some UH observers said Apple's unsuccessful attempt to fire Dr. Michele Carbone, the controversial head of UH's Cancer Center, is one of the primary reasons for Apple's ouster, since powerful outside interests helped to overrule the chancellor. Apple was upset that Carbone has been the subject of 25 grievances and personnel complaints filed against Carbone by Cancer Center researchers and professors, more than any other UH department.
Lassner’s statement, his first public comments on the Apple situation, also said, "I have maintained confidentiality both to provide the chancellor the privacy and dignity that any of us would want for ourselves in a difficult personnel situation…"
Lassner said the privacy he had hoped for has been compromised with a mix of what he calls "truths and rumors from many sources."
"I regret that my attempt at maintaining privacy and dignity has been perceived by some as lacking transparency and accountability. And I am truly sorry this has become a public spectacle," Lassner said.
Tuesday, the executive committee of the UH Manoa Faculty Senate unanimously affirmed its support of Apple and said his performance over the last two years “has been exemplary.”
Apple is two years into a five year employment agreement that pays him $439,008 a year, contingent upon annual satisfactory job evaluations.
Sources said Lassner delivered an unsatisfactory job evaluation to Apple and told him he planned to remove Apple from his job more than a week and a half ago.
The UH Graduate Student Organization and the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii – the undergraduate student government group – announced students will occupy Bachman Hall Thursday morning in protest of the potential removal of Apple as chancellor. Lassner and the Board of Regents work in Bachman Hall.
The student group plans to gather at 7 a.m. in front of Hawaii Hall, where Apple’s office is located, and will march to Bachman Hall at 8 a.m.Thursday, a news release from the two student groups said.
“We will not leave Bachman Hall until there is a written statement from President Lassner that Chancellor Apple will be retained as Chancellor of UH Manoa,” the release said.
The student groups said they are “outraged” that Apple might be removed from his job.
UH’s Kualii Council, a campus native Hawaiian organization, issued a statement saying it “unequivocally supports” Apple and calling on Lassner to reverse his decision.
“While Chancellor Apple inherited a tangled web of unresolved issues from
his predecessors, he has courageously addressed the challenges with
solutions and collective efforts, especially for Native Hawaiians,” said
Lilikala Kameeleihiwa, senior professor at UH’s Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies.
The Sovereign Councils of the Hawaiian Homelands Assembly, representing 30,000 beneficiaries on Hawaiian homelands, also issued a news release demanding that Apple be kept in his position.
“Chancellor Apple is the only UH Manoa administrator who has taken the time and energy to sit with our native Hawaiian community and plan ways in which UH Manoa can take an active role in raising the health and well being of our native Hawaiian people,” said Kamaki Kanahele, the chairman of the Hawaiian Homelands Assembly.