EXCLUSIVE: Top UH Manoa administrator accused of bullying, sexis - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

EXCLUSIVE: Top UH Manoa administrator accused of bullying, sexism

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

One of the top administrators on the University of Hawaii's Manoa campus is being accused of bullying, racism and sexism by nearly two dozen faculty members.

The university has begun an investigation into the charges against Reed Dasenbrock, the vice chancellor of academic affairs. Dasenbrock denied the allegations.

Dasenbrock has been the chief academic officer of UH Manoa for the last six years. About 4,400 employees work in departments that report directly to him and he handles nearly all the grievances filed in UH Manoa academic departments.

"I have been berated and humiliated by him in a meeting with six people publicly," said UH Psychology Professor Ashley Maynard, who chairs the UH psychology department.

She's one of 23 UH faculty who filed a formal complaint with 27 allegations against Dasenbrock, claiming he bullies people who disagree with him, particularly women.

"And anyone who crosses him or disagrees with him faces this kind of behavior, this retaliation," Maynard said.

The group complained he uses grievance procedures to harass subordinates and has made inappropriate racist remarks. When someone complained to him that UH Manoa has no deans of Asian ancestry, faculty members claim he joked that "makes up for all the Japanese in the Hawaii Legislature."

"He's very sexist, he's anti-female, he's anti-Asian. He's anti people of color. This has a really bad effect on the students," said Lilikala Kameeleihiwa, a UH Hawaiian Studies professor.

Dasenbrock said their allegations are false.

"I do not harass people through the grievance process. I do not bully people. I am not a racist. I don't treat women differently from men. My record stands for itself," Dasenbrock said in a brief interview during which he took no questions.

UH Philosophy Professor Ron Bontekoe, head of the UH Manoa faculty Senate, said he's had disagreements with Dasenbrock but hasn't seen him bully people.

"Many of the people that are laying that charge at Reed, which I don't think it justified, are themselves no poor hands at bullying themselves," said Bonetkoe, who chairs UH Manoa's philosophy department.

"It's basically a witch hunt and they are throwing as much mud as they can at him to bring him down," Bontekoe added.

Sarita Rai, director of UH Manoa's Study Abroad Center, said she's disagreed with Dasenbrock in several key meetings and now her program is having its budget severely reduced.

"This is retaliation for me because, primarily because we have crossed paths and I have not sort of kowtowed to him," Rai said, complaining that students' study aboard opportunities will be curtailed unfairly.

"We see great programs that are being cut because of personality differences. And that's not the way to run a university," said Kameeleihiwa, who said the Hawaiian Studies program where she works has not seen budget reductions.

The faculty members from the group Imua Manoa are also upset Dasenbrock has been allowed to continue in his post after they filed the complaint with Interim Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman more than one month ago.

"All in all, we're appalled,” said UH Women's Studies Professor Susan Hippensteele.

“Normally, when formal grievances, including serious charges are brought against a senior executive, that person is placed on leave with pay, pending an investigation. That has not occurred here," Hippensteele said.

Hippensteele said Dasenbrock removed her from a strategic planning position in the fall even though she had a contract to do the job through this summer. She was removed from her Hawaii Hall office, which she said has remained empty the entire school year. It was too late for her to teach women's studies courses since the schedule is made up a year in advance, wasting resources during tough budget times, Hippensteele said.

Dasenbrock said, "I'm quite confident that the objective investigation that will be launched by the chancellor will prove that these charges are absolutely unfounded."

Dasenbrock said he would not answer questions from Hawaii News Now, so it was not possible to obtain point-by-point responses from him.

His critics said they are also outraged that the man they accuse of mistreating faculty and staff will serve as acting chancellor -- in charge of the Manoa campus for ten days later this month while Bley-Vroman is on vacation, between May 21 and May 31.

UH has appointed a fact finder, but the investigation took several weeks to get underway. With graduation next week and many faculty members traveling off-campus for the summer, they're not confident there will be a comprehensive probe of their charges against him.

The group said Bley-Vroman received its letter of complaint April 6. When they said they received no substantive reply, they forwarded their letter to UH President David Lassner and the Board of Regents. They met with Bley-Vroman on May 1 and said he expressed “dismay” that “his most trusted” advisor had lost the trust of some faculty members.

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