HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - During a contentious Board of Regents meeting Thursday, members of the University of Hawaii’s faculty union blasted school President David Lassner for his handling of proposed budget cuts that would have forced dozens to lose their jobs.
The message from faculty members was clear: UH needs a president with a backbone — someone who’s transparent about the process but willing to fight for the school and those who make it run.
The budget reduction proposal that was debated last week called for nearly $30 million in cuts over two years, a move that would result in the permanent removal of 121 faculty positions at UH Manoa and another 100 unfilled jobs across the University of Hawaii system.
Lassner’s critics on Thursday said they were angry about the way he responded to that proposal, accusing him of not taking an immediate public stand against lawmakers.
“I am really upset with our UH leadership,” said psychology professor Ashley Maynard.
“The fact that anybody can be fired based on the whims of a state legislator out of the chain of supervision should really horrify anybody.”
The plan to reduce the university’s budget was scrapped a few days after it was announced, once the administration had provided lawmakers with enough information to get those jobs off the chopping block.
Maynard says it should never have gotten that far.
“When you answer a question, you have a responsibility to help the person asking the question to understand the full context of what that information means," she said. "It’s my understanding our leaders at UH-Manoa didn’t even ask.”
Those who testified told Hawaii News Now that no one called for Lassner’s resignation during the meeting, but many agreed he needs to do more.
"I’m feeling really abandoned by our leadership, that they were not taking a physical and vocal presence at the first announcement of the budget,” said Karla Hayaski, Director of the Kilohana Academic Success Center at UH’s Hilo campus.
In addition to University president, Lassner also serves as the school’s interim chancellor. The faculty’s union president says he shouldn’t be charged with doing both jobs.
“I think it’s very difficult to fill with one individual,” said Lynne Wilkens. “There needs to be a stronger team.”
A UH spokesperson said the administration sent out a system-wide email within 24 hours of learning about the cuts.
“We did get the cuts reversed,” said Brent Suyama, who works in the university’s communications department.
“And we think unity going forward, whether it be speaking with lawmakers or explaining to the community the important role the university has, that’s going to be our focus.”