Accreditation panel praises Greenwood, asks for info on UH's Wonder blunder
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The aftermath of the Stevie Wonder blunder has caught the attention of the agency that accredits the University of Hawaii.
After a two-day visit to Hawaii last week, an accreditation team asked questions about improvements in reaction to the canceled concert but also praised UH President M.R.C. Greenwood, who's under fire for her handling of the concert fiasco.
The Western Association of Schools and Colleges, known as WASC, accredits the UH's ten campuses and other places of higher education in Hawaii.
Hawaii News Now obtained a draft list of what the accreditation team that called its "commendations and recommendations" for the statewide UH system.
"This is a very positive review," Greenwood said in a phone interview Wednesday. "What they thought of our performance seems to be very different from what is currently the local opinion."
"This is actually really a remarkable set of recommendations, given that we've been through the worst recession since the Depression," Greenwood told Hawaii News Now.
The panel wanted to know about the outcome of State Senate hearings into the Stevie Wonder blunder. WASC is asking the UH for "any report or legislation" arising from the senate's investigation.
But the group also wants to receive a report from the UH Board of Regents panel that's assessing lines of authority and responsibility at UH in the wake of the failed concert.
Regents Chair Eric Martinson briefed senators about that effort Monday.
"It's specifically looking at the events that surrounded the concert and what actions and what policies allowed this to happen. Where were the breakdowns?" Martinson said.
Greenwood said she's not surprised WASC was interested in the UH's response to the Stevie Wonder blunder, since one of the accreditation body's key requirements is that "the institution has no history of interference" by political, religious, corporate or other "outside" bodies.
Greenwood has said UH received pressure from politicians to restore former UH athletics director Jim Donovan to his previous job.
The draft letter from WASC also commended Greenwood and her team for "their focus on key priorities and their ability to keep in mind the long view rather than short term matters as they make progress on three key initiatives of the University."
Those are initiatives to increase the number of college graduates by 25 percent by 2015, repair, maintain and build campus facilities and double the amount of research money coming into the university to about $1 billion.
The WASC team also said it was "impressed with the financial planning and careful attention to finances that has characterized the university during the economic downturn."
The team praised UH for improvements in student retention and graduation rates of undergraduates.
The draft page-and-a-half letter also complimented "the university for its tuition plan, a multi-year effort that allows predictability for both families and the university."
But it also recommended UH "consider carefully student concerns about tuition and affordability as well as the availability of needed classes as it pursues its efforts to increase the number of Hawaiians to whom it awards degrees."
The WASC team visited the UH system for a regularly scheduled five-year visit, scheduled since 2007, a UH spokeswoman said. It was not a special visit prompted by the UH's failed concert and the controversy that followed, the UH spokeswoman said.
Members of the team spoke to faculty, administrators, students, state lawmakers and others last week, before key UH officials appeared before members of the State Senate in a probe of the Stevie Wonder concert debacle Monday.
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