Manoa chancellor proposes eliminating exec. jobs, saving $1M+ a year

Published: Apr. 29, 2014 at 10:53 PM HST
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MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - University of Hawaii-Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple is proposing to eliminate six to eight mostly-vacant dean and director positions and consolidate departments to save more than $1 million a year.

Under the preliminary proposal, the UH's School of Travel Industry Management, founded in 1966, would be merged into its next door neighbor on the Manoa campus, the Shidler College of Business.

The travel industry dean's position is vacant, after the UH Board of Regents balked at a $250,000 salary for a new candidate.

Apple wants to have the business dean oversee both departments and use that money to hire more faculty or lower tuition.

"What I'd like to do is try to find a way to consolidate units more so that we have fewer of those executive managerial salaries," Apple said. "And that the people who are running various organizations are from within, people who are already on our payroll."

Students at the travel industry school Hawaii News Now spoke to at midday Tuesday had varying opinions on the idea.

"I really like being separate because it is a different entity," said Christian Gutierrez, a junior travel industry management major from Austin, Texas.  "It's a different type.  It's hospitality. You're more of a people person instead of just with numbers and just with business."

Chris Almendar, a senior travel industry management major from Santa Barbara, Calif., liked the idea of a merger.

"When there's so many courses that overlap and so many instructor and we're so close already.  I don't see why they don't just merge them," Almendar said.

Apple said UH Manoa could save more than $1 million a year by consolidating several departments, and eliminating six or seven deans and director positions, almost all of which are vacant.

He said that savings could help reduce tuition.

"For every million dollars we save, that's about $50 to $60 of tuition from every student.  So that's not insignificant," Apple said.

Other potential mergers include combining the John A. Burns School of Medicine with the schools of nursing and social work and potentially bringing the UH Cancer Center under the medical school, Apple said.

Another possibility is having all of the health-related institutions run by an executive dean or vice chancellor for health sciences, Apple said.

Apple tried unsuccessfully to fire UH Cancer Center director Dr. Michele Carbone last year. Carbone wouldn't lose his job but would report to someone else under the proposal.

Medical school Dean Jerris Hedges, the highest paid UH administrator with a salary of $505,000 a year, has circulated a 3-page memo with different scenarios for the health entities that he said have "current challenges (leadership, funding, operations or otherwise)."

Tina Shelton, a spokeswoman for the medical school, described Hedge's memo this way: "The Chancellor (Apple) wanted suggestions regarding Manoa cost savings through consolidated activities that he could then discuss with others in leadership at UH. A number of deans provided preliminary thoughts. These were concepts thrown out for which the Chancellor would seek additional input."

Hedges is seen by some UH officials as positioning himself to be elevated to the executive dean or vice chancellor position overseeing several other health-related departments.

This is the first time a UH chancellor has tried to consolidate departments in more than 30 years.

Apple expects strong opposition from administrators, faculty, students and alumni from the UH offices that are slated to be absorbed into other entities.

Apple said the consolidation plan also includes merging the Pacific Biosciences Research Center into the College of Natural Sciences, the Water Resources Research Center into either Sea Grant College program or the College of Natural Sciences and the Lyon Arboretum into the College of Tropical Agriculture.

Dean and director positions are vacant or have interim executives at the Pacific Biosciences Research Center, the Water Resources Research Center, the Lyon Arboretum, the School of Travel Industry Management, and the School of Public Health, Apple said.

Apple expects strong opposition from administrators, faculty, students and alumni from the UH offices that are slated to be absorbed into other entities.

"There will be powerful people opposed to this.  But I think we're doing the right thing," Apple said. "I don't think there are many people that would say 'I want to have more of our funds go to executive salaries.'  I don't think many people would agree to that."

Faculty members at the travel management school declined to comment for the record because they had not been formally notified of any proposal.

Apple said he still needs to consult with unions and the faculty before making a formal proposal to the UH Board of Regents, which must approve the plan.

"We have to make sure, through the consultative process, we don't make a mistake somewhere and get rid of something we don't really need," Apple said.

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