MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The chair of the University of Hawaii Manoa Faculty Senate has resigned his leadership position after he came under fire by fellow Senate members for a Hawaii News Now interview in which he defended a top UH administrator accused of bullying faculty and staff.
Ron Bontekoe, who also chairs the UH Manoa philosophy department, spoke to Hawaii News Now Friday in a story about the complaints against UH Manoa Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Reed Dasenbrock.
A group of 23 UH faculty, deans and staff has filed a complaint against Dasenbrock, citing 27 allegations of bullying, sexism and racism. Dasenbrock denied the charges, which are now being investigated by UH officials.
On Friday, Bontekoe told Hawaii News Now 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 on Friday.
"It's basically a witch hunt and they are throwing as much mud as they can at him to bring him down," Bontekoe added during and on-camera interview.
In an email sent to faculty colleagues Monday night, he said he made a “serious misjudgment” by doing the interview with Hawaii News Now “on an issue about which I should have remained silent.”
“The misjudgment was severe enough to make it impossible for me to continue serving effectively as chair of the Manoa Senate,” Bontekoe wrote.
Sources said the executive committee of the Manoa Faculty Senate had the votes to oust Bontekoe from the chair's position if he hadn't stepped down.
“Calling faculty members ‘mudslinging witch hunters' did not sit well with some respected leaders of the Senate, who called Ron out on it,” said one faculty member who asked not to be identified. “But he was gracious and prompt in stepping down.”
The Faculty Senate's vice chair, Public Health Professor Bob Cooney, has taken over the Faculty Senate chair's position. Coincidentally, Cooney is one of the 23 UH professors and staff who signed the complaint against Dasenbrock.
The group of 23 faculty members complained Dasenbrock 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."
On Friday, 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.