UH Faculty Senate passes no confidence vote against executive accused of bullying, racism

UH Faculty Senate passes no confidence vote against executive accused of bullying, racism
Linda Johnsrud
Linda Johnsrud

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a very rare move, the University of Hawaii Manoa Faculty Senate has overwhelmingly approved a vote of no-confidence against UH Manoa Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Reed Dasenbrock, who's the focus of a hostile workplace complaint.

The university is just finishing a nine-month probe in the case, and in another rare if not unprecedented action, will have a former UH administrator who now lives in another state decide the case.

Dasenbrock has been the chief academic officer of the flagship UH Manoa campus for the past seven years. He is usually the UH administrator who decides grievances on the Manoa campus against administrators when they're accused of mistreating people.

But last April, a group of 22 faculty, staff and a couple of department chairs accused him of bullying people who disagree with him, particularly women and minorities.

On Jan. 20, more than 80 percent of the UH Manoa Faculty Senate approved a no confidence vote on Dasenbrock.

"The faculty are tired of what is going on in the university and we need leadership that is responsive to the needs of academic departments and we need leadership that is fair to everyone within the university community," said UH Public Health Professor Bob Cooney, who chairs the 74-member Faculty Senate at Manoa.

Cooney and several other Faculty Senate leaders signed the original complaint against Dasenbrock last year.

"I've been involved with the Faculty Senate off and on for 30 years as a faculty member here and as far as I know, this is the first time that an actual no confidence vote has been carried out," Cooney said.

Dasenbrock has maintained he's done nothing wrong.

When Hawaii News Now first broke news of the complaints against him last May, Dasenbrock said, "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."

The university has nearly completed a nine-month investigation into the charges, according to UH spokesman Dan Meisenzahl.

"There were more than 40 people who were interviewed and re-interviewed, including the 22 people who filed the complaint. And it was a lengthy process but it was a very detailed. We wanted to make sure it was very thorough," Meisenzahl said.

Because UH Manoa Chancellor Robert Bly-Vroman was present at some meetings in which Dasenbrock was accused of creating a hostile work environment he has recused himself from the case, Meisenzahl said.

UH President David Lassner has asked former UH Chief Academic Officer Linda Johnsrud, now a top administrator in the University of Texas system, to decide on any violations and punishment.

"I think in the interest of making sure that this is a fair and unbiased process, that's why they thought that it would be best to go outside the university for the actual decision maker," Meisenzahl said. "There's a man's career here that we're talking about and there are people who feel like they have been wronged and I think all sides have to be served."

The final report on this case -- which has thousands of pages of witness statements and interviews --- should be sent to Johnsrud in Texas to make a decision in about two weeks, he said.

Johnsrud is performing the service free of charge, Meisenzahl added.

If Dasenbrock decides to step down or is removed from his administrative job, he has "return rights" to a professor position in the UH English department.

Copyright 2016 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.