Posted tagged ‘University of Hawai’i’

System for choosing UH regents falls short again

July 19, 2011

Once again, the regents advisory committee has given Gov. Neil Abercrombie only two candidates to pick from in filling a Big Island seat on the University of Hawai’i Board of Regents.

With no knock intended on the candidates — Kamehameha Schools vice president Gregory Chun and former Hawaii County managing director Barry Mizuno — that’s just too few for the governor to have a meaningful choice in shaping the board that directs the University of Hawai’i.

While the poorly conceived law passed by the Legislature to govern the selection panel allows members to turn over that few candidates, the customary number is for such advisory committees is four to six choices.

Giving only two effectively cuts the state’s chief executive out of the process and leaves choosing regents to a selection panel that represents a collection special interests that feed off the university and is accountable to nobody.

The issue flared earlier in the year when Abercrombie didn’t like any of the skimpy choices given him for two regents seats, but was turned down by the panel when he asked for more candidates. He appointed from what he had and the Senate Education Committee rejected both nominees as ill qualified.

The governor called the system broken and Senate Education Chairwoman Jill Tokuda agreed that the Legislature should consider changes next year.

Let’s hope they follow through. Ideally, lawmakers should put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to abolish the UH selection panel in favor of the successful model for Board of Education, under which the governor appoints whomever he pleases subject to confirmation by the Senate.

This is in line with the American tradition in which the executive appoints and the Legislature advises and consents, and it provides ample checks, balances and accountability.

At the very least, the Legislature must require the selection panel to give the governor four or more candidates to choose from for every seat.

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Fix system for appointing UH regents

June 21, 2011

The discussion following yesterday’s post on Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s requests for the resignations of board and commission members took a turn to the selection process for University of Hawai’i regents, so let’s stick with that for another day.

The governor used to appoint regents of his or her choosing, subject to confirmation by the Senate — similar to the process recently enacted for appointing the Board of Education.

But in a move to handcuff former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, the Legislature pushed through a constitutional amendment forcing the governor to pick regents from a list provided by a selection panel that can provide as few as two choices.

Then-UH President David McClain derided the selection panel as a “Noah’s Ark” of special interests, and the leading national organization for accrediting colleges and universities recommended strongly against the change as bad practice.

They were right and the system has been fraught with problems. In one instance, one of the two candidates provided Lingle by the selection panel withdrew and the Supreme Court ruled that she had no right to a replacement, leaving her with a single choice.

More recently, Abercrombie didn’t like the few candidates given him for two Big Island seats, but was turned down by the panel when he asked for more choices. He appointed from what he had and the Senate Education Committee rejected both nominees as ill qualified.

Defenders say the system prevents the concentration of too much power with the governor, but also complain about the sometimes low number and poor quality of applicants who send resumes to the selection panel.

We were far better off when the governor could go out and recruit qualified regents instead of being limited to the sometimes lackluster choices that the selection panel receives over the transom.

Our democratic tradition is an executive branch of government that appoints and a legislative branch that advises and consents, with ample checks and accountability on both sides.

These selection panels impose an advisory branch of government in between the governor and Legislature that only obscures the clean line of accountability that’s our best shot at keeping the system honest. Spreading the power around too thinly only guarantees that little gets done.

Lingle, Abercrombie and Senate Education Chairwoman Jill Tokuda all agree that the system for appointing UH regents is flawed and needs to be fixed.

The Legislature should attend to it next session.

Time for Legislature to undo its mistake on UH regents

April 27, 2011

I hate to say I told you so, but the political chickens of Democratic legislators are coming home to roost on their ill-advised decision to force the governor to appoint University of Hawai’i regents from a list provided by a selection panel.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie yesterday withdrew two of his five regent appointments after they were rejected by the Senate Education Committee.

Sen. Jill Tokuda, the committee chairwoman, said questions arose about the qualifications of Big Island nominees Sandra Scarr and Patrick Naughton. Abercrombie’s spokesperson blamed the selection panel, saying the governor requested more candidates to choose from but was denied.

Tokuda said the appointment system needs to be reviewed. Duh.

The selection panel that was pushed through by lawmakers and ratified by voters was a bad idea enacted for the wrong reasons.

The old system in which the governor appointed whomever he or she wished as regents subject to Senate confirmation — similar to the process recently enacted for appointing the Board of Education — worked well enough.

Democratic lawmakers enacted the change solely for the purpose of handcuffing former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle and limiting her choices.

Former UH President David McClain derided the selection panel as a “Noah’s Ark” of special interests. The leading national organization for accrediting colleges and universities recommended strongly against the change as bad practice.

But the Democrats were determined to have their pound of political flesh; especially egregious was the Legislature’s decision to allow the panel to give the governor as few as two candidates to choose from, leaving the executive little meaningful role in shaping the state university and providing zero accountability — as seen in the current finger-pointing.

At the very least, legislators need to change the law to require the panel to give the governor four to six candidates to choose from, which is the standard for such selection committees.

Better yet would be for lawmakers to admit their politically motivated mistake and put a constitutional amendment on the 2012 ballot taking us back to the traditional appointment system that served us well for over 40 years.

UH president draws a full house in new contract

January 24, 2011

I’m always troubled when public officials act entitled to place their personal interests ahead of those of the public they serve, and that’s the feeling I get about University of Hawai’i President M.R.C. Greenwood continuing to receive $5,000 a month to live in housing other than the College Hill mansion provided by the university.

When Greenwood was hired in 2009 at more than $400,000 a year, making her one of the highest-paid state employees, she was given the housing allowance because College Hill was undergoing major renovations.

It was presented at the time as a temporary arrangement until the work was finished, but when that time came, Greenwood still preferred to live elsewhere and said she expected the $5,000 allowance to continue.

The Board of Regents locked in the payment last week when it voted to extend Greenwood’s contract for three years until 2015 with little opportunity for comment by the public or university community.

If Greenwood doesn’t want to live at the perfectly good mansion provided her, that’s her business, but she should pay for other accommodations herself.

It’s unreasonable to expect UH to foot the bill for alternate housing; $5,000 is an awful lot of housing even by Hawai‘i standards, and such extravagance is ill-timed when the university is struggling to make ends meet, its flagship campus is in disrepair and many students can’t get the classes they need.

UH says College Hill is needed for fundraising events, but that’s just an excuse to justify what Greenwood wants to do. Such events were always held at the mansion when the president lived there; the place comes with a full staff, and it’s not as if she has to wash the dishes herself afterward.

When university officials arrive at the Legislature pleading poverty and asking for more funding at the expense of other needy state programs, lawmakers should ask questions about the need to house the president in double luxury.

UH sports fee wakes up students

July 18, 2010

Having grown up in the golden age of college protests, I’ve found the current student body at the University of Hawai’i to be a pretty apathetic bunch.

When protesters got national attention for taking over an administration building at Manoa a few years ago, I was on campus to speak to a class and the first 10 or so students I asked for their impressions of the protest said, “What protest?”

Apparently, it takes a raid on their wallets to get their attention; many are up in arms over the decision by the Board of Regents to stick them with a $50-per-semester fee to raise $2 million to support UH athletics.

UH sports have always been more of a community thing than a student thing, with students attending games at one of the lowest rates among the nation’s universities.

That their $50 gets them free seats in unsold nosebleed sections for games they have no interest in attending seems to be only adding insult to injury.

The money won’t go to pay coaches’ salaries, but nevertheless, it doesn’t escape their attention that a sub-.500 football coach gets more than $1 million, and we’re paying two basketball coaches next season because the last one was fired with time left on his contract for a poor record.

The depth of anger over the athletic fee among some students was reflected in an e-mail I received from one of the leaders of the opposition, who said students plan to protest by using their free admission to attend nationally televised UH football games and cheer loudly for the opposing team.

“The irony of alienating students with an undemocratic major fee, and then
handing them tickets and even free transportation to an event with major
media attention is easy to grasp, I think,” the student said.

The eyebrow-raiser is the vitriol in the suggested cheer, a rewording of the UH fight song:

Let’s go, to-day’s Visitors! Smash up the Green and White!
Break their bones and faces. Crush them with all your might.
Right! Right! Right!
Snap their fragile ankles. Infect them with disease
Then when the team is, completely cream-ed; Repeal the unfair fees!

As one of my favorite sportscasters Dick Enberg says, “Oh, my.”

Monday medley: teacher tenure, home runs and iPads

June 14, 2010

Star-Advertiser editorial writer Christine Donnelly continued her look at the principals’ view of the education universe with an excellent piece on teacher tenure.

In a nutshell, principals want more flexibility to hire teachers who best fit the needs of their schools and not be as bound to the seniority system.

They’re frustrated that younger teachers they’ve trained to carry out their programs can be bumped by more experienced teachers who may not be as good a fit for their schools. Some principals think tenure also breeds a sense of unhealthy complacency. From Donnelly’s article:

Farrington High School Principal Catherine Payne said the teacher-transfer process is a vestige of an outdated way of thinking that is holding back the public schools.

“You want immediate improvement in the public school system? Get rid of tenure — for everybody. The system, the way it works now, fosters a sense of job entitlement among some people. It’s not everybody, definitely not. But even if you have one or two people on the staff who act like they have a job for life and don’t have to work hard to keep it, it has a very negative effect,” said Payne, explaining that while only teachers and principals gain tenure, other school employees gain similar job security known as “permanent status.”

Payne said replacing tenure with progressively longer contracts based on fair performance evaluators would make employees less complacent while protecting their rights.

“I tell people this all the time. It would help. A lot. That said, I don’t have high hopes that it’s going to happen.”

Acting Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi and the teachers’ union are open to discussing changes to the tenure system in upcoming contract negotitions, but as always, the devil is in the details. The HSTA was also open to drug testing until refusing to implement the agreed-to contract.

In any case, it’s good to see some of the shouting about education being replaced by thoughtful discussion of the nitty-gritty ways we can improve our schools, and Donnelly has been doing an especially good job of facilitating this.

***

Stephen Tsai had a fascinating story that answered the question that was puzzling me last week about the power surge in women’s softball, which he reports is mostly the result of lighter composite bats with bigger barrels and more flex and bounce.

This takes nothing away from the NCAA record-setting home run binge of the University of Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine this year.

It takes tremendous athleticism and eye-hand coordination to get the barrel of any bat on the high-caliber of pitching at the top level of college softball. Not to mention that other schools use the same bats as the Wahine, but weren’t able to go deep nearly as often.

***

I was watching my 6-year-old granddaughter working on an Apple iPad yesterday and it struck me that kids her age will probably never have much use for traditional computers and laptops with keyboards and upright screens.

She watched videos, browsed the Web, listened to music, played games with unbelievable graphics, drew funny pictures of her big brother and used innovative programs that drilled her on reading and math — all by gliding her little fingers intuitively across the screen with no instruction required.

By time she’s of an age where she needs to type in a lot of data, the iPad will be in its third or fourth generation and will likely have new input options that make the traditional keyboard obsolete.

I’m at the point where I’m doing 90 percent of my writing on an iPod Touch that fits in the palm of my hand, and I’m not yet convinced that the bigger iPad would be better for the task.

(I’ve heard all the cracks about how this explains my small thinking.)

A great season of ‘Bow ball

June 8, 2010

I don’t follow sports as closely as I used to, but it was hard not to get caught up in the University of Hawai’i’s late season success on the baseball diamond, both the men and the women.

The Rainbow Wahine made the College World Series and they did it in exciting fashion, upsetting top-seeded Alabama in the Super Regionals and setting an NCAA record 158 home runs led by Kelly Majam’s WAC record of 30.

I’m not sure where the burst of power in women’s softball has come from, whether it’s equipment or training and conditioning.

A women’s softball game involving top teams with good pitchers used to be 1-0 or 2-1 affairs, but in the NCAA tournament balls seemed to be flying out of the park every time you looked up even though they moved back the fences.

With so many returning stars, the Wahine look to be a major power and a major local draw next year, too. I hope to take my 7-year-old granddaughter often to challenge her unfortunate notion that a young girl’s highest aspiration in sports is cheerleading.

It was also good to see the Rainbow men get hot late in the year to win the WAC tournament and make the NCAAs, probably saving coach Mike Trapasso’s job.


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