A University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa provost position was approved by the Board of Regents in March despite opposition.
According to UH Mānoa Faculty Senate Chairman Brian Powell, it was not clear if the provost would have complete budget authority. There were also concerns about accreditation. The MFS requested that the BOR “pause in its haste to formalize a structure that remains incomplete” to allow them to work out more details and developments.
On Feb. 20 the MFS passed a resolution in opposition of phase one of the reorganization structure. MFS members said they were concerned with the proposed reorganization document because it did not clarify the problem that the reorganization was going to solve.
“We listened and that was their view, and we’re required to consult and listen, but that one’s hard to mitigate, you either do it or you don’t do it,” UH President David Lassner said. “And ultimately, we thought that it was a time to end the two and a half years of interim leadership and keep moving forward towards the future.”
Under the new leadership structure, there is no longer a UH Mānoa chancellor. The UH system president now leads the flagship campus.
The UH Mānoa provost will serve as a full chief academic officer for the campus and as deputy to the president in leading the campus. The provost was also named by the BOR as an officer of the UH System alongside the UH vice presidents and four-year university chancellors.
“It creates the foundation for not just the ongoing activities of the campus and continuous improvement, but also for the next steps of the reorganization,” Lassner said.
Lassner will continue to serve as UH system president in the new structure and Michael Bruno was approved by the BOR to serve as UH Mānoa provost.
Lassner has served as both system president and interim Mānoa chancellor since 2016. Bruno has served as the vice chancellor for research and interim vice chancellor for academic affairs.
Bruno was also a member of the design team that created the UH Mānoa provost position, which he was appointed to.
With a foundation in place, the next phases of the reorganization include creating vice provost positions and other offices which report to the provost and president.
Feedback and concerns
Lassner conducted open forums with the entire campus and shared his reorganization proposal with the public. The UH administration also hosted mini workshops around key functional areas such as student success and global engagement.
Lassner says the biggest concern was opposition to the merging of the UH system president and Mānoa chancellor positions.
“There were people who don’t agree with the recombination of the position of president of the UH system and chancellor of Mānoa,” he said. “And that’s been something UH has wrestled with for really the last almost 50 years.”
The UH system president and Mānoa chancellor positions were first separated in 1972, and have a history of being separated and recombined.
Powell said the MFS is working to ensure the BOR would consider the issues and provide a “foundational framework” for the next steps in the reorganization.
One of the things the MFS wants is to have an administration that has clear functions and reporting lines for functions such as student success.
Carissa Gusman, an academic advisor for the UH Mānoa School of Travel Industry Management, was also opposed to phase one of the reorganization, according to her BOR testimony.
“Reappointments of positions, such as the provost, further add to the idea that UHM may be slowly evolving into an oligarchy in terms of its operations,” Gusman wrote in her testimony.
Bruno has been part of the design team for the campus reorganization. Gusman said he would be overseeing and approving the next phases of the campus reorganization.
Lassner said that the public forums were helpful in regards to obtaining feedback. He noted that not everyone agreed with the reorganization, but that he and the UH administration worked to answer any questions.
“There are some changes that I think we addressed, but the bottom line is if you don’t agree with something, there’s never a 100 percent agreement about everything,” Lassner said. “I think there’s pretty good acceptance of this concept, but certainly not everyone agreed.”
UH plans to hold public forums for the reorganization proposal in the future. Lassner said phase two will impact the students even more.
“I think most of the benefits to students are going to really come through phase two, when we start looking at new vice provosts who are focused on things like educational effectiveness, student success, enrollment management,” Lassner said. “Those are things that touch students more directly.”
Lassner was tasked with providing regular reports to the BOR on progress toward the rest of the reorganization.