by Andrew Walden
As hundreds of UH system president nominees whittled down to only one ethically-challenged candidate, many Hawaii political observers wondered how MRC Greenwood became the only choice left for UH system President. The short answer is political interference playing against the UH liberal arts faculty’s lack of respect for academic freedom.
On one side: Dan Inouye and his BoR cronies seeking a candidate who will defend federally-funded projects such as UARC, and the Thirty Meter Telescope, and defend UH biotech research on behalf of Hawaii’s contribution-rich biotech industry. On the other: the academic left’s open lack of respect for the academic freedom of anybody they disagree with—including those who wish to study plant biotechnology or do military-funded research.
The episodic challenges necessitated by Inouye’s political requirements contrast with many other US universities such as Greenwood’s former stomping grounds, UC Santa Cruz, which have simply caved into the demands of the left and no longer make any serious pretense of academic freedom.
The faculty opponents of the academic freedom of UARC researchers and plant biotech researchers constitute the brain trust (such as it is) of the anti-Superferry, anti-GMO, pro-sovereignty, eco-extortionist wing of the Hawaii Democratic Party. The fact that both sides of political debate are contained within one party causes the old boys to stop short of enforcing academic freedom—and causes the leftists to fall short of transforming UH Manoa into another UC Santa Cruz. The result is a condition of perpetual institutional ambiguity.
In a two-party system partisan motivations would cause each side to go after the other hammer-and-tongs. But in a one party system the two sides’ mutual desire to preserve party unity causes each to limit their public exposure of the other.
The one-party system leads to issues festering unresolved for decades as each side maneuvers for power while preserving party unity. This is shown in the Legislature’s recent failure to broaden the effect of its Superferry legislation to overcome the State Supreme Court ruling and keep the ferry operating. It is also shown in the ceded lands legislative muddle and the parliamentary games played regarding gay civil unions. Were the two sides in different parties, they would have clashed mightily over these issues bringing about resolution one way or the other.
Hawaii’s one-party system is popularly dated to 1954 but in reality Republicans presented a serious challenge to Democrats until the GOP was broadly defeated in the 1968 legislative elections. Since that time political debate has been confined mostly within the Democrat organization—as first evidenced by Lt Gov. Tom Gill’s 1970 challenge to the reelection of Governor Jack Burns in the Hawaii Democratic Primary. (Among other things, Burns and Gill clashed over Gill’s support for anti-Vietnam war activists on the UH Manoa campus.)
The 1968 resignation of UH system president Thomas Hamilton—not coincidentally at the same point in history--came in the midst of a muddled response to right-wing attacks on the academic freedom of Marxist anti-Vietnam war professor Oliver Lee. They were rebuffed but the grant of tenure to Lee in 1970 was coupled with an immediate leftist assault on the academic freedom of ROTC students—an assault which has been continuous—and spreading--ever since.
In “Malamalama: A history of the University of Hawaii”, Robert Kamins and Robert Potter explain:
The Oliver Lee case was an abrupt turning point in the history of the University. Its Golden Age was over. Not only was a charismatic president lost. Gone also was a feeling of abiding confidence and institutional well-being among faculty and staff. And weakened was the trust of the state government that the UH administration was master of its house, to be trusted with increased funds and reduced scrutiny. No successor president in the twentieth century was to experience the easy good times—the buoyancy, the admiration, the favorable press, the respectful legislature, the ready appropriations—that Tom Hamilton has enjoyed for five years. Support for further growth of the University, crucial as it might be to a rapidly developing state, was not to come easily. (p101)
The unresolved problem of open rejection of academic freedom by leftist faculty—combined with political pressure to force through favored projects without resolving the academic freedom issue--has made UH System President a high-risk career move for any professional university administrator. This fact was likely a contributor to the withdrawal of two of the three finalists.
The burden of keeping this conflict unresolved led to an administrative style initiated by Hamilton’s successor Harlan Cleveland. As explained in “Malamalama”:
Cleveland termed his administrative style “creative ambiguity,” perhaps a carryover from his diplomatic days, but perhaps also, as critics alleged, as a way of distancing himself from executive decisions....
Cleveland issued guidelines so ambiguous that administrators could not be sure of his support when they acted. If one made a decision about which another complained to Cleveland, the administrator was likely to find the decision vetoed without explanation.
Manoa faculty members were no less frustrated. When his reorganization plans were questioned by the Manoa Faculty Senate, chairperson Ruth Iams confessed she could not get answers from the president. “I am not able to get through the diplomatic finesse and I don’t know who is. Cleveland believes in ambiguity and practices it….
Ironically, although aloof and priding himself as an “institution builder”, Cleveland was most successful as a moderator of student protest….
Who would abandon a promising career to take the high-risk and usually career-ending UH Presidency? After touring the system campuses Robert Jones, a well-respected Univ. of Minnesota administrator concluded on June 2 that the UH position “is not a good fit.” A third unnamed candidate dropped out prior to the public portion of the search. As Senator Norman Sakamoto explained to the Advertiser May 10:
"I'm not sure if more people might have been interested if it were not such an open process. There are pluses and minuses with the transparency. If someone is currently, say, heading another university, perhaps they wouldn't want to be openly seeking another job and jeopardizing their relationships."
With non-UH administrators avoiding the position because career risk is high and the potential for reward low, the pool of genuine applicants would be limited to promising UH insiders or outsiders with damaged resumes.
This would seem to give an edge to UH insiders—but they were eliminated by competing old-boys on the search committee. UH Professor Dan Boylan a member of the 2001 search committee which recommended Dobelle explains, “One of the problems with all local guys is that everybody knows them. You've got people who just dismiss them."
But these are merely the mechanics of the process. The failure to rigorously enforce the academic freedom of non-leftists is preventing a return of UH to its golden days. And with Hawaii reaching the limits of tourism and land development as an economic base—and the clock ticking on Hawaii’s seniority-based supply of federal pork--the university is needed now more than ever.
Instead what the Inouye’s hand-picked Board of Regents has delivered is a wounded administrator whose resume indicates she will build science projects—but will also distribute millions of dollars in off-the-books bonuses. That kind of “ambiguity” may have been affordable to the Internet-boom-era University of California system. But it is not affordable a University of Hawaii system hit had by the decline in tourism-related state revenues.
If Greenwood is to succeed she will have to take a totally different direction. She could begin by reining in the leftist assault on academic freedom whose key protagonists—the mis-named Department of Hawaiian Studies—were quick to butter up the last outsider taking over the top job at UH. Greenwood may even have motivation. At UC Santa Cruz, a school founded on denial of academic freedom to non-leftists, protestors feverishly trying to ‘out-left’ each other hounded Greenwood’s successor literally to the point of suicide.
That is the price paid for allowing the left freedom to construct their ideological dictatorship on campus. Has Greenwell learned the lesson? Doubtful. But we shall soon find out.
Blame Mike Gabbard
Note: In an ultimate irony, it was a key 2007 vote by Senator Mike Gabbard which made the MRC Greenwood appointment possible.
Gabbard on May 1, 2007 provided the deciding vote to overturn Governor Lingle’s veto of SB14SD1. SB14SD1 created a so-called candidate advisory council to present a limited slate of choices from which the Governor must select members of the board of Regents.
Naturally the legislative Democrats slanted the makeup of this board in such a way that the BoR would be slanted towards the old-boy bankers and retired union officials who are the hallmark of a Dan Inouye operation. This combined with the ouster of Lingle’s last appointees brought about the current BoR.
By this vote Mike Gabbard was able to prove his fealty to the Democratic Party and earn admission by the old boys over the objections of outraged of gay Democrats who then threatened to force Democrats into a closed primary system.
Does use of a search firm affect the outcome?
The Dobelle search used employee search firm Heidrick and Struggles to assist in the winnowing out candidates. The Greenwood search signed a $100,000 contract with headhunters of Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates. Does use of such firms reduce the chance of a pre-determined outcome? Perhaps the opposite is true. Consider the Advertiser’s May 10 account of Greenwood’s defense for hiring her alleged girlfriend Lynda Goff:
Greenwood said the position was advertised and a "legitimately set up search committee" interviewed and made a unanimous recommendation to hire Goff, who was a UC-Santa Cruz faculty member.
"I attended none of the meetings. I saw none of the applications. I just got a unanimous recommendation," she said.
In fact Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates and its predecessor companies Edward W Kelly & Partners and AT Kearney Executive Search have an extensive relationship with the university of California system—and Greenwood herself. Greenwood, as UCSC Chancellor advised AT Kearney on a 2002 Silicon Valley workforce study. (Was this revealed to the Search Committee?) Clients listed on the Storbeck/Pimentel website include:
“University of California - Office of the President” where the firm searched positions including Provost-- Greenwood’s former job.
“University of California Santa Cruz” where the firm searched position including Chancellor—another position previously held by Greenwood.
Search Committee (Thanks, Mike):
Donna Tanoue, Chair BoH VChair
Carl A. Carlson Jr. Parker Ranch
Michael J. Chun KS Principal
Terri Fujii Ernst & Young
James J. C. Haynes II Stevedoring Co.
David Karl UH Prof SOEST
Naomi Losch UH prof Hawaiian language
Ronald K. Migita CEO Central Pacific Bank
John F. Morton UH Admin
Russell Okata former Exec Dir HGEA
Jay H. Shidler Shidler group HI Innov Council (ACT 215/221)
Shanah F. Trevenna UH admin wants to be Prof of sustainability
Mark Fukunaga, alternate SERVCO CEO HI Tel, Outrigger, etcetcetc
The committee also includes the following ex-officio members:
Allan Landon, chair, UH Board of Regents CEO BoH
Howard Karr, vice chair, UH Board of Regents ret V Chair of First Hawaiian