Future of UH-Manoa chancellor called into question

University of Hawaii at Manoa chancellor Tom Apple

The chancellor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa spoke for the first time Monday to address his future at the flagship campus.

When asked if he would like to keep his job, Tom Apple told KHON2, “Yes. I have a lot to do here at Manoa.”

However, according to J.N. Musto, executive director of University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, the university’s faculty union, Apple may not have that chance.

Musto says Apple told him last week that UH president David Lassner had informed Apple that he would be replaced as chancellor.

“Did the president give you a timeline?” KHON2 asked Apple on Monday. “No,” he replied.

In a statement, Apple’s attorney, Jerry Hiatt, says “to our knowledge no decision has been made to remove Tom Apple as Chancellor of UH.”

Hiatt said “Mr. Apple is employed under a valid contract, authorized by the President and then approved by the Board of Regents. His contract runs through 2017. This five-year term was discussed at the time he was hired and it was done for that five-year term with the intent to give him the time needed to establish continuity so he could get the job done… Any decision to remove Mr. Apple would violate that contract — which has a three year term remaining.”

With the future of UH-Manoa chancellor Tom Apple in question, so are the contracts of at least three UH head coaches: Gib Arnold for men’s baseball, Mike Trapasso for men’s baseball and Charlie Wade for men’s volleyball. All had signed extensions and were awaiting the chancellor’s approval to be finalized. However, athletics director Ben Jay said Monday he did not know whether Apple had actually signed off on them. Arnold is the only coach that currently has a year remaining on his current contract. Trapasso’s contract ends August 31 and Wade’s deal expired on June 9, although he remains working under his previous terms for the time being.

Apple assumed the position in June 2012 with a salary of more than $400,000 a year.

“I truly do believe it, that in all of his time in the academy, whether as a teacher or administrator, he has never received an unsatisfactory performance evaluation,” Musto said. “I think in some sense, he was not doomed to fail, but it would have been very hard to succeed with the situation he was put in and his relationship, again, as the chancellor of the campus, to the president and Dr. Greenwood, very difficult to overcome and then followed by successive decisions on his part that were either undermined or criticized or not accepted… I don’t think he was given the resources and the authority to really succeed in this role.”

Hiatt added that “UH has recently faced very challenging financial times. Mr. Apple came to UH after a national search led by members of the UH faculty. He has done an excellent job in very tough circumstances to help UH live within its means. He has accomplished this by raising new funds, reallocating existing assets, while markedly increasing graduation rates and attracting more students… Anyone who supports financial responsibility at the UH and a fair sharing of the burdens there should support his retention.”

The leadership of the university’s student government expressed disappointment.

“We didn’t have input in the decision,” said Kelly Zakimi, vice president, Associated Students of the University of Hawaii. “It was very sudden and because we’re the core of the university, we should have a say in whether the chancellor stays or doesn’t stay.”

Ultimately, Lassner will make any final decision on Apple’s future.

In a statement released Sunday, the university said, “University of Hawaii System President David Lassner has held confidential performance assessment discussions with all the individuals who report to him, in accord with UH policy and good practice. The university does not disclose the details of those conversations. The Board of Regents has been briefed.”

The statement went on to say that “Tom Apple is the Chancellor of UH Manoa and President Lassner continues to work with him to address the challenges facing UH Manoa as Hawaii’s research university and the flagship campus of the UH System.”

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