Dozens of students and community members gathered at the University of Hawaii at Manoa Thursday morning to protest the firing of Tom Apple.
Apple said he was notified Wednesday that he’d been fired as chancellor of the university’s flagship campus for “alleged unsatisfactory performance.”
Many students who opposed the termination organized a campus sit-in, and when they marched over to Bachman Hall, University of Hawaii president David Lassner joined them to address their concerns.
“Being a chancellor of Manoa is a really hard job. I appreciate that. I understand that,” Lassner told the crowd. “No one person can do it alone and in these two years, Chancellor Apple has not been able to assemble a cohesive leadership team to work with him.
“I have had concerns about his performance. I have tried to discuss them with him over this past year, and I have been unsuccessful in improving his performance,” he added.
“We have listened to you now telling us that you have fired Chancellor Apple based on an evaluation process that does not include faculty and student voice,” said Graduate Student Organization president Michelle Tigchelaar. “Frankly, without students, without faculty, there is no university.”
Students say while they were given an answer, it was not what they were looking for. “His address was not satisfactory he did not give good reasons of why he had to fire the chancellor,” Tigchelaar later told KHON2.
Tigchelaar says university students have been left in the dark and believes that they should be given a better answer.
“So far he’s told us that based on his evaluation assessment that includes various stake holders, he was deemed unfit to be the chancellor of this campus,” she said.
KHON2 also spoke to Rep. Isaac Choy (D-Manoa, Punahou, University, Moiliili), who chairs the Higher Education Committee in the House. Choy had met with Lassner earlier this week.
“He did inform me that Tom Apple was going to be let go because of his annual performance evaluation, and I wanted to know what that criteria was, but that’s a personnel matter and that’s confidential,” he said.
As for answers to why he was fired in the first place, Choy believes that will come out at some point, but he supports Lassner’s decision to keep the matter private.
“While I support his position, I don’t necessarily have to agree with it,” he said.
Previous settlements have cost the university a lot of money and Choy hopes something can be done so it doesn’t happen again.
“That just seems to be the trend at the university. Maybe that’s one of the areas President Lassner could be working on,” Choy said.
Students KHON2 spoke with say they hope the decision will be looked at in more detail and that the ultimate goal of these protests is to get their chancellor back.