Board of Regents approves interim chancellor for UH-Manoa

Robert Bley-Vroman

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents approved Robert Bley-Vroman as interim chancellor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The appointment by president David Lassner was approved after an executive session Thursday afternoon and will go into effect September 1.

Prior to decision making, 20 people testified before the board in support of keeping outgoing chancellor Tom Apple in the position.

Apple was fired three weeks ago due to a less than satisfactory performance and will now be a chemistry professor at the university.

Bley-Vroman currently serves as Dean of the College of Languages, Linguistics and Literature and has been a faculty member at UH-Manoa since 1987.

The following is a statement provided by the University of Hawaii:

University of Hawaii Board of Regents
University of Hawaii Board of Regents

“The Board of Regents and President David Lassner greatly appreciate the deep concerns and ideas shared by students and faculty in face-to-face meetings as well as by written and oral testimony over these past weeks. The fact that there are different perspectives on personnel matters and how they are handled does not mean that the concerns are not being heard.

The Board of Regents supports the Presidentʻs assessment of the Chancellor’s performance and the associated personnel actions.  We intend to honor the settlement agreement with Chancellor Apple and have approved the appointment of Dr. Bley-Vroman as Interim Chancellor. Dr. Bley-Vroman brings to the role decades of experience at UH Manoa through which he has gained a deep understanding of the campus as a faculty member, faculty leader and Dean.

The Board and President recognize that additional steps are needed to strengthen critical relationships on campus.

Dr. Bley-Vroman has committed to maintain the high standard for campus communications that students and faculty have made clear they expect and that we all believe they deserve in their Chancellor. In addition, the Board and President will establish additional mechanisms for informal discussions with faculty and students at Manoa and throughout the System.

Concerns have been shared about the process used to evaluate the Chancellor. The ‘360’ review is one part of the input and already includes faculty and student leaders.  Moving forward, President Lassner has committed to formally invite campus governance groups to provide their own direct assessments as well.  We will amend applicable policies to ensure this practice is institutionalized.

The objective and forward-looking review of the Cancer Center that was already announced will benefit from the thoughtful and specific input provided by some of the concerned faculty in their testimony to the Board and President.  The Board has requested that this review be expedited to clearly and firmly set a positive path forward for the Cancer Center.

President Lassner has been very clear with Chancellor Apple and in meetings with students and faculty in the past weeks that no outside pressure was brought to bear on him.  The Board accepts President Lassnerʻs explanation that his actions were based his assessment of Chancellor Apple’s performance.

As previously announced, Dr. Bley-Vroman will work closely with the UH Manoa Vice Chancellors, Deans and the campus community to address the very significant financial challenges faced by the campus.  In recognition of concerns regarding campus finances received from multiple sources, the Board requests that this be done with a high degree of transparency and participation.

Finally, we received substantial input on the substantial level of churn among the senior system and campus administration over the past decade.  As announced last week, the University will initiate an assessment of the administrative structure of UH-Manoa and its relationship to the UH System and other campuses to improve management, decrease administrative costs and increase focus on academic excellence.  This must also be done quickly and expeditiously.

The Board of Regents takes its responsibilities seriously to oversee, govern, and guide the University of Hawaii.  We believe the actions outlined here will create a positive path forward.”

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