Search for UH Manoa chancellor concludes with no appointment

University of Hawaii at Manoa

The University of Hawaii at Manoa will carry on without an official chancellor, at least for now.

University president David Lassner, who is currently serving as the school’s interim chancellor, announced Tuesday that the search for a new chancellor concluded without an appointment.

According to Lassner, a single finalist was identified, but withdrew from consideration.

Rather than reopen the search, Lassner is recommending that he continue to serve as interim chancellor for two more years. He has served as the interim chancellor since September 2016.

“It is my view that Manoa can’t wait for a new chancellor to be selected to make the advances we need now, and that uncertainty places a severe damper on forward progress,” said Lassner in a message to UH Manoa students, faculty and staff.

The recommendation is that the opening of a new search for a Manoa chancellor be considered in two years. During that period, the focus will be to work collaboratively to advance key areas, including matters identified by the Board of Regents. This will include such priorities as: a modern, integrated data-driven enrollment management program to reverse declining student enrollment; mission-driven academic restructuring; new approaches to campus space management, facilities modernization and planning; and moving toward a new campus budget model.

“We’ve been working on new budget model. There are some organization changes that are required. We absolutely need to turn around the declining enrollment,” said Lassner.

He will hold an open forum in March to provide an update, and receive input and ideas from the campus community.

Search process

Lassner appointed a Search Advisory Committee for the chancellor of UH Manoa last spring. This group provided comprehensive stakeholder representation from the campus and included community participants.

“I can attest that committee worked in an extremely collegial manner and was diligent and hardworking in their dedication to the task of helping select the next chancellor of UH Manoa,” said Lassner.

The committee reviewed the role of the Manoa chancellor, updated the position description and advertised nationally and locally in specialized and general-purpose publications. After reviewing more than 30 applications, eight semi-finalists were identified and interviewed via videoconference. Three finalists were selected, and each participated in two-day campus visits that included meetings with stakeholder groups.

A single finalist was identified for consideration of appointment, but upon the initiation of discussions that candidate withdrew from consideration.

“This was a superb Search Advisory Committee that did everything correctly, and I had no disagreement with their conclusions,” said Lassner. “I would like to thank the committee members for their thoughtfulness, care and diligence.”

How much did it cost?

The University of Hawaii spent $10,695.58 in its search for a new chancellor. Travel and hotel expenses made up nearly half that amount at $5,116.92. Food cost $3,357.58. Advertising for the position cost $1,981.28, and background checks for the three finalists cost $239.80.

Lassner says the school did not hire a search firm and organized everything in house, which saved money.


UH President David Lassner shared the following message on Feb. 15 to students, faculty and staff of the UH Manoa campus:

Late last spring I appointed a Search Advisory Committee for the position of Chancellor of UH Mānoa. This group provided comprehensive stakeholder representation from the campus and included community participants as well. The committee reviewed the role of the Mānoa Chancellor within UH today and updated the position description. The position was then advertised nationally and locally in specialized and general-purpose publications. The Committee received and reviewed over 30 applications, including those of candidates who were nominated for the position and agreed to be considered.

Based on review of the written materials, the committee selected eight semi-finalists and interviewed them via videoconference. After extensive discussion, three of the semi-finalists were selected as finalists and invited to make campus visits. These visits took place during the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017 and consisted of two days of intensive meetings for each finalist with stakeholder groups and individuals.

I met four times with the Committee during their work and I can attest that the committee worked in an extremely collegial manner and was diligent and hardworking in their dedication to the task of helping select the next Chancellor of UH Mānoa. Their final meeting provided me with an assessment of the viability of all three finalists with strengths and weaknesses. This was a superb Search Advisory Committee that did everything correctly, and I had no disagreement with their conclusions.

Immediately after receiving the input of the committee, I reached out directly to one candidate. At that time I was advised of the candidate’s withdrawal from consideration for appointment at this time. I will not comment on the reasons for withdrawal since that might compromise the confidentiality of the Search Advisory Committee assessments. But I will say that the reasons in no way reflected on UH Mānoa or the qualifications, suitability and genuine interest of the candidate in the position.

Based on the committee’s assessments, with which I am in full agreement after my own meetings with the finalists, I am unable to recommend a new Chancellor at this time. The Committee’s assessments are confidential, and I will not comment further on details and reasons.

This of course raises the question of next steps.

UH Mānoa is now well-positioned for significant progress on major challenges and opportunities. These include such imperatives as: creating a data-driven integrated enrollment management program for the campus to reverse declining student enrollment; mission-driven academic restructuring; new approaches to campus space management, facilities modernization and planning; better integration of instructional and research missions and activities; and taking initial implementation steps toward a new budget model. Based on my five and a half months as Interim Chancellor, it is also clear to me that a significant restructuring of the Mānoa Chancellor and Vice Chancellor offices would facilitate progress in critical areas and position Mānoa for greater success while improving efficiencies.

It is my view that UH Mānoa can’t wait for a new Chancellor to be selected to make the advances we need, and that uncertainty places a severe damper on changes that support forward progress. It is therefore my recommendation that the search not be reopened at this time. I instead recommend that the Board of Regents charge me to continue in the dual capacity as President and Interim Chancellor. My charge in the Chancellor’s office will be to work collaboratively with the Mānoa campus leadership, faculty, students and staff, and with others in the UH System, to make the changes necessary for UH Mānoa to thrive as Hawaiʻi’s great research university. Last year the Board of Regents laid out a set of mandates for the campus, and there are other imperatives as well. Next month I will hold an open forum to provide an update on the work to date and to receive input and ideas from the broad campus community.

I recognize, perhaps better than anyone, that the UH Presidency and the Mānoa Chancellorship are two distinct, large and difficult jobs. So I am absolutely not recommending that the positions be combined. I believe that the question of campus leadership should be revisited in 2 years to determine how to fill the Chancellor position. In the meantime, I believe I can mitigate the conflicts that will naturally arise from time to time. And this arrangement will also provide for a closer relationship with the Board of Regents and with the System Vice Presidents as we advance the campus.

This is not what I had hoped to be recommending, but I believe this is the best path available at this time to create a great future for UH Mānoa as the flagship research university of the UH System.

Finally, I would like to thank the Search Advisory Committee for their thoughtfulness, care and diligence. I know they are disappointed, as I am and as are many on campus. This outcome is in no way a reflection on the Search Advisory Committee or their work.

ʻAʻohe hana nui ke alu ʻia.
(No task is too big when done together by all.)

David Lassner

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