Thursday, February 19, 2004

UH endorsement
rules reviewed

A report urges regents to
separate politics from the university

In the wake of University of Hawaii President Evan Dobelle's endorsement of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mazie Hirono in 2002, the UH Board of Regents is working on a stronger policy on political endorsements and partisan activity.

University of Hawaii The board is responding to a recommendation from an accrediting team from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, said Chairwoman Patricia Lee.

The association's report urges the board to "depoliticize the affairs of the university" and notes that "the long-term strength of the UH depends on a bipartisan coalition of university supporters."

The report, written in July, does not specifically cite Dobelle's endorsement of Hirono's losing bid for the governor, but Lee said: "I think that's a large part of it. You can read between the lines."

Dobelle, in a move highly unusual for the president of a public university, publicly endorsed Hirono shortly before the 2002 general election, which she lost to Linda Lingle. The endorsement was widely criticized and prompted the resignation of regent Michael Hartley.

The board will discuss the new policy tomorrow at its monthly meeting.

"We want to consider the matter seriously and act on their recommendations," Lee said.

The current policy allows university employees to engage in political activity so long as they indicate they are acting as individuals and "in no manner represent the university" and use "appropriate discretion in the exercise of the political rights."

The political activities also should "result in no embarrassment to the university."

The association's recommendation does not recommend specific changes to the policy.

Lee said the board wants to discuss the issue, and the matter will probably be referred to legal counsel and then to the Personnel and Legal Affairs Committee to come up with a policy.

University spokeswoman Carolyn Tanaka said the administration does not have a position on political endorsements. "It's the board's initiative," she said.


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