Faculty to debate research for Navy
The chancellor will wait for a decision before proposing the center to UH regents
Faculty members will gather Wednesday to debate the creation of a controversial Navy research center at the University of Hawaii's flagship campus -- a week ahead of a Faculty Senate vote that could force administrators to scrap the plan.
The senate will vote Oct. 26 on whether to recommend that the center be established, and UH-Manoa Chancellor Denise Konan has said she will withhold her judgment on the proposal until she hears from the senate.
Konan is almost certain to follow the body's recommendation, said Faculty Senate Executive Committee Vice Chairman James Tiles.
But he also said it is unclear where senate members stand on the research center.
And the plan could be stalled if Manoa's Congress, which is made up of all the faculty members on campus, petitions for a referendum on the issue. Tiles said there are indications that the faculty will want to weigh in.
Konan is scheduled to bring the proposal before the Board of Regents' Nov. 17 meeting, but a referendum could take as long as a month to complete. Konan would not say yesterday whether she would go to the regents before such a vote, if it were held.
"I think I would want to wait to see how the discussion goes with the faculty" on Wednesday, she said. Faculty members will convene at 4 p.m., and their testimony is likely to influence the Faculty Senate's vote.
The Navy center has been the subject of months of debate at the university, with critics arguing its military research -- some of which would be classified -- goes against the mission of a public learning institution.
Supporters say the so-called University Affiliated Research Center will bring in as much as $50 million over five years and increase the university's prestige.
At points, according to Konan, the debate has turned into an opportunity to sling insults and attacks at the university's administration.
She would not discuss the issue in a telephone conversation yesterday. But in a memo she sent to Faculty Senate Executive Committee Chairman Robert Bley-Vroman on Wednesday, Konan said "claims are being made to discredit members of my administration ... (and) are being staged to influence your decision at this critical time."
She continued, "I find this reprehensible and an attempt to interfere with the process."
Bley-Vroman said yesterday that he was not sure what Konan was referring to in the memo, though he had heard about some attacks on members of the administration.
Meanwhile, School of Social Work professor Joel Fischer has contended that key administrators had conflicts of interest when they were negotiating with Navy personnel on the center. On Oct. 2 he wrote an e-mail to state Attorney General Mark Bennett also alleging bribery, discrimination and "possible corruption" among administrators.
In her memo, Konan defended those who have championed the Navy research center, including Vice Chancellors Gary Ostrander and Kathy Cutshaw.
"Whether you agree or disagree with the proposal," she wrote, "please recognize that they have worked tremendously hard, and in good faith, to incorporate concerns that have been set forth."
Bennett could not be reached for comment yesterday.