Search for UH president should end with Greenwood


POSTED: Sunday, June 07, 2009

The process did not go quite as planned, but the most open method of choosing a University of Hawaii president has left to the regents a highly-qualified lone candidate. They should not further delay the selection of M.R.C. Greenwood, a former provost of the University of California system, as the UH system's first female president.

Previous UH presidents have been revealed publicly only after having been selected. They included Evan S. Dobelle, who was forced out in 2004 following a clash with the Board of Regents over his hiring of friends at high salaries, travel expenses and the use of his $200,000-a-year protocol fund.

Greenwood, a doctoral scientist and recognized expert on obesity and diabetes, resigned as the California provost in 2005 amid an internal investigation of the university hiring of her son and of a friend. The UH regents determined that Greenwood had no involvement in her son's hiring and had “;apologized for the inadvertent mistake”; in the hiring of a friend and partner in a property investment that had been dissolved but not properly recorded.

However, the controversy over Greenwood's departure and the Dobelle experience should result in an ethical microscope being placed at the steps of College Hill. Greenwood can be assured of toeing a straight line.

Greenwood and Robert J. Jones, chief operating officer for the University of Minnesota system, were revealed in late April as the two finalists for the post. Both spent time making the rounds of the university and community. Jones withdrew his candidacy early last week, and regents indicated they are likely to accept Greenwood as president this week.

Greenwood was chancellor at the University of California at Santa Cruz from 1996 to 2004, and then was provost and senior vice president for academic affairs for the UC system—its second-highest post. Since then, she has been director of the Foods for Health Initiative at UC-Davis.

She also has been assertive on issues, having spoken out on the status of women in the academic arena and fought against limits on foreign students' access to sensitive technology in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

J.N. Musto, executive director of the UH faculty union, urged the regents to continue the search for president, expressing concern not only about her controversial past but of her lack of experience in Hawaii. That concern is unduly parochial. Of the 14 candidates interviewed by the regents' selection committee, three were from Hawaii and another had strong family ties to the islands.