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Regents appear to favor Greenwood as the new UH president


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POSTED: Thursday, June 04, 2009

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents will meet Wednesday when they are likely to approve the hiring of M.R.C. Greenwood as the first woman president of the 10 campus UH system, board Chairman Allan Landon said this afternoon.

Eight of the 15 board members, a majority, met this morning in executive session to discuss the next step in the selection process now that only Greenwood remains as a finalist. The University of Minnesota’s Robert Jones dropped out earlier this week.

Landon ruled out, for now, the possibility of extending the search.

“We don’t intend to slow the process down,” he said. “We (regents) talked about how many candidates do we need to find one candidate as long as it's the right fit,” he said.

Landon said the regents did not make a decision today to allow the other seven board members, some of whom are out of the country, to have a say in the decision.

“We’d like to consider every regent’s point of view,” Landon said.

The board chairman said the regents discussed whether they should deviate from the selection process. But Landon noted doing so could have “unintended consequences.”

“If we were to discard our (selection) process now, it would serve to tell the world something, even if it was not what was meant,” he said.

Landon said the board also feels there should be some transition period before current President David McClain leaves on July 31st, especially in light of the need to cut $100 million from the UH budget over the next two years.

Before the board closed the meeting this morning, David Duffy, a researcher with the Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit at UH Manoa, testified in support of Greenwood, a longtime University of California administrator.

“She’s got a formidable track record,” Duffy said, noting Greenwood’s research background and eight years as chancellor at UC Santa Cruz.

“This is one tough lady that still manages to work with people,” he said.

Duffy compared Greenwood to Susan Boyle, the Scottish Internet sensation from the “Britain’s Got Talent” show.

“”It seems like the outside world is trying to make the University of Hawaii into American Idol,” Duffy said. “Maybe you’ve got to give the lady (Greenwood) a chance to sing.”

Greenwood, the director of the Foods for Health Initiative at the University of California Davis, resigned from the No. 2 leadership post at the UC system in 2005 amid questions about her approval of the hiring and pay package for a friend who co-owned a rental property with Greenwood.

In a report released Monday, the search committee said it interviewed the former general counsel for the UC system and people who worked with Greenwood and concluded the ethical lapse was “an inadvertent mistake.”

In a written statement, Donna Tanoue, the chairwoman of the committee noted that Greenwood is “a nationally recognized academic leader who is highly qualified to lead the University of Hawaii.”

Tanoue also noted Greenwood’s experience in dealing with budget cuts, while she was provost at UC Santa Cruz and when she worked in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy during the Clinton administration.

“She is no stranger to changing budget environments and much of her forward-looking success has been accomplished while under such pressure,” Tanoue wrote.

The new UH president will have to deal with cutting more than $50 million next year, and $50 million the following year, in state taxpayer funds from the university system budget.

The regents are moving forward with the selection of a president despite calls to widen the search from six state senators and the faculty union. The senators called for a candidate with Hawaii ties to be picked.

The selection committee said that four people with Hawaii ties were among 14 candidates interviewed, but that Greenwood and two other finalists were “clearly superior.” Jones dropped out this week, and a third candidate dropped out before his name became public.

The UH president position has a salary range of between $450,000 and $550,000 and includes the use of the College Hill residence, a car allowance and an expense account.