Friday, July 16, 1999

University of Hawaii

Health school may
have new chance

UH President Mortimer
will name a task force to study
the school's options

Bullet No interim dean appointed
Bullet New med school dean
Bullet West Oahu endowment

By Susan Kreifels


If the University of Hawaii at Manoa can show by Sept. 15 it has the resources and commitment to keep the School of Public Health open, the organization that is taking its accreditation away next June said it might be persuaded to visit the school one more time to consider reaccreditation.

And UH President Kenneth Mortimer, showing he will listen more and include more of the campus community in decision-making, said at a Board of Regents meeting yesterday that he was appointing a task force of campus and community members to present options on the future of the school to the board. The task force could report as early as September, Mortimer said today. An independent party will determine that information gathered is factual -- a move students and faculty said pleased them.

Stephen Gehlbach, president of the Council on Education for Public Health, the accrediting agency for the public health school, sent a letter yesterday to the school's Interim Dean William Wood citing the Sept. 15 deadline for possible action on the school.

"While I believe this avenue is open to the school under existing CEPH guidelines, I cannot predict how the Council would react to any new information submitted by the School, and that there are no guarantees that any further action, including a site visit, would be recommended by the Council," Gehlbach wrote.

Dean Smith, senior vice president and executive vice chancellor at UH Manoa, told regents that the decision to take away accreditation at the public health school was a final action. He said procedures allow a 30-day period during which the university can lodge a procedural appeal but that there was no basis for appeal.

Smith, after seeing the letter from Gehlbach, said it was different information from what he had received and that he would be checking with the council.

Students last week demanded that Mortimer ask the regents to take action on the school, the only one of its kind in the nation to lose accreditation. Critics claim the administration deliberately let it lose accreditation so that it could proceed with a plan to fold it into the School of Medicine.

Mortimer assured people at the standing-room-only meeting that he was listening to them but he didn't want the board to make a hasty and irreversible decision without the facts. "We may disagree about the alternatives but we will know the facts," he said.

A recent accreditation report on the Manoa campus cited problems with leadership and communication that had held up urgently needed changes due to budget cuts. The report also said there was distrust of the administration.

Regent Nainoa Thompson called yesterday a "threshold meeting." He said the people from the university and the community who testified in support of keeping the school open suggested "real solutions, not just anger."

He also praised Mortimer for opening up the debate but said it would have to move fast to meet the Sept. 15 deadline.

John Casken, a school of public health assistant professor, offered $3,000 to help save the school, and another testifier offered $1,000. The administration says it would cost too much to keep the school open after years of budget cuts.

No interim dean appointed

By Susan Kreifels


The regents today did not vote to appoint an interim dean at the School of Public Health. Yesterday, students, faculty members and members of the community again and again urged regents to reappoint interim dean Bill Wood.

Dean Smith, senior vice president and executive vice chancellor at UH-Mahoa, said, "Of course we're listening to the testimony. We're ultimately reasonable people, but this is a very polarized issue. We have opinions on the other side that have not been expressed in the hearings. There are major concerns about the financial implications about this (keeping the public health school open).

Smith has said the administration is looking for an interim dean that will work with them to fold the school into the School of Medicine. Wood has advocated keeping it as a separate school.

Nancy Kilonsky, assistant dean for student services at the School of Public Health, had been given a 30-day appointment as interim dean, and she can continue in that capacity without further board action, Smith said.

The regents don't meet again until September.

Wood said today there would be no one "to present the school's case" in coming weeks as an administration-appointed task force decides on recommendations for the school.

Mamo Kim, president of the Graduate Students Organization, said, "No action is an action. They are ignoring it."

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