Dobelle changes
tune on evaluation

The UH president publicized
last year’s review but
is now mum

When University of Hawaii President Evan Dobelle received a positive evaluation from the UH Board of Regents last year, the university put out a glowing press release, which recounted his accomplishments and cited his "year of substantial achievement."

This year, rather than trumpeting Dobelle's second year as president, the announcement of the evaluation was buried in the last paragraph of a press release on revised procurement procedures.

The paragraph cited a "extremely constructive conversation" and quoted Board of Regents Chairwoman Patricia Lee as being "confident that we are going to move forward successfully for the benefit of the university."

The evaluation and a set of performance guidelines were finalized last month. This time, there was no official announcement of the results.

The university administration and the Board of Regents said the written evaluation and performance guidelines are a "personnel matter" and would not be made public, despite a request from the Star-Bulletin.

Sources who have seen the evaluation described it as "critical" of the president but also "fair."

Dobelle objects to the latest evaluation, according to a university spokesman, because it began in May but continued after new regents were appointed by Gov. Linda Lingle. Those new regents were not on the board during the year that was being evaluated.

Regents, who asked not to be identified, told the Star-Bulletin that Dobelle had threatened to sue over the evaluation, prompting the board to keep it private.

A check of other state and county boards that evaluate high-profile public officials, such as the superintendent of public schools and the police chief, shows that most evaluations are done in secret, but a summary of the results is made public.

"We think the public definitely has a right to know what the board thinks of its chief executive," said Karen Knudsen, a longtime member of the state Board of Education, which annually evaluates the schools superintendent and state librarian.

Knudsen said the board's practice is to make a verbal announcement of the results after the evaluation is done behind closed doors.

The state Elections and Appointment Review Panel held a public hearing on Chief Election Officer Dwayne Yoshina's performance.

"There were a few things that were negative, but overall it was positive," said panel Chairman Ray Pua. "We wanted him to see what the negative comments were on so his performance can improve."

Mainland-based university governance experts said higher-education institutions in most states do not make performance evaluations public.

The 23-campus California State University releases an executive summary, including praise and critiques, after the formal evaluations of its university presidents and chancellor, said William Dermody, the chief of staff for California State University System Chancellor Charles Reed.

"Reviews are intended to identify successes and achievements and also suggestions for improvement," Dermody said.

The formal evaluations are done every three years, but an informal evaluation is done annually and is not made public, Dermody said.

University governance experts say it is not normal or productive to release the results of a personnel evaluation, even the evaluation of the president of a public university.

Paul Lingenfelter, executive director of the State Higher Education Executive Officers, an organization of state university chief executives, said evaluations need to be "candid, forthright and problem-solving," and public discussion might stifle that discussion.

"There are some legitimate arguments that if you want to require someone to improve, you have to make it possible for them to do so," he said. "A public conversation of every detail of the performance might not allow them to do that."

More information:

UH news release announcing last year's evaluation

UH news release announcing this year's evaluation

Regent's policy on evaluation of the president


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