Dobelle reiterates
desire to change UH

The UH president is not fazed by
a critical report by the regents


Friday, April 9, 2003

>> Mazie Hirono was endorsed by University of Hawaii President Evan Dobelle. In a story on Page A13 Sunday, Hirono's first name was misspelled as Maize.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at

You couldn't tell from Evan Dobelle's relaxed, jovial demeanor speaking to Hawaii Kai Republicans yesterday that a sharply critical review of his performance as University of Hawaii president had been made public Friday.

University of Hawaii "I came here to make change. That's what I do," Dobelle told about 40 residents of state House districts 17 and 18 gathered for a monthly Republican party meeting.

Acting on a request from the Star-Bulletin and KITV, the state Office of Information Practices ruled last week that the UH Board of Regents had to release a previously secret evaluation of Dobelle completed last fall.

The review included praise of Dobelle's leadership, vision, creativity and enthusiasm.

It also raised concerns about high salaries for Dobelle's top administrators, cronyism, travel spending, financial management, political endorsements, fund-raising abilities and his relationship with the board, governor and Legislature.

Dobelle said he has "no embarrassment about that evaluation, none," adding that "it's in my nature to be highly visible and confrontational. I understood that if I didn't drive this thing (change at UH) hard, nothing would change."

"This is an institution that has turned around 180 degrees," Dobelle said and already his relationship with the regents is improved.

"This is pau and it's behind us," Dobelle said.

Kevin Chong Kee, who attended the meeting yesterday, said he believes that Dobelle and the regents have already "hit their low point. They can only come back up. I think it will get better."

Long before he worked in the Jimmy Carter White House or publicly endorsed Democrat Maize Hirono for Hawaii governor, Dobelle worked to elect Republicans in California and the Northeast and was active in Young Republicans, he told the partisan crowd.

Calling himself a "true independent," Dobelle said that no one knows if he's registered with either party today.

Dobelle said yesterday that the main problem in his relationship with his employers, the UH regents, is that there has been turnover on the board over the almost three years he's been at the university's helm.

"I've had 24 trustees and five chairmen of the board," Dobelle said.

State Sen. Fred Hemmings (R, Waimanalo-Kailua) asked why Republicans should trust Dobelle after he endorsed Hirono, whom Hemmings called "an agent of the status quo."

Dobelle said he "didn't break any rules" in endorsing Hirono and that although he has regretted it since, it was what he felt was right at the time.

"Not one Democrat, including Maize, has come to my defense" for making the endorsement, he said.

State Sen. Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai) asked why Dobelle hasn't yet raised a promised $150 million in private funds for the John A. Burns Medical School construction in Kakaako.

Dobelle said his written and spoken testimony to the Legislature refers to raising $150 million in combined federal, state and private philanthropy funds.

Dobelle said yesterday that if the UH cancer center receives a hoped-for $100 million federal grant, he would count that as fulfilling part of his fund-raising promise, leaving him with $50 million to raise by January 2005.

In the parking lot after the meeting, one Republican thanked Dobelle for his efforts and reminded him that change is "incremental" in Hawaii.

"I know it's been incremental," Dobelle agreed, but added: "I'm transformative. I'm not backing down."


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