isle political culture
The fired UH president defends
an endorsement in a new interview
in a national publication
An article in a national academic publication quotes fired University of Hawaii President Evan Dobelle as saying "people aren't used to success in Hawaii" and that the Board of Regents should "come off the plantation" -- comments that irked some UH faculty members and students.
In the article, which appears in tomorrow's edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education, Dobelle also defended his decision to endorse 2000 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mazie Hirono.
Dobelle has told local media that he regrets the endorsement. However, he said in the Chronicle's report that public university presidents should be able to voice their opinions and endorse political candidates.
"You take a stand," Dobelle said, "and what I think we need to do is have more politics in education."
Dobelle did not return a Star-Bulletin call seeking further comment yesterday. Dobelle's lead attorney, L. Richard Fried, declined to comment.
Dobelle and the regents have kept true to a self-imposed gag order since July 1, when they entered mediation to resolve their differences out of court. The regents fired Dobelle "for cause" on June 15 but have still not said what the cause was.
It was unclear when Dobelle spoke to the Chronicle; however, a reporter from the publication was in Hawaii in late June.
In the Chronicle article, Dobelle said regents micromanaged his office and mishandled his firing.
"It was all about trying to spin the story to try to be harmful to a president who was being very successful, and people aren't used to success in Hawaii," Dobelle said. "It's time for them (the regents) to come off the plantation."
Dobelle also said that he understood "what local people needed. ... It's the local political culture that I chose to ignore."
Amy Agbayani, UH-Manoa's director of student equity, excellence and diversity, said the report "documents that he (Dobelle) really is out of touch." Agbayani co-wrote a July 2003 essay criticizing Dobelle's spending and other practices, which appeared in the Star-Bulletin.
In an interview yesterday, Agbayani said that what Dobelle considered micromanagement, "the board considered its responsibility."
"Most observers would understand that the Board of Regents and the president have a special relationship with each other, and the board has the authority ... to make decisions and to hold its paid executive accountable," she said.
Graduate Student Organization Vice President Kris Kaupalolo said the Chronicle article, which he called the "buzz on campus," made the university seem like "the campus in itself is battling."
"It doesn't seem like it presents a good environment," Kaupalolo said. "His comments are kind of offensive to the Board of Regents."
Andy Lachman, vice president of the undergraduate student senate, said he hopes the article will not diminish the opinion of UH among the nation's academics.
"I personally liked the guy (Dobelle). He always knew my name," Lachman said. "I think they (the quotes) might not have been the best choices of things to say, although it's hard to judge either side until cause comes out."
Daniel Boylan, a UH-West Oahu history professor who is quoted in the Chronicle article and served on the presidential search committee that recommended Dobelle, said yesterday that the former president's decision to publicly support Hirono was irresponsible.
"What made him think that what he said was going to swing any votes?" Boylan said. "That was a foolish, foolish, irresponsible thing."