BY JIM DOOLEY – The University of Hawaii Regents met behind closed doors to discuss the future of UH President M.R.C. Greenwood but adjourned after 90 minutes, saying the discussion would continue next week.
“The board considers the agenda item to be a personnel and legal matter and is treating it with the corresponding confidentiality required,” the board said in a written statement.
Before going into executive session, the regents heard pointed criticism of Greenwood from one detractor but lavish praise from several supporters.
UH Professor Noel Kent said the institution has “become a laughingstock” under the leadership of Greenwood and the regents.
“I think the current president should be given her walking papers. I think she has discredited herself,” said the outspoken Kent, a professor of ethnic studies who has also asked the UH faculty senate for a vote of no confidence in Greenwood.
But strong support of Greenwood was voiced by business leaders and retired judge/community activist Walter Heen.
The special regents meeting to discuss Greenwood’s employment contract, which runs into 2015, was called in the wake of state Senate hearings about her management practices.
Those hearings were convened after the UH Athletics Department botched a planned fundraising concert by entertainer Stevie Wonder. Greenwood and UH Manoa Chancellor moved Athletic Director James Donovan to a different job after UH lost a $200,000 deposit for the cancelled concert.
Former regent Mark Fukunaga, chief executive of the Servco Hawaii family of companies, spoke up for Greenwood and against what he called “improper and frankly deplorable political pressure” brought on her and the University.
Retired Judge Heen also delivered a strong endorsement of Greenwood, saying he worked closely with her on establishment of astronomy research facilities at Mauna Kea on the Big Island.
“If she is not retained as president of the university, I am convinced from my experience with Mauna Kea that we will lose an opportunity to become among the best institutions insofar as astronomical research. She’s very important” said Heen.
Also speaking for Greenwood was Steve Colon, an executive with Texas-based land developer Hunt Companies.
“I’m a big fan of UH and M.R.C. Greenwood,” Colon said, speaking of his company’s involvement in development of a new UH community college campus in the Kona area of the Big Island.
Tom Robinson, head of graduate student association at UH, did not advocate removal of Greenwood, but said if she is terminated, “I am hopeful that the board will do the right thing and not pay a large sum of money” to her replacement.
Graduate students are in desperate need of pay increases, he said, but have watched this year as UH agreed to pay new Manoa Chancellor Thomas Apple more than $400,000 per year and football coach Norm Chow $500,000.
“Many graduate students have to take out loans, take on second jobs or use food stamps to make ends meet,” Robinson said.
Greenwood is paid $425,000 annually and receives a $5,000 monthly housing allowance. Under he contract, if she is removed without cause, she must be paid the outstanding balance of her contract or one year’s pay, whichever is lower.
Greenwood attended today’s meeting, but said nothing. She was not present when the board returned from its executive session.
The next board meeting is October 18.