BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN –
Wanted: Manager needed to handle 60,000 teenagers and young adults, 8,000 faculty and staff, outside investigators, financial scandal, catastrophic planning problems, students responding to skyrocketing tuition by turning to online sugar daddies, and a multi-billion dollar annual budget with gaping holes in it. Concert promotion experience a plus.
Sound like an impossible job? University of Hawaii President M.R.C. Greenwood may think so. After just four years, she’s resigned — two years before the expiration of a lucrative $475,000 per-year contract that includes housing, extensive travel and other perks.
On Thursday, the University of Hawaii Board of Regents said it will launch a nationwide search for Greenwood’s replacement. In the past, that work has required a head-hunting firm that costs taxpayers more than $100,000.
The Regents are looking for a interim president to take over September 1, the day Greenwood officially steps down.
A former Clinton White House appointee and provost in the University of California system, Greenwood has no trouble touting her accomplishments in Hawaii or elsewhere. She maintains the University is better off today than when she arrived four years ago — shortly after she resigned from the University of California system amid ethics violations.
“This university (of Hawaii) has accomplished an amazing amount in a rather short and extremely challenging time,” said Greenwood in a May 6 statement. “As the economy shows signs of improvement, I am proud of how well we’ve coped with the greatest recession in modern memory and serious state spending restrictions. Through the support and hard work of our faculty, staff and friends we’ve been able to accommodate the largest student enrollment in history, streamlined course availability and transfers, incurred no lost days of instruction, and maintained a very robust research portfolio.”
In reality, the new university president, who will oversee 10 campuses in all four Hawaii counties, will face numerous and serious financial and management problems left by Greenwood and her predecessors.
The attorney general continues an investigation initiated in March into Brian Minaai, head of capital improvements at the University of Hawaii. Minaai was put on paid leave after a prominent private contractor alleged Minaai was playing favorites with contracts valued at hundreds of millions of dollars.
Minaai has overseen more than a billion dollars’ worth of construction projects for the University since he was hired in 2009. Some of those are still in the works, and problems continue to surface.
The new $108 million University of Hawaii West Oahu Campus is over budget because of $22 million in change orders. The University of Hawaii at Hilo’s new dorm project is in jeopardy, according to its architect and design firm, Mitsunaga and Associates. The $28 million project has been stripped down in recent weeks. Without explanation, the construction management firm, SSFM International,and construction company, AC Kobayashi, removed the majority of windows, all bathroom sinks, all appliances, security fencing, and landscaping, and used a substandard painting method that reduced the quality and quantity of paint used on the project. Mold may also become an issue after the wood building, constructed in one of the state’s rainiest spots, was doused inside and out for months with heavy rainstorms and sealed up in some sections before mold testing was completed.
The project manager for Mitsunaga and Associates said he’s been told the Hilo dorm project, which is supposed to accommodate 300 students this fall, may not pass inspection because of ventilation and window quality issues.
Legislators say Greenwood failed to resolve numerous management problems exposed during a 2012 Senate investigation into the University of Hawaii.
The Senate investigation, headed by Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, first focused on the so-called “Stevie Wonder Blunder” – the university’s planned Stevie Wonder fundraising concert that turned into an expensive debacle. University officials believed they were dealing with Wonder’s agents when they wired a $200,000 deposit to Miami-based EPIC Talent LLC last summer to secure a concert with Wonder in the fall of 2012. They hoped to raise money for the school’s athletic department, then $11 million in debt.
There was more controversy when reporters learned the university had spent another $1 million on lawyers and public relations personnel in preparation for the Wonder Blunder Senate investigation and on a sweet deal for Athletic Director Jim Donovan.
School officials blamed Donovan for the Wonder Blunder and tried to remove him. When he threatened to sue the university, Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple offered Donovan a marketing position in his office for $211,000 annually.
The Senate investigative committee also fielded complaints from students about record tuition increases of more than 141 percent in recent years while class availability declined.
The complaints were underscored when a dating web site announced University of Hawaii students were seeking “sugar daddies” to pay tuition. In 2012, some 105 female students from the state university — up 72 women from the year before — had requested dates with wealthy men on SeekingArrangement.com, the self-proclaimed world’s largest dating website of its kind.