In the Midst of a Storm of Bad Publicity, University of Hawaii President Cancels Ceremony to Honor Faculty

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The University of Hawaii typically holds a lavish and festive awards ceremony – or a convocation – each September, where several dozen faculty and staff members are recognized.

Last year, UH President MRC Greenwood said about the September 27, 2011 event: “The ceremony provides a rare opportunity for faculty, staff and administrators to gather as a system and pay tribute to the dedication, excellence and service of UH employees.”


But this year, with just days notice and little explanation, Greenwood cancelled the 2012 Convocation scheduled this month.

In a September 12 letter to the Board of Regents, vice presidents and chancellors, Greenwood said the event was cancelled due to “scheduling conflicts, the availability of key venues, and other complicating factors.”

She justified the decision in part by saying “many of the award recipients had already been previously recognized at ceremonies held at their respective campuses” – UH has 10 – adding  she “regrets” being unable to work out a solution to hold the event this year.

The 2012 awardees are being notified by a personal letter from Greenwood that also includes a letter acknowledging their award.

letter from MRC Greenwood canceling the 2012 Convocation Ceremony (click on image to enlarge)

Her announcement follows weeks of turmoil and bad publicity for the University of Hawaii.

This past Spring, the UH Athletics Department had planned to stage a fundraising concert in July featuring singer/songwriter Stevie Wonder, but the concert was cancelled after Wonder’s agents said he had never agreed to the appearance.

A $200,000 deposit paid by the University for the event has since gone missing and Greenwood later admitted she believes the University was defrauded of the money.

On July 11, UH Athletics Department Director Jim Donovan and department official Rich Sheriff were placed on indefinite paid leaves of absence pending completion of investigations.

School officials called in the FBI and launched its own internal investigation.

After threats from Donovan’s attorney, UH Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple cleared the pair of any wrongdoing, bringing them back to campus on August 13.

But Apple’s decision caused more controversy after he announced Donovan would make a “lateral” transfer from Athletics Department to a newly created marketing position where he would be paid $200,000 plus a year for yet to be determined duties. Student association and the public were outraged over the additional money being poured on the problem.

The Board of Regents held their own meeting on August 22, and reviewed a 57-page report on the matter during all day long closed door meeting.

On September 5, UH Regents announced that the formation of a special “task group” to examine the university’s operational and financial controls and oversight practices.

This followed the Senate’s decision to open their own special investigation into the UH’s management and fiscal practices.

M.R.C. Greenwood

The first of a series of hearings, headed by Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, will begin on September 24.

“Eric Martinson, chair of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents; M.R.C. Greenwood, University of Hawaii president; Jim Donovan, former University of Hawaii athletics director and representatives from Cades Schutte law firm, “fact finders” into the failed concert to raise money for UH Manoa Athletics department, are expected to go before the committee,” Kim said in a recent news release.

On September 12, Apple chancellor apologized to faculty and staff for his lack on communication on the issues. The letter from Greenwood about the cancelled convocation also was sent September 12.

Earlier this week, Greenwood also cancelled the meetings she requested with senators on the special investigative committee – also with little notice and no explanation.