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UH viewed as unlikely to lose its accreditation

Posted on: Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

UH viewed as unlikely to lose its accreditation

By Beverly Creamer Advertiser Education Writer

Despite what he called an accrediting agency's "serious criticisms of the university's operations," the University of Hawai'i is not likely to lose accreditation at its four-year campuses, acting President David McClain said yesterday.

"We're awaiting the action letter but, no, I don't believe that the issues in the report are likely to lead to a loss of accreditation" at UH's Manoa, Hilo and West O'ahu campuses, he said at a news conference after the report became public.

The report from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges expressed concern about how distrust and discord between the Board of Regents and former President Evan Dobelle jeopardized progress at UH.

McClain, who just returned from meetings with the WASC commission late last week, was reassured by their "constructive" talks. Evan Dobelle returned yesterday

The acting president moved into his second week yesterday firmly holding the reins of the from a Mainland trip during which university, even as Dobelle returned to his College Hill home from a trip to the Mainland. the University of Hawai'i Board of Regents removed him as UH president. His attorney is seeking After a week of reticence over his firing on June 15, Dobelle wasted no time upon his return records of the regents' private to Hawai'i in criticizing the Board of Regents' action. sessions. Dobelle said the indications that two accrediting reports are critical of the board's Richard Ambo • The Honolulu micromanagement of the university may shed light on his dismissal. Advertiser "This rush to an inappropriate judgment was to not allow me to attend the WASC meeting," he said, referring to his firing in the midst of a third-year evaluation. It was inappropriate, he said, "to remove me from being able to speak for the university"... or talk to accreditors about the way "the board has totally become dysfunctional. "I could make a cogent argument, and the board knew that."

Dobelle's attorney, Rick Fried, has called a news conference for 2 p.m. Friday in his office and also made clear he will be going after records of the board's private, executive sessions this year.

Dobelle also called the WASC report's concerns about accreditation "nonsense."

"Manoa is accredited for 10 years and the two-year colleges through 2006," he said.

In two separate new reports from the system's two accrediting agencies — WASC and a draft report from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges — both the board and former president were criticized: the board for micromanagement and "excessive politics" in board discussions; Dobelle for waning leadership over the system and its campuses.

Board attorney Barry Marr said yesterday he would have no comment on the ACCJC's criticism of politics exhibited by the board. Dobelle countered criticism in the WASC report that he was becoming distant and preoccupied and a hands-off leader over the campus reorganization, saying he had chosen to stand back and let the seven new community college chancellors run their own shows. "When you have a new system ... as a president you don't micromanage your chancellors, seven of whom have just become independent," he said. "You have to give them some time not only to get their legs under them but to evaluate how they are as entrepreneurs. McClain said the role of accreditors like WASC, which evaluates colleges in California, Hawai'i, Guam and the Northern Marianas, is to help institutions resolve problems that keep them from achieving goals. Without accreditation, a school can't receive federal money and its students are not eligible for federal financial aid. But loss of accreditation is "an exceedingly rare event," he said. "What accreditors are all about is quality and improving the quality of what you do."

Mc Clain

McClain said the WASC commission "was pleased that I came up and did a face-to-face, and pleased Acting President that Board of Regents chairwoman Patricia Lee and vice chairwoman Kitty Lagareta got on the phone at David McClain

4:30 a.m. Hawai'i time to participate in the discussion. "The commission is sure it had all the information it needs to take whatever action it chooses to take." Also yesterday, senior U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye, D-Hawai'i, weighed in on Dobelle's firing, saying he was saddened when he

learned of it. If he were to fire a member of his own staff, said Inouye, he would have the courtesy to do it "face to face, eyebrow to eyebrow."

"I think a few lessons can be learned," Inouye said. "Next time they fire somebody, they better do it with a little more class." Some have linked Dobelle's downfall to his endorsement of Democrat Mazie Hirono for governor in 2002 over Republican Linda Lingle, who won the election and eventually appointed several regents critical of Dobelle.

Inouye said he had spoken to Dobelle about the Hirono endorsement but did not solicit the endorsement. "It would appear that some people were unhappy with that," Inouye said of Dobelle's decision to publicly support Hirono.

After the election, Lingle virtually cut ties with the university president, excluding him from her Cabinet. McClain, meanwhile, said the governor has called him and he will meet with her in her office this week. It's one more sign that McClain has the approval and trust not just of the regents but of the state's top elected official.

Lingle said she hopes to discuss university matters with McClain, including the accreditation commission's draft report. "My overriding concern is the future for the university and the future for the state," she said. "We're very fortunate to have David McClain in place. I look forward to meeting with him later on this week and talking about the future and the steps we want to take to make sure we're on a strong course. Lingle said she still believes that the regents should make the reasons for Dobelle's firing public as soon as possible. Asked if she told any of the regents this, she said, "I know they read the newspapers." McClain also said he and board members have discussed turning authority back to the president's office for hiring system managers. "It's clear to me from my conversations with the regents they have a strong desire to return substantially all management