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UH Mismanagement No Longer Confined to Athletics


Date:               February 2, 2016

Contact:         Kris Hanselman, Executive Director  ( / (808) 593-2157)


UH Mismanagement No Longer Confined to Athletics Department

Hawaii Labor Relations Board to Weigh Merits of Prohibited Practice Complaint
on Thursday, February 4, at 9 a.m.

Ongoing mismanagement of personnel and the breaking of promises at the University of Hawaii are no longer limited to the athletics department. These factors now impede good instruction and research, and threaten the ability to attract and retain quality faculty.

The same dysfunction is now becoming more evident in the academic arena, which has prompted the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) to file a prohibited practice complaint with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board on behalf of two faculty members. UHPA is the union that represents nearly 4,000 faculty at all 10 UH campuses statewide.

University of Hawaii administrators will attempt to dismiss the complaint and will present oral arguments at a Hawaii Labor Relations Board hearing this Thursday, February 4, at 9 a.m. The hearing is open to media and the public.

The Hawaii Labor Relations Board conducts hearings to decide complaints filed by public and private sector employees, employee organizations or unions, and employers alleging prohibited or unfair labor practice complaints. In the public sector, the Board has jurisdiction over employers and employees of the State of Hawaii and counties, the Judiciary, the Department of Education, including the public charter schools, the University of Hawaii system, and the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation.

Kevin Bennett, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, was recruited from Arizona State University in 2013 to establish a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) center to support local research. The research detects cells and molecules in the body, so that diseases can be treated at a very early stage, long before it affects a patient.

The MRI center is critical in cancer research, drug discovery, and neurological problems. It supports Bennett’s research in discovering cures for kidney disease through early detection of kidney damage. The research explores how to prevent worsening damage to the kidneys and other organs from chronic health problems such as hypertension and diabetes.

When Bennett joined the UH, initially the university was not able to provide the space for the MRI equipment and the selected vendor had stopped manufacturing the equipment. Undaunted and determined, Bennett found an alternative source for the MRI equipment in England. As an added benefit, the UH would be able to house this substitute equipment without extraordinary facility requirements.

During this period, Bennett was granted a well-deserved tenure because of the quality and significance of his work in teaching and research that involved using the MRI center at Arizona State University.

Elated with the news the MRI equipment would finally be coming to the UH after two and half years, there was teamwork among UH administrators, the dean at the time, faculty, and students. The UH could boast of its acquisition and look forward to having an MRI center of its own.

Bennett’s diligence was finally paying off. He had been patient and accommodating as he continued his research using out-of-state equipment. He also inspired and engaged graduate students in MRI research, all while fulfilling his teaching obligations.

Prohibited Practice Complaint
“There was a sense of anticipation at all levels at the UH, with support from vice presidents, vice chancellors of research, graduate students and other faculty.  After two years of hard work, the momentum abruptly ended in late September 2015,” said Kris Hanselman, Executive Director of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly.

It all changed when Kristin Kumashiro, Ph.D. was named Interim Dean of Natural Sciences last summer. Just five weeks into her position, she pulled the plug on the MRI center, even though the funds were available and the UH was prepared to make the purchase.

Bennett was not the only one affected by the capricious whims of Kumashiro.  Kathleen Cole, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology at UH-Manoa, who was serving as Chair of the UH Department of Biology at the time, was stripped of her position and authority, apparently for siding with Bennett and others in her department.

The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, which represents faculty on contractual issues, intervened on behalf of Bennett and Cole, and filed the prohibited practice complaint with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board.

As expected, University of Hawaii administrators will attempt to have the claim dismissed, contending they never made any promises to Bennett about an MRI center, even though this was expressly documented in a written letter of hire to Bennett.

“This sends an unsettling message to UH faculty. The UH administration do not feel compelled to honor the commitments they have made when hiring faculty,” Hanselman said. “A change of administrator means the career of a faculty member can come to a grinding halt. This impacts the ability to attract and retain faculty at the UH.”

“Current and prospective faculty should be wary of promises made to them when they are recruited to join the UH. Clearly, what they are promised, may not be what they end up with because of erratic decision making. This creates a very unpredictable work environment,” Hanselman added.

For more details on the prohibited practice complaint, download a PDF of the complaint:

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About the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly
The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) has been the exclusive bargaining agent for all UH faculty since 1974 and currently represents nearly 4,000 faculty members at 10 campuses in the University of Hawaii system statewide.