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J.N. Musto’s Final Testimony as Executive Director at the Board of Regents Meeting

UH Board of Regents Meeting
August 20, 2015

Testimony Pertaining to Agenda Item VIII.B.1

On behalf of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, I will once again speak to the organization of the University of Hawai’i System and its relationship to the various campuses. I have spoken on this topic many times before, and I would refer you to the letter I sent to Representative LoPresti during the last legislative session.

I applaud President Lassner for his comments at the last Board of Regents meeting where he stated that in the absence of any fundamental restructuring of the University, the UH System Office must become a value-added service to the campuses. After more than three and half decades of working within the various manifestations of the University of Hawai’i, I would say that implementing organizational “efficiency and effectiveness of support services” is the least that needs to be done to justify the current structure of the UH System, but unfortunately it is likely to prove insufficient to address the major issues the facing the institution going forward.

It is my observation that the University of Hawai’i as currently constructed is not sustainable even over the near term. The shift in the relationship of the University to the State of Hawai’i has forced a fundamental change in the nature of this public university and the competing missions that it is now being asked to carry out with ever fewer state resources and support. I continue to carry the strong belief that the University is more than just a public higher education “job training center,” no matter the level of complexity attendant to those jobs. The answer to creating a sustainable university will not be found in a simplistic adoption of a “corporate” or “market” approach. A university education, especially at the baccalaureate level, is a unique life experience of enduring value, and not just a commodity to be purchased.

The University of Hawai’i is a public treasure which makes Hawai’i a better place for all of us. It is not just a location where students learn and faculty members teach, or where football and volleyball teams play games, even as important as those aspects are to the institution. Its mission goes beyond instruction to the creation of new knowledge. The University is the repository of our shared cultures and historical experiences. It is the critical responder to changing environments, public needs, and crises. If the Regents do not understand the real nature of a university or are unable to promote the value of the institution to the citizenry, then truly all hope is lost.

In order for our University to better serve this state, it is my conclusion that the Regents should move forward with more than just a reordering and consolidation of the UH System Office. I believe the legislators, the students, the faculty, the UH staff, and the citizens of Hawai’i will accept responsibility to, and accountability from, the institution if it were composed of three distinct parts: University of Hawai’i (including Manoa Valley all baccalaureate offerings on Oahu), Hawai’i State University (including all post-secondary education on the Island of Hawai’i), and the Hawaii Community College System (including Maui College, Kauai CC, and a unified Oahu CC comprised of all campuses on the island.) Each of these entities would have a President that directly reports, and is responsible to the Board of Regents.

Under this model, the UH System would become an expanded Office of the BOR led by a Chancellor. The UH System Office would be responsible for: establishing a unified budget proposal integrating all three post-secondary elements of the statewide System for presentation to the Governor and State Legislature, the ownership, distribution and sale of property, the issuance of general obligation and capital bonds, internal auditing of the campuses, the collection and dissemination of institutional research data, the provision of general counsel to the Regents, and the hiring and the evaluation of the performance of each President. All other matters, including human resources, payroll, and budgeting, would reside with each of the three institutional entities.1/

I envision the University of Hawai’i, Hawai’i State University, and the Hawai’i Community College System as academically autonomous entities, subject to the approval of degrees, programs, and certificates by the Board of Regents in the same historical manner that has been utilized. The Regents would also approve course articulation agreements between campuses, and facilitate cooperative academic and research endeavors between the three entities. The final approve of the granting of tenure (which is more than just “job security”) would still require the approval of the Regents upon the recommendation of each of the Presidents. Faculty, administrators, and Presidents of the three institutions would carry out all procedures for hiring, the recommendations for tenure, and the decisions with respect to academic promotions.

I understand how difficult and unlikely it is that such a major organizational change will occur at the University. However, I hope this recommendation is not dismissed out of hand. At the very least, the University would be advantaged by a broader public discussion of such a proposal that brought together all the members of the university community with other citizens of our state.

This is my final testimony to the Board of Regents on behalf of the faculty union. Despite the many times that I have presented written statements and spoken before the Regents over the last thirty-five years, I feel that I will leave with many important messages unsaid. It has been my honor and pleasure to have served the faculty of the University of Hawai`i, and in doing so, I hope, to have advanced public higher education in our State. UHPA succeeds in its mission only when the University thrives as place of higher education.

We all have our parts to play if we are to succeed.

Mahalo and Aloha,

J. N. Musto, Ph.D.
Executive Director

Enclosure

_________________________
1/ I would suggest that under the provisions of HRS Chapter 89, a broad UH System Agreement would be negotiated through the Chancellor’s office, with contractual provisions governing the three separate entities be negotiated by each of the Presidents. This would not require a change in Chapter 89.