OPEN LETTER TO UH INTERIM PRESIDENT DAVID McCLAIN

 

President McClain:

 

In the November, 2004 meeting of the UH Board of Regents (BOR), you recommended that the UH accept –without any public, community or faculty consultation- a proposal to develop a University-Affiliated Research Center (UARC) to conduct classified and other Navy research, particularly to “improve system performance of DOD weapon systems” (Memo of 7/8/2004 from Ronald M. Sega, Director of Defense Research and Engineering). Thankfully, wiser heads on the BOR prevailed and, given the overwhelming testimony against the UARC from faculty and others at that meeting, the BOR only provisionally passed your recommendation with a requirement that widespread faculty and community consultations, that you appeared to want to avoid, take place. At the following BOR meeting in January, 2005, however, you told a number of anti-UARC demonstrators words to the effect that the UARC was “a very important issue, worthy of a great deal of community discussion,” contradicting your earlier position.

 

As a member of the broadly-based STOPUARC and SAVEUH/STOPUARC COALITIONS (www.stopuarc.info) and as a faculty member at UH for almost 35 years, there are a number of questions that cry out for answers from you.

 

The first set of questions, President McClain, is: What accounted for your late, apparent conversion to the need for openness regarding the UARC? Given your apparent opinion at the 11/04 BOR meeting that such conversations were unnecessary, and the fact that the negotiations for the UARC between the Navy and your administration have been secretly taking place for over two years(!), are we to believe that your after-the-fact comments at the 1/05 BOR meeting that openness was  “important,” actually mean that you were sincere when you made them or were you only paying lip service to the need for such “conversations?” Why have you not responded to the Freedom of Information Request I sent you, your General Counsel Walter Kirimitsu  and Chancellor Englert on 3/18/05 requesting all documents and records regarding UH negotiations with the Navy about the UARC? Since the State Office of Information Practices on April 4, 2005 wrote your General Counsel, Walter Kirimitsu, that the UH “must provide” me with the records by April 11, 2005 and, as of May 6, 2005, he has not responded, the question is obvious: Are you able to adequately supervise your own administrative staff?

 

Ever since those BOR meetings, President McClain, you seem to be hiding from this issue. Even worse, you have allowed your Manoa Chancellor, Peter Englert do all the leg work, sneaking around in the legislature to meet behind closed doors with legislators and meeting with outraged faculty, students and community member who oppose the UARC. You have let Englert “hang, twisting in the wind.” What are you hiding from, President McLain? Is the rumor true that all you care about is being appointed permanent President, to the extent that you are willing to sacrifice your underlings so that you can avoid controversy in order to achieve your personal ambitions? So, the second set of questions to you is:  Are we seeing examples of your true administrative style, President McClain, in which you sacrifice others to protect yourself? Is this your view of the best practices in administration? Do you accept responsibility for your own recommendations to the BOR, or will you blame others?

 

While you apparently were hiding in your office, there were two hearings at the State Legislature on the UARC. At the first, in three hours of testimony, there was only one person testifying in favor of the UARC and dozens opposed. Thus, the House Higher Education Committee passed a resolution to urge UH to abandon plans for the UARC! In the second, Chancellor Englert brought along a handful of his cronies and underlings who hope to profit from the UARC. The testimony still was overwhelmingly against the UARC. Thus, the Senate Higher Education Committee voted to urge the UH to extend the public consultation process for another year with regular reports to the legislature so as to ensure openness and accountability. Sadly, your man, Englert, at the third of his bogus “consultations,” on 4/21/05, informed the assembled faculty, students and community members that he was going to ignore both Higher Education committees and submit his proposal for the UARC in August for the September BOR meeting.

 

Former UH Regent, Walter Nunokawa, who should know, testified at the Senate hearing that you, President McClain, were hired to “calm things down” after the fiasco and turmoil of the Evan Dobelle years. Regent Nunokawa’s question then, and the third set now, is: Why would you introduce the most explosive and divisive issue in years at UH given your actual mandate? Do you, like Englert, have such little respect for our legislators in the two Higher Education committees that you would act against their wishes so blatantly, not to mention act against the wishes of faculty and community as revealed in three informal polls at the three bogus Englert “consultations” on campus that showed virtually unanimous opposition to the UARC? Do you have such little respect for the faculty, students, community, legislators and Native Hawaiian people that you would act against such wide consensus that what you have proposed is bad for the UH and the state and people of Hawai’i?

 

In a recent Honolulu Advertiser article (3/20/05, p B1), President McClain, you were quoted as saying, “We seek first and foremost to preserve and perpetuate the values that are at the core of our Strategic Plan, the values of our host Hawaiian culture” (emphasis added). I quoted you at the 4/21 bogus “consultation” and asked Peter Englert what Hawaiian values were being “preserved and perpetuated” by your advocacy of the UARC. Englert simply looked dumbstruck. The well-known, Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner, Vicky Takamine, then rushed to the microphone and answered for him. “NONE!” she stated. “There are no Hawaiian values and no Hawaiian groups that support the UARC!” So, I ask you the fourth set of questions, President McClain: Were you just speaking out of one side of your mouth about perpetuating Hawaiian values while the other side promotes the culture of militarism through the UARC? Is this just lip service and hypocrisy, President McClain, the same old story that Native Hawaiian people have heard since time immemorial?

 

Tired of the hypocrisy, bogus consultations and lack of openness from your administration, on April, 28, 2005, in an historic demonstration of civil disobedience, dozens of students, faculty and community members occupied your offices demanding an end to the UARC and a new beginning of openness from you and your administration. One of your first responses to the occupation was to invite the occupying force to meet with you individually or in small groups so that you could “listen to our concerns.” Your request was unanimously rejected by the demonstrators on several grounds, not the least of which were these two: 1) Your “offer” clearly was an attempt to divide us and then try to manipulate the individual meetings; and 2) only a brain-dead or disingenuous administrator could not know what our concerns were, given the numerous reports in the media, the results of the three bogus consultations held by the Chancellor, the two legislative hearings, the individual reports sent to your office and the fact that the demonstrators presented you with a list of our concerns! Sadly, when the occupation ended with a victory for the occupiers, your very first response to the news was that you wanted to sit down and meet with the demonstrators individually or in small groups to listen to our concerns! The last set of questions, then, President McClain is: How much of your “playing dumb” do you think the UH community is willing to tolerate? Where have you been the last six months with re: the UARC? Did you learn nothing during the occupation, other than to keep repeating the same offer that already was rejected?

 

President McClain, on these issues alone, you have several strikes against you. The first strike is your administration’s lack of openness and transparency. The second strike is allowing Chancellor Englert to take all the heat while you hide in your office. The third strike is recommending one of the most divisive military takeovers of part of the UH in the history of Hawai’i without caring one whit about the opinions of your faculty, students, legislators or community. The fourth strike is your convenient, but apparently hypocritical, statements about preserving Hawaiian values and our Strategic Plan’s goal of development of a Hawaiian Place of Learning. The fifth strike is appearing not to have learned anything about the UARC opponents’ concerns over the past six months and from the occupation of your offices. Add a sixth strike in your allowing Englert, the least respected person at Manoa due to his deadly combination of incompetence and arrogance, the very embodiment of the inept bureaucrat, to handle anything.

 

In the Big Leagues, President McClain, where you yearn to be a permanent President -no, in EVERY league- it’s three strikes and you’re OUT! It’s very obvious that on the UARC issue alone, you have more than exceeded your quota of strikes.

 

In your first response to the occupation, on April 28, 2005, you admitted that you were wrong to bring the UARC proposal to the BOR prematurely and without adequate consultation. Admitting that one has made a mistake takes a big person. But it takes a far bigger person to immediately correct the mistakes he or she has made. Is your admission of errors only lip service, President McClain?

 

Your proposal and its handling have brought shame upon the UH and Hawai’i. I urge that you do the right thing and declare that the UARC is dead at UH, or that you do the honorable thing and resign from the Presidency of UH effective June 30, 2005.