Resolution Censuring the Mānoa Chief Executive Officer (President Lassner) Over Failure to Conduct Meaningful Faculty Consultation in the Reorganization Process

Updates

Presented to the Mānoa Faculty Senate by the Committee on Administration & Budget (CAB) for a vote of the full Senate on October 21, 2020, a resolution censuring the Mānoa Chief Executive Officer (President Lassner) over failure to conduct meaningful faculty consultation in the reorganization process.  Approved by the Mānoa Faculty Senate on October 21, 2020 with 51 votes (85.0%) in support; 9 votes (15.0%) opposed; and 5 abstentions.

RESOLUTION CENSURING THE MĀNOA CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER (PRESIDENT LASSNER) OVER FAILURE TO CONDUCT MEANINGFUL FACULTY CONSULTATION IN THE REORGANIZATION PROCESS

WHEREAS, the Mānoa Faculty Senate (MFS) and its constituents acknowledge that, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM) must adapt, address immediate financial deficits, and evolve, and the MFS desires to be an active participant in finding new and creative solutions; and

WHEREAS, faculty are fundamental to UHM, and must, by Hawai‘i law and principles of shared governance, be involved in the very first steps of transforming and revisioning UHM, and faculty bring valuable knowledge, expertise, and skills to the conversation; and

WHEREAS, Chapter §89-1 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes states:

“(a)  The legislature finds that joint decision-making is the modern way of administering government.  Where public employees have been granted the right to share in the decision-making process affecting wages and working conditions, they have become more responsive and better able to exchange ideas and information on operations with their administrators.  Accordingly, government is made more effective;” and,

WHEREAS, the Hawaii Labor Relations Board (HLRB) Decision 394, which deals with the Employer-Union-Employee consultation process,  found that the “natural consequences of the State’s failure to engage in meaningful consultation constitutes a prohibited practice,” and HLRB Decision 394 is substantially related to the issues at hand; and,

WHEREAS, Executive Policy A3.101 calls for the MFS to review any proposed reorganization; and

WHEREAS, Board of Regents (BOR) Resolution 20-03 states:

“the Administration will consult with faculty, staff, and student organizations in a cooperative and collaborative manner and approach, taking into account the interests of the individuals, groups and entities involved or affected;” and,

WHEREAS, the agreement between the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA), the MFS, and Administration (2017-2021 UHPA-BOR Contract, Section R-20, Part 1) specifies that: “The University will refer the following topics to Senates […]

  1. Initiation, review, and evaluation of proposed, probationary, or established research, instructional and academic programs;” and,

WHEREAS, President Lassner and Provost Bruno assembled “a small team that spent countless hours over the summer examining student enrollments, program reviews, etc, across all of the UH Mānoa units;” and,

WHEREAS, the members of this “small team […] consisted of President Lassner and myself [Provost Bruno], along with interim [sic] Vice Chancellor for Administration, Finance and Operations Sandy French, interim [sic] Vice Chancellor for Research Velma Kameoka, Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Laura Lyons, and Senior Advisor to the Provost Wendy Pearson” (italics added, bold in original; referred to initially as “Mānoa Budget Team” and henceforth herein); and,

WHEREAS, in the two instances where President Lassner is mentioned in Provost Bruno’s September 11 announcement, President Lassner’s role is described in equal terms with Provost Bruno’s in the creation of the Mānoa Budget Team and the creation of a “course of action to reposition the University for FY22 and beyond;” and,

WHEREAS, President’s Lassner’s active leadership role in managing the academic concerns of UHM appear to contradict the distinct roles of the President/CEO and Provost of UHM outlined in the “Phase I Reorganization of the Mānoa Management Structure;” and,

WHEREAS, President Lassner did not ensure that faculty were included in the development of criteria to be used in evaluating potential stop-outs, eliminations, reorganizations, or initiations of academic or non-academic units; and,

WHEREAS, the Mānoa Budget Team produced documents for sixteen academic deans, outlining various suggested changes, including possible program reorganizations, stop-outs, or initiations; and,

WHEREAS, around August 31, 2020, faculty were asked to engage in discussions of reorganization recommendations with no transparency, strategic summary, overall vision, methodology, timeline, or fiscal justification or budgets (as they relate to the fiscal emergency or a long-term vision); and,

WHEREAS, on Friday, September 11, 2020, Provost Bruno announced a website titled, “UH Mānoa Planning for Post-Pandemic Hawai‘i;” which contained, and may still contain, undated draft program review suggestions to academic units across UHM, representing the first time many faculty were notified; and,

WHEREAS,  the Mānoa Budget Team’s recommendations that arose from this “small team” imply that reorganizations are impending, and suggest that dozens of stop-outs, eliminations, or program initiations should occur, ignoring Board of Regents (BOR) Policy 1.210; and,

WHEREAS, the Mānoa Budget Team’s recommendations lack consideration of facts and context,  lack understanding of programs, are an incomplete program review, overlook the connection between falling global rankings and a decline in ability to hire faculty, frequently reference dated external or program reviews, and lack a clear rationale or criteria for proposed reorganizations while circumventing the faculty governance processes outlined in the 2017-2021 UHPA-BOR Contract; and,

WHEREAS, the unsigned documents embedded within “UH Mānoa Planning for Post-Pandemic Hawai‘i” received, and may continue to receive, undated and unspecified updates, making it difficult for faculty to assess the development of such recommendations and the rationales behind each modification; and,

WHEREAS, the absence of clear, operationalized criteria and a replicable method as to how those criteria were used to arrive at the suggested program changes hinders the faculty’s ability to evaluate the proposed recommendations; and,

WHEREAS, now that the Mānoa Budget Team have shared prospective changes, without faculty consultation or input, they have unilaterally created the framework for all future discussions as it relates to transforming and revisioning the University; and,

WHEREAS, meaningful faculty consultation cannot occur if President Lassner identifies or implements prospective changes and then seeks faculty input after-the-fact, often continuing forward despite legitimate faculty concerns; and,

WHEREAS, some of the recommendations brought forth by the Mānoa Budget Team for academic units may have merit, and could lead to developing a stronger, more prestigious UHM; and,

WHEREAS, it remains to be seen if President Lassner or Provost Bruno will bring forth similar recommendations regarding non-academic units (such as student support services, university libraries, ORUs, athletics, vice chancellors’ and deans’ offices among others) and whether meaningful consultation will occur in the creation of criteria and the evaluation of such recommendations; and,

WHEREAS, President Lassner’s actions circumvent meaningful faculty shared governance and consultation to the detriment of scholarship, students, and the greater UH community (including taxpayers of Hawai‘i), despite the MFS repeatedly raising this concern; and,

WHEREAS, President Lassner has knowingly allowed, and participated within, a practice and culture of non-compliance with shared faculty-governance.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Mānoa Faculty Senate censures President Lassner of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa; and,

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the Mānoa Faculty Senate, and principles of shared faculty governance, requires that Provost Bruno and President Lassner share all relevant data necessary (including the replicable method used to make conclusions for suggested program changes and, especially, fiscal justification in light of the ongoing fiscal crisis) for the identification, evaluation, and recommendation of potential reorganizations.