Is Dobelle failing to deliver?
|||Timeline: With Dobelle at the helm...|
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau
In increasing numbers, faculty members are objecting to the newly created bureaucracy at Bachman Hall that pays a select group of upper-level managers some of them longtime Dobelle associates six-figure salaries at a time when the state has no more money for raises.
Meanwhile, lawmakers and regents want to know why Dobelle, hired at $442,000 a year in large part because of a reputation for raising money at previous schools, has not yet been able to attract the numbers of high-level donors many thought he would.
Dobelle, 57, hired in 2001 after six years at the elite private Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., sees his critics primarily as those who want to keep things at UH as they are and who may have some hidden agenda.
"The reality in Hawai'i is that the status quo ... works for people, and when you start to change the status quo, those who say they want change really don't want it because they don't know where they're going to fit," he said.
Dobelle said he is not interested in arguing with his detractors point-by-point but would rather focus on his accomplishments, such as his success in forging a strategic plan for the 10-campus UH system and increasing enrollment.
And despite recent criticism, Dobelle continues to maintain supporters inside and outside the university who believe he has done well enough given tough economic circumstances. Still others believe it's too early to grade him.
High salaries for some
What has been especially irksome to many faculty, students and lawmakers are the high salaries Dobelle has gotten approved when other UH faculty and staff like other state workers have been told there's not enough money to go around.
Key promises from UH President Evan Dobelle and how he has done: Faculty raises: Has not been able to convince the Legislature to pay for raises in the face of state government's fiscal cutbacks but has irked faculty by giving high salaries to top administrators at Bachman Hall. Fund raising: Along with the University of Hawai'i Foundation, has put up decent, but not outstanding, fund-raising numbers comparable to recent years, but is promising a major campaign starting next year. Strategic plan: Received approval from the Board of Regents for a systemwide strategic plan that is less "Manoa-centric" and provides more autonomy to the community colleges. Capital improvements: Broke ground for the $150 million first phase of the medical complex in Kaka'ako but has yet to obtain major financing for UH's own $150 million share. Money for major UH projects, including $171 million for the planned West O'ahu complex in Kapolei, were nixed by the Lingle administration.
Promises kept, unkept
Key promises from UH President Evan Dobelle and how he has done:
Faculty raises: Has not been able to convince the Legislature to pay for raises in the face of state government's fiscal cutbacks but has irked faculty by giving high salaries to top administrators at Bachman Hall.
Fund raising: Along with the University of Hawai'i Foundation, has put up decent, but not outstanding, fund-raising numbers comparable to recent years, but is promising a major campaign starting next year.
Strategic plan: Received approval from the Board of Regents for a systemwide strategic plan that is less "Manoa-centric" and provides more autonomy to the community colleges.
Capital improvements: Broke ground for the $150 million first phase of the medical complex in Kaka'ako but has yet to obtain major financing for UH's own $150 million share. Money for major UH projects, including $171 million for the planned West O'ahu complex in Kapolei, were nixed by the Lingle administration.
Dobelle has created a chief of staff position and three new vice president slots while raising the salaries of other top executives with all vice presidents and chancellors making $200,000 a year or more.
"Many people are starting to see the Dobelle administration as a Cadillac parked in a lot full of Toyota Tercels," said Meda Chesney-Lind, a professor of women's studies.
Gov. Linda Lingle has pointed out that none of her own administrators make more than $100,000 and most earn $85,000. "It just seemed out of line to me, and I think to the average person," she said, noting that even Dobelle's executive assistants are making more than her department heads.
"At a time when I'm out talking to the public about the need to be fiscally conservative and to live within our means, it just struck me as going in the opposite direction of what I wanted people to focus on," Lingle said.
Others say too much is made of the salaries, obscuring all the good Dobelle has done.
"If that is what he thinks is necessary to get the kind of people he needs to do the job, he should be given the authority to do it and be held accountable if they don't produce," said former Gov. Ben Cayetano, who was instrumental in hiring the UH president.
Dobelle cites statistics from the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems showing that at Manoa, the ratio of full-time faculty members to executive and administrative managers is higher than at peer institutions such as the University of Utah, Oregon State and the University of Kentucky.
Whether Dobelle's upper-level management team is costing taxpayers less than the previous administration, as Dobelle has claimed, or substantially more as critics claim, is open to debate.
Dobelle has repeatedly said UH is paying nearly $2 million less in administrative salaries than it did a decade ago and less than it did a year ago. But state Rep. K. Mark Takai, chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, D-34th (Pearl City, Newtown, Royal Summit), said according to a memo provided him by UH officials, such salaries in 2002 cost $20.3 million, up from $16.4 million in 1994.
Eugene Tanner The Honolulu Advertiser
UH President Evan Dobelle has been criticized recently for approving high salaries for a group of upper-level managers during lean times.
Eugene Tanner The Honolulu Advertiser
Takai also calculated that the top-tier administrators under Dobelle are now making $7.64 million annually, more than double the $3.58 million paid to the same category of officials when Dobelle took over.
"That's just not true," Dobelle said. "You can read numbers any way you want to read numbers."
Meanwhile, Lingle-appointed interim regent Ted Hong has pressed UH officials about a $439,174 shortfall in administration allocations for the current fiscal year. Sloane told Hong that the shortfall could be made up with money from a $1 million interest income account set aside for contingency and training.
"Everything tells me they're going to come up short at the end of the fiscal year in terms of personnel for the UH administration," Hong said.
The latest faculty frustration came at the June meeting of the Board of Regents, who were considering and eventually approved a $200,000 salary for Sam Callejo, Dobelle's chief of staff, who made $93,000 as chief of staff to Cayetano.
J.N. Musto, executive director of the University of Hawai'i Professional Assembly that represents university faculty, called on regents to hold off on not just Callejo's appointment, but other new administrative posts until an agreement could be made to increase faculty salaries to the point where only half of UH's peers would make more than them.
While faculty received 10 percent raises over two years under a contract negotiated just before Dobelle's appointment, UH professors remain mired in the 20th percentile, meaning that 80 percent of their peers make more money.
Dobelle has lobbied openly for higher faculty pay. During budget hearings at the Legislature this spring, UH officials even took the extraordinary step of including anticipated raises for contracts that had not even been negotiated.
Lingle and legislators balked, noting that the UH system was one of the few state agencies to even consider an increased budget much less raises for its employees. Lingle said it was "not professional" for Dobelle to propose raises without identifying where the money would come from.
"I'd like to think that the governor is good on her word that if the economy returns, there'll be more money for salaries," Dobelle said. "It's clearly the highest priority of the faculty."
Dobelle pointed out that several hundred faculty members, as of last year, were eligible for merit raises under a system he has devised. But Musto said that proviso to provide $1.5 million annually for such raises was agreed to by the union and state negotiators before Dobelle came on board.
Dobelle's critics, including lawmakers and regents, also point to the seemingly slow progress being made in fund raising.
Those who did speak, however, suggested that they had expected much more from Dobelle.
"To establish the university as a world-class institute naturally comes with a profound money-gathering," said Dr. Billy Bergin, whose term as a regent ended last year. "I don't see very much of that. I don't see huge blocks of cash coming into the university."
At Trinity College, the Connecticut-based institution Dobelle left to take the UH job, he is credited with helping bring a $100 million capital campaign in ahead of schedule.
Dobelle said fund raising remains his chief outstanding goal but believes he has done well so far.
The UH Foundation, the legally separate fund-raising arm headed by Betsy Sloane a fund-raiser at Trinity College when Dobelle was president there raised $18 million in fiscal year 2002 and $22.1 million in the year that ended June 30. The $40 million came despite the state's economic slump caused by 9-11 and during a time Dobelle needed to reorganize the foundation and bring in a new foundation president.
Those two years, he said, eclipse fund-raising efforts at UH for the years 1996 and 1997, when the university took in a total of $28.7 million. It falls short when compared to the four years from 1998 to 2001, when UH was in a major fund-raising campaign drive and brought in $109.3 million.
Dobelle and Betsy Sloane, the wife of UH Vice President Wick Sloane, say they expect to raise $30 million in the coming fiscal year. Dobelle also said that he expects to announce major commitments in the coming months from two Mainland organizations he didn't name. Next year, the foundation will gear up for what is expected to be a five- to seven-year campaign to commemorate the UH centennial in 2007. Dobelle said the preliminary goal is $250 million.
While that effort is under way, however, lawmakers are pointing to what they say is a lack of progress on Dobelle's promise to raise $150 million for the Kaka'ako Biomedical Complex.
Takai and other legislators point out that they gave the go-ahead for UH officials to proceed with a $150 million bond issue for construction of the medical school, which broke ground late last year, only after Dobelle promised to match it by raising the same amount through the foundation to complete the complex.
Of the $150 million Dobelle has promised to raise, $90 million is to go for the new Kaka'ako cancer research center and $60 million is for renovation of the existing medical school on the Manoa campus as a bio-science facility.
U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye, an ally to Dobelle, has promised that he has "no higher priority for Hawai'i" than seeking money for the cancer center, Dobelle said, adding that he has until September 2005 to come up with the $60 million portion because the existing medical school cannot be worked on until the new school is completed.
"The point is it's not like we needed $150 million yesterday," Dobelle said. "The reality is we've been sitting talking to people, talking to foundations, talking to $10 million givers, and things have been going very well."
Dobelle said the foundation has so far been able to raise $4.2 million for renovation of the medical school and $709,000 for the cancer research center. Fund raising has been difficult after Sept. 11 and many people from Hawai'i, particularly those who may have gone to college elsewhere, haven't felt the need to give to UH.
Some lawmakers are skeptical.
"I asked President Dobelle when he first came ... what would happen if he wasn't able to raise the funds and he refused to answer me," said state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, D-14th (Halawa, Moanalua, Kamehameha Heights).
Kim and others point to Dobelle's failure to follow through on his promise to pay for renovations to the president's house on College Hill as an indication that he does not have the fund-raising prowess he claims.
After criticism was raised about a $1 million renovation of the historic home, a project approved by the regents under the previous president, Dobelle promised to seek private money to reimburse state coffers. To date, he said he has raised "a little over $100,000."
Dobelle said it has been difficult to seek money for the renovations when he also needs to raise money for scholarships and projects. Potential donors are even less thrilled, he said, to pay for the restoration when they are told it's for new wiring, plumbing, termite treatment and roofing and "not new chandeliers or fancy furniture."
Karl Kim, a professor of urban and regional planning who is now interim vice chancellor of academic affairs on the Manoa campus, said Dobelle has been good for the university.
"People are not looking at the big picture and the sort of structural changes have occurred in a very short period of time," Kim said. "We are far better off today than were two years ago. We are working harder than ever. Our enrollments are up. Our funded research dollars have increased to an all-time high."
Even those who have faulted Dobelle in other areas acknowledge that he contributed to an increase in enrollment that, in fall 2002, was up nearly 5 percent, though it is impossible to know whether students were attracted to UH because of his arrival. It marked the second year that student population rose, after years of decline, and put enrollment at its highest levels since the mid-1990s.
Dobelle said he has completed most of the punch-list items he outlined at a Chamber of Commerce speech at the outset of his administration. In doing so, he has also retained a solid and impressive list of high-powered supporters, including state Education Superintendent Pat Hamamoto and Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris.
Key among Dobelle's achievements was the passage by the Board of Regents last year of a systemwide strategic plan designed to guide the schools through 2010, giving each of the community colleges and university-level campuses its own identity.
For instance, the University of Hawai'i-Hilo now has a master's degree program in Hawaiian Studies and Maui Community College recently began offering four-year degrees. Dobelle said his goal is to establish four-year programs at each of the community colleges.
He also forged a partnership with the Department of Education and the Good Beginning Alliance on a "Pre-K-through-20" program that attempts to better coordinate public education in Hawai'i from pre-kindergarten years to college.
"What's exciting is the open-mindedness and off-the-wall kind of responses from Evan on how we can strengthen the linkages between the university and lower education," Hamamoto said. "And he's been open and willing to accommodate what we're trying to do."
Another success has been establishment of a new cinematic and digital arts program that will focus on Hawai'i, Asia and the Pacific. Dobelle enlisted Hollywood producer and Hawai'i native Chris Lee to lead the program, although money to support it has yet to be secured.
Dobelle has also fostered good relations with the Native Hawaiian community, which historically has had testy relations with UH presidents. Lilikala Kame'eleihiwa, director for the UH Center for Hawaiian Studies, said Dobelle has shown more sensitivity than some predecessors. "We've been able to organize an advisory council from every campus ... on how we can bring more Hawaiians into the university," Kame'eleihiwa said.
Hawaiian programs have also received additional money under Dobelle.
"He speaks from the heart, and he has a good heart," she said. "He's my hero."
Sports has been a priority for Dobelle, and he now has a team in place headed by former Olympic gold medalist and respected sports figure Herman Frazier, who was hired last year as athletic director. And while there was much consternation over the renewal of football coach June Jones' $800,000 annual contract, there was considerably less ink devoted to the recent re-signing of other key coaches such as men's basketball coach Riley Wallace and men's volleyball coach Mike Wilton.
Jones appreciates the effort. "He understands the notoriety a school gets if its athletics are tops," the coach said of the man who wholeheartedly backed his salary boost despite grousing from faculty and a segment of the community. "I think he understands that it helps everyone."
Dobelle's commitment to sports, however, could not prevent the $18 million-plus athletic department from sustaining its second consecutive deficit year which required a $1 million loan from the UH-Manoa's general coffers.
Honolulu Mayor Harris, also known for his creative and ambitious projects and penchant for big-picture planning, joined with Dobelle on a series of sustainability initiatives.
"We should try to find ways to support those kinds of visionaries," Harris said. "I don't think we should be criticizing people for striving for excellence. Whenever people get criticized for having too exciting a vision, I think we're relegating ourselves to mediocrity."
Both Dobelle and Lingle said they've left the incident behind them. Dobelle said they were dinner partners at a recent function for the film school.
But Cayetano, who called Dobelle's gubernatorial endorsement "a mistake," said he worries that Lingle's recent appointments to the Board of Regents will try to punish him.
"Lingle should rise above it all and work with Dobelle," he said. Lingle, for her part, said the only instruction she has given to regents is to keep in mind that her goal is to make the university completely autonomous from the rest of the state.
"Autonomy means sometimes you agree with decisions the president makes or you don't ... but that just goes with being autonomous," Lingle said. "I believe strongly the university should be able to operate independently once the politicians agree on what the funding levels should be and what they want the university to achieve."
Many believe that a number of the setbacks during Dobelle's first two years, such as the failure to deliver faculty raises, were primarily because of budget constraints caused by the state's financial straits.
A case in point is the university's capital improvements program. Dobelle said the Legislature appropriated some $600 million for university facilities in recent years, but UH got practically shut out out this year. Proposals of $171 million for the UH West O'ahu campus, $75 million for a student life/events complex at UH-Hilo, $63 million for a computer sciences and technology building, $70 million for general renewal and deferred maintenance, and $18.7 million for renovations at Sinclair Library were all taken out by Lingle and not restored by the Legislature.
Dobelle said he needs time to work on the Kapolei campus, one of his major planning initiatives. If the money doesn't come soon from the Legislature, he said he may have to look at alternate plans to "create a program that does not demand immediately a physical plant."
"I'm not a disappointment kind of guy, but to me, it would be a disappointment to me if I can't get that thing done in five years," he said.
There remain a good number of UH stakeholders and observers who think two years into the administration is still too early to give Dobelle an accurate report card.
Senate Ways and Means Chairman Brian Taniguchi, D-10th (Manoa, McCully) said that even in the fund-raising arena, Dobelle needs to be given a break. "On its face, there would seem to be an indication that he hasn't been successful, but you really have to look at the climate right now," he said. "Everybody's having a hard time raising money right now."
Mike Dahilig, outgoing president of the Associated Students of the University of Hawai'i, said students remain hopeful that Dobelle can deliver on at least some of his promises, particularly since money has been tight statewide.
There's enough uncertainty about the university, he said, that "if I were to give him a letter grade, I would give him an 'I' because everything's incomplete right now."
With Dobelle at the helm ...
Actions that have occurred since Dobelle was named president of the University of Hawai'i:
March 12, 2001: Dobelle named 12th president of UH with an annual salary of $442,000 and a contract scheduled to run through June 20, 2008.
Sept. 13, 2001: Dobelle announces that UH for the first time could begin across-the-board tuition waivers for Native Hawaiian and low-income students.
Sept. 17, 2001: Dobelle joins city officials in proposing that the West O'ahu campus be in Kapolei, not mauka of H-1 near Makakilo; and suggests that the campus could also include a medical park and a football stadium.
Sept. 25, 2001: Enrollment rises for the first time in years at UH, reversing a trend that the state's public college system had been unable to shake since the mid-1990s.
Jan. 18, 2002: Dobelle asks lawmakers for no additional money to operate the UH system for the coming year, but requests $357.48 million in capital improvement largely for West O'ahu and repair and maintenance.
Feb. 9, 2002: Enrollment in the overall UH system jumps by almost 2,800 students over the previous year the first such overall increase since 1995.
May 16, 2002: Regents confirm Peter Englert, a vice chancellor at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, as the Manoa campus's first chancellor in 16 years.
Sept. 11, 2002: Enrollment rises for the second consecutive year, with a nearly 5 percent increase for the fall semester, sending student numbers to their highest level since the mid-1990s.
Oct. 11, 2002: UH officials launch the new Cinematic and Digital Arts Program better known as the film school promising a state-of-the-art program at the forefront of the digital revolution, although only planning money has been given for a new site.
Oct. 24, 2002: Ground broken in Kaka'ako for the new $150 million John A. Burns School of Medicine.
Nov. 1, 2002: Dobelle appears as a private individual in TV commercials endorsing Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono for governor.
Nov. 9, 2002: UH regent Mike Hartley resigns in large part as a result of Dobelle's endorsement of Hirono.
Nov. 21, 2002: After the Manoa Faculty Senate threatens to censure the administration for failing to seek faculty advice on reorganization plans, UH administrators promise to give educators more voice.
Dec. 12, 2002: Regents approve Dobelle's systemwide reorganization which calls for making the UH system less "Manoa-centric" and with more autonomy for the community colleges.
Jan. 10, 2003: Dobelle asks lawmakers for nearly $29 million for faculty salary increases that have not yet been negotiated.
Jan. 18, 2003: Big Island regent Allan Ikawa, citing a need to return to overseeing his business, becomes the second regent to resign in three months.
March 22, 2003: State Auditor Marion Higa characterizes $124.7 million in UH nongeneral fund accounts as mismanaged and not receiving "adequate oversight and controls."
April 25, 2003: Lingle announces agreement with the University of Hawai'i Professional Assembly to a partial contract settlement that will cover increases in health insurance premiums but leaves open the issue of salaries.