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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Not everyone wants McClain for top job

By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Staff Writer

David McClain

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The University of Hawai'i Board of Regents' unanimous decision yesterday to offer the permanent UH presidency to interim President David McClain was met with disappointment from some students and faculty who urged regents to move forward with a nationwide search for a new president.

"The best people are found when we go out and search for them," Grant Teichman, president of the Associated Students of University of Hawai'i-Manoa, told the regents. Regents later said they felt they had already found the right person for the job.

Following yesterday's meeting, board chairwoman Kitty Lagareta said she and Regent Al Landon will conduct contract negotiations with McClain. No timetable has been set to finalize a contract, she said.

The handful of students and faculty who spoke at yesterday's special Board of Regents meeting were against suspending a planned nationwide search. However, about a week ago, a broad range of university constituents supported offering the permanent position to McClain.

The decision follows a surprise recommendation 10 days ago by a six-regent task group to ditch a nationwide search for a new UH president and hire McClain, who previously had announced he was not interested in the permanent post.

Lagareta told the regents and students and faculty in the audience of yesterday's special meeting on the Manoa campus that McClain indicated he would consider staying on as president. McClain did say in November that if he were to stay, he could serve only until 2009. He has served almost two years as both acting and interim president.

State Sen. Clayton Hee, chairman of the higher education committee, addressed the board yesterday and told regents he has helped secure $250,000 in state money to be used toward a nationwide presidential search. He said the regents should not back down from that original proposal.

"It appears to me there may be an effort to rush into negotiations to hire the present interim president," Hee said. "If that is so ... why the rush?"

Lagareta said she believes McClain has the right mix of academic and business skills. She also said there is no guarantee a national search would find a candidate right for the university.

The other regents agreed.

Regent Jane Tatibouet told other members that the grass is not always greener on the other side. "We can't continue to work on the notion that someone is out there, on the Mainland, who can do a better job than we are doing," she said.

McClain took the reins of the university in a time of turmoil after the ouster of Evan Dobelle, and in the nearly two years since has brought stability to the UH system. After his first-year review, McClain received praise from the regents for his leadership. During his tenure, he has led the university through tuition increases, a devastating flood on the Manoa campus and a proposal to establish a U.S. Navy university affiliated research center.

"I feel most confident that (McClain's) vision over the next three years or so has the best chance of forwarding (the university)," Lagareta said.

Lagareta said the university does not need "somebody new who is going to take a year to figure all these things out." Instead, it needs "someone who is in the trenches with it every day and can move (the university) forward and has the courage to do it," she said.

Reach Loren Moreno at lmoreno@honoluluadvertiser.com.