Public process offers key chance for input
The University of Hawai'i Board of Regents now has a question on the table that comes up rarely but, when it does, can change the course of the institution the board governs.
Which candidate would do the best job as the new UH president?
Two out of some 600 initial candidates have risen to the final round:
• M.R.C. Greenwood, who reached a career zenith as provost of the University of California system. She drew criticism and an inquiry into charges of favoritism in hiring practices and an ethics investigation.
• Robert J. Jones, the senior vice president for system administration for the University of Minnesota, a smaller system overall than either the UH or UC college networks.
Both candidates are highly qualified, and the regents deserve credit for conducting the search much more publicly than in years past, hosting public forums and inviting comment.
The search should have produced a longer list of finalists, including at least one with local experience. That's an asset in guiding UH through Hawai'i cultural issues and the state's political landscape — elements that can trip up even the most seasoned academic and administrator.
However, regents can at least feel gratified that each of these candidates has both a stellar record in research and publishing and familiarity with land-grant and research institutions like UH, and are high-level administrators.
They will have to weigh their relative strengths and weaknesses. For example, Greenwood has broader experience at multiple institutions, and it's hard to imagine a state system with more complexity and prestige than UC.
But the ethical misstep presents a large hurdle, and regents certainly must take that into account.
Jones worked for 31 years in the same system; the board will have to consider that homogeneous experience. But he also has a record of working with native populations, a collaborative approach useful here as well.
Regents need to weigh candidates' experience in the context of the their ability to serve the needs of this state and navigate its nuances. Having shown the wisdom of consulting the public about the head of the state's sole public university, they need to place priority on selecting a leader with the capacity to build strong ties to a new community.