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Hawaii Presidential Search Down to Two - Including Robert Jones

From the Honolulu Advertiser

Questions dog final 2 candidates for University of Hawaii presidency

Several months of active searching and nearly 600 candidates later, two people have emerged as top contenders to replace David McClain as the president of the University of Hawai'i's 10-campus system.

But enthusiasm may have been dampened last week over a blemish in one candidate's administrative background and the withdrawal of the third finalist.

The head of the university's faculty union said he is disappointed that someone with a better understanding of Hawai'i didn't emerge as a top candidate and concerned that the search committee wasn't formed until October, even though it was common knowledge that McClain's contract was set to expire July 30.

"Is this all we're to expect?" said J.N. Musto, executive director of the University of Hawai'i Professional Assembly. "How did the process run through? It got a very slow start any way you would cut it."

After 14 finalists were interviewed in April, three top contenders emerged:

• M.R.C. Greenwood, the longtime chancellor of the University of California-Santa Cruz who rose to become provost of the UC system. She resigned from the post after two years amid allegations of favoritism in her hiring practices and an ethics investigation.

• Robert J. Jones, the senior vice president for system administration for the University of Minnesota and an internationally acclaimed expert on plant physiology.

• A third candidate, whose name was never released, who withdrew Wednesday in part because of concerns about participating in a public process.

While no one is questioning the experience of Greenwood or Jones, there have been questions: Why is there no candidate with local ties among the finalists? And why is UH considering a nominee whose administrative career ended amid an investigation?

Greenwood was highly regarded during her time at UC-Santa Cruz, increasing the number of academic programs by 52 percent, with a 41 percent increase in graduate programs; hiring 250 new faculty members; and more than doubling extramural research support.

But according to reports by The San Francisco Chronicle, her administrative career unraveled in 2005 when UC launched an investigation of her hiring practices and involvement in the promotion of a friend, UC-Santa Cruz Vice Provost Lynda Goff.

The investigation was prompted by reports in the Chronicle that Greenwood and Goff were business partners who owned rental property together.

UC's general counsel later found Greenwood violated the university's conflict-of-interest policy by participating in the hiring and promotion of her business partner, regardless of her qualifications for the jobs. The investigation also said she should have recused herself from the hiring of her friend.

UH presidential selection chairwoman Donna Tanoue said Greenwood was forthcoming about the circumstances, and that the UH search committee conducted "extensive due diligence" and feels both Greenwood and Jones are highly qualified.

jones due here

The second candidate for president, Robert Jones, is expected to make public visits to UH campuses on O'ahu and Neighbor Islands next week.

An internationally renowned authority on plant physiology and the author of more than 100 scientific papers, Jones has had an administrative career at the University of Minnesota that spans 18 years. He is currently senior vice president for system administration.

"When the search firm contacted me, it was very clear that this was a job that aligned very closely with my current administrative experiences," Jones said in a telephone interview.

"I have a sense of the challenges that are ahead for the University of Hawai'i system."

Tanoue said UH would be lucky to have either Jones or Greenwood.

"Both are incredibly passionate educators and academic leaders with very distinguished academic credentials and records of leadership," Tanoue said.

Some at UH refuse to accept that the blemish on Greenwood's resume is minor.

"When you have a stain like this on somebody's record, I don't think we take that person," said John Cole, chairman of the humanities department at Hawai'i Community College.

Dr. Jones is a very impressive guy. He certainly projects the image of a serious and competent administrator. I think the Hawaii folks will be very impressed. Just because we are in flyover land, doesn't mean that we don't have some very good people here.

I'd take Jones in a second over someone with a record like Greenwood's. Hawaii would very fortunate to have him.

We'll see.

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