WASC Reviews Team Report on University of Hawaii System Follow-Up Visit

University of Hawaiʻi
Posted: Jun 22, 2004

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC Senior) met on June 18 in San Jose, Calif., to review the team report from its special visit to the UH System Office in March 2004.

Led by Lindsay Desrochers, vice chancellor for administration at the University of California—Merced, the team visit was a follow-up to a special review of the UH system and the President‘s Office in March 2003, which was requested by the university. The request to WASC, intended as a unique one-time consultation as WASC Senior accredits campuses and not systems, was made to review and advise the university on the implementation of the system reorganization and the UH Strategic Plan, both of which were approved by the Board of Regents in 2002.

In its March 2003 review, the WASC team found promise in the reorganization model and recognized the strategic planning efforts of the university system as an effective and particularly inclusive effort of constituencies both in and outside the university. However, the team also raised issues which the WASC Senior Accrediting Commission felt required a second follow-up visit. Principal among these issues was the need for a strong working partnership between the Board of Regents and the President.

In its report following this year‘s visit, the WASC team found overall that "the university has made significant progress in the past year in developing participative and consultative budget processes, in organizing ideas for programs around the UH Strategic Plan, and in providing timely financial information to decision-makers."

The report also states: "These efforts are commendable and, although far from complete, signal an approach to budgeting and financial management that appears to be striving toward achievement of the recommendations made in the 2003 letter from WASC."

However, the WASC team also reported that there are still some serious problems existing that "threaten the long-term achievement of the stated aspirations and, importantly, from the perspective of WASC, raise significant issues of the performance of the University under the Standards of Accreditation and threatens the continued accreditation of the senior college campuses."

Among the "critical problems" noted by the team in its report were:

· A nonproductive relationship between the BOR and the President, which colors all major issues, exacerbates the politicization of the environment within which the UH system operates, and jeopardizes the functioning of the UH system as well as progress on the UH System Strategic Plan.

· The President appears stymied and distant; that is, the President is not now working in a direct, regular and positive relationship with the BOR: rather, he is focused on relationships external to the Board and, secondarily, although importantly, he has minimal direct involvement at this time with campus chancellors.

· The primary focus of the BOR is not policy making and oversight of management; rather, it is primarily focused on its problems with the President, detailed management of campus issues, conflict of interest issues and is generally underdeveloped in addressing the impact of different campus missions.

· In good part due to the problems between the BOR and the President, the UH Mānoa campus is currently unable either to enact the organizational plans of the Chancellor nor to resolve second level problems emerging from the system reorganization. This hamstrings Mānoa‘s ability to manage its affairs.

"In general, we believe that the WASC team‘s findings are right on target, particularly their observations about the status of the relationship between the Board of Regents and the President," said UH BOR Vice Chairperson Kitty Lagareta. "We have been aware of our responsibility to resolve the situation."

"The Board has been in communication with Acting President David McClain and we have expressed our strong desire to return all management responsibilities to the President‘s Office," Lagareta said.

"I would like to thank the WASC team for its candor and insight, and express my appreciation for their recognition of system efforts to date to address the team‘s prior-year recommendations concerning strategic planning, budgeting and financial management, and the execution of the reorganization," said UH Acting President David McClain. "I endorse the Team‘s recommendations and I have given them my personal commitment that the UH System Office will move aggressively to address them. We look forward to receiving WASC Senior‘s action letter in early July."

The WASC Team Report is available online at www.hawaii.edu/vpaa.

For more information, visit: http://www.hawaii.edu/vpaa