The Future Is What Matters For UH

Some people may be getting tired of all the changes going on at the University of Hawaii at Moana. You shouldn’t be, but if you are, it’s OK. Change has no conscience, doesn’t play favorites and takes no prisoners. You either change or die.

A university is a place were everything is up for grabs, nothing is permanent and everyone knows everyone else’s business. It is not an environment that encourages teamwork – the exact opposite is true.

There aren’t many places where scrutiny is so deadly. Every idea, every theory, every decision is challenged by someone, from the custodians to the deans of departments. Every thought is ripped to shreds by intelligent minds that ponder every motive and incentive to doing things differently.

And now another UH president, M.R.C. Greenwood, is retiring to spend more time with health and family issues, take an extended leave and then return to the campus and a tenured position at the UH medical school or exalted college on campus. It’s like some prerecorded dance.

Most of us can figure what happens next at UH. It’s bloody, littered with the bodies of some very fine individuals who are now leaders at academically credible institutions across the nation.

Our current situation is similar to one that occurred in the 1970s. UH was having difficulty getting money from the state Legislature, and many people believed it was because during that era, none of the UH presidents was from Hawaii.

When the smoke cleared, the selection committee picked MIT superstar Dr. Fujio Matsuda, whose dissertation was based on the effects of the neutron bomb on structures and their inhabitants.

By all accounts, Matsuda did a good job at UH, but didn’t get any special treatment from legislators. Many people were surprised, but they shouldn’t have been, because the Legislature changes its colors every four years, and their idea of change is ruthlessly administered. If you don’t adapt with them, it doesn’t matter where you’re from or how intelligent you are, you’re gone.

Competition at this level is stiff, and there is not a lot of time for candidates to catch their breath and collect their senses.

Simply put, the UH search committee should find the best qualified candidate and not bother with trivial matters – such as if the candidate is local or understands the history of UH sports programs and nicknames.

A first-class research university should think about the future. What’s past is gone, and what happened today belongs to the history books. If better is possible, then that A-plus rating bestowed upon the university by Greenwood in a recent Star-Advertiser interview is not entirely accurate, because if better is possible, good is not good enough.

The next UH president is going to need room to get better. That means change – quickly, or else.