Thursday, August 27, 2009

Aloha, President Greenwood!

Yesterday, a "Hawaiian Protocol" ceremony was held at Kanewai Lo‘i with a reception that followed at Hawai‘inuiākea to welcome a new president,M.R.C. Greenwood, to our 10-campus University system. It was a rather intimate gathering consisting primarily of college deans and administrators from around the Mānoa campus, along with some kūpuna and other event hosts from the Native Hawaiian community at UH Mānoa.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Kanewai Lo‘i-- the primary portion of the ceremony was held within this hale. It was such a beautiful location!"]Kanewai Lo‘i-- the primary portion of the ceremony was held within this hale.  It was such a beautiful location![/caption]

I was invited as a member of Greenwood's immediate "entourage" and as one of the four speakers of the afternoon. Leading up to the event, I barely had time to sit down and craft out a speech. But even if I did, I doubt it would've came along.

To be completely honest, during the presidential search process and after the withdrawal of the only other finalist Robert Jones, I wrote a statement to the Board of Regents requesting that an interim-president be appointed while the search continues.

In regards to the ethics controversy which got her released from her last position and the fact that we already have a chancellor from the University of California System (I didn't want our premiere public University for the State of Hawai‘i transforming into a "UC Hawaii" satellite campus!), I didn't feel that Greenwood was quite right for the job.

I also didn't agree with the idea of offering extremely high salary incentives and spending over a million to conduct a nation-wide search would find the most competent leader.

For one, the University of Hawai‘i is situated in one of the most unique and diverse places in the world and experience from other University systems doesn't necessarily carry over. There are so many 30-40 year veterans within the UH system who would've took a lower salary and wouldn't have had to admit to having "a lot of learning to do" and adjust to getting situated within the culture of our wonderful state.

Secondly, the whole idea of having a separate system President and flagship campus Chancellor seems fruitless. Streamlined bureaucracy was more efficient during the pre-autonomy days of UH Mānoa back when the Chancellor of Mānoa and the system president was combined into a single position--especially since the State had a stake in controlling the exuberant salaries of UH administrative executives.

[caption id="attachment_527" align="aligncenter" width="510" caption="University of Hawai‘i System President M.R.C. Greenwood"]University of Hawai‘i System President M.R.C. Greenwood[/caption]

However, I do realize that besides the ethics allegations and lack of experience, none of these concerns fall upon Greenwood herself. And I was actually very surprised and delighted by the humility Greenwood exhibited throughout her appointment, by not holding a sort of "big fish, small pond" mentality that many out-of-state leaders hold when transferring to Hawai‘i.

She seemed very genuine and open to embrace both Local and Native Hawaiian culture here in Hawai‘i. It wasn't hard to see that she was completely overwhelmed by the amount of Aloha she has received throughout her first week on the job.

So the task was this: make use of this opportunity as a speaker to get my point across, among the many witnesses, without coming off as a whiny student or angsty Hawaiian. I wanted my 3-5 minutes to be memorable and tried to avoid cliche as much as possible.

Other speakers had well-written speeches which they read straight off a paper; these speeches were beautiful but quick to be forgotten. I also had a few talking points written down on a small card. But once I was off and going, 30 seconds into my speech, I decided to tuck it away in my pocket and speak straight from the na‘au.

From what I remember, I spoke on UH's commitment to its host culture and the purpose of the newly established Hawai‘inuiākea, primarily regarding its importance and contribution to education as the greatest means to preserving and advancing Native Hawaiian culture.

I asserted how I like to think that I represent many students not because of my position on student government, (or because I am 50% "Asian", 25% "Pacific Islander", and 25% Caucasian/Hispanic!) but because of my story. After mentioning how UH is the only university that I seen myself happy at, the most realistic option financially, and how it had transformed me to who I am today, I was sure to note that it is important not to overlook UH's purpose of fostering future leaders and competent workers for the State of Hawai‘i.

Whether or not I stepped over the line as a student, or even as a speaker at a welcome ceremony, my words seemed to be well-received. I was fortunate to have been able to later carry a heart-felt conversation with President Greenwood during the reception that followed where she mentioned to me that the warmth in welcoming she has been receiving from students has been amazing.

The event was a wonderful one, and just the vibe alone was unlike no other. I met a lot of amazing people and won't soon forget it. I'm sure that neither will the new president.

President Greenwood's openness and humility was greatly appreciated, and I hope she continues to embrace both the Native Hawaiian and local communities here in Hawaii. I look forward to working along side this new leader in the spirit of progress and benefit for the students of the University of Hawai‘i.

I hope she can prove herself and live up to her nearly $1,000,000/yr Salary (including living allowances)! E kipa mai e Greenwood.


  1. Barah . .. das wat it's about . . . you and your conversation wit dat lady dis morning . . . was nutz . . . hoomaikai ia oe . . .aloha . . .

  2. I felt the same way during the Nation-wide search for a new president this past year. But after meeting President Greenwood yesterday, she seems very kind and genuine. I look forward to learning more about her positions on matters within the UH system, Hawaiʻi, and abroad.

  3. Ok... got to read it all without cutting off.... I was looking at another link to this piece and it cut off mid-way.

  4. I really enjoyed reading this post, keep up creating such exciting articles!