Think About It: Presidential Powers - KFVE, K5-Hawaii News Now, Local Programming

June 13, 2013

Think About It: Presidential Powers

The University of Hawaii will apparently name an interim president sometime in the next month. Some have suggested that this person should handle some of the unpleasant tasks and make changes before a new full-time president is named.  A former governor suggested that the interim president should "…come in on a temporary basis to fix our problems, right our university."

Well that doesn't make much sense to me. After all, if a person can be found to quickly fix things, change things, and right the ship, then why not just name that person as the full-time president? And if someone does come in with instructions to rock the boat for a few months, how much chance does his or her eventual successor have to implement even more change, which is the right of every chief executive officer running a major operation? The idea of an interim president "cleaning house" while in charge for just a short period of time could be a bigger mistake than letting existing problems fester. Change is good, as long as it's good change. Asking a fill-in to make major moves is unfair to employees and to the next full-time president of UH. An interim president would have no autonomy, as influencers would surely try to gain not just his or her ear, but a bunch of other body parts. "Interim" means temporary, an intervening fill-in, not a major policy-maker or direction-changer.

Certain traits are absolute in the search for a new UH president. The president needs to be a person with a strong will, high ethical standing, and a willingness to say "no" to outside self-interest peddlers. The new full-time CEO of UH needs to be independent, yet accessible, intelligent, but not above learning from others; malleable, but not wishy-washy or a pushover. The new full-time UH head needs to quickly ingratiate him- or herself with a diverse constituent base, yet have a vision supported by others to keep UH moving forward. Autonomy is a subjective term at UH, but it's essential for someone new to succeed. An interim president should simply keep the $1.5-billion ship from crashing into the rocks for a few months. Think about it…

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