WASC special visit team commends University of Hawai'i on its efforts to improve relationships and governance structure over the past five years

WASC Accrediting Commission endorses team's findings and recommendations

University of Hawaiʻi
Carolyn Tanaka, (808) 956-9803
External Affairs & University Relations
Posted: Jul 19, 2007

Honolulu — University of Hawai'i President David McClain was notified via letter this month that the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities endorsed the report of its special visit team at its June 20-22, 2007 meeting, and commended the University of Hawai'i for its engagement in the review process and the progress made in clarifying and strengthening its governance structure.

Over the past five years, the WASC Commission has worked with UH in a special effort to evaluate and guide the development of a major reorganization. The process was initiated by the university in 2002 to better assure that the governance structure of the UH System supports the institutional integrity necessary for UH to fulfill its role as the provider of public higher education in the state.

In preparation for the visit, the University prepared a report that responded to the five issues previously cited by WASC: stability of leadership, monitoring of the system office organization, financial/budgeting accountability; relations with the Governor and the Legislature, and the impact of increased tuition. The special visit team was also charged to assess whether continuing progress was being made in Board of Regents/President relations, strategic planning, and the state of Native Hawaiian affairs.

According to the commission letter, the March 2007 special visit team "found progress continuing on all issues, and the general state of each of these issues seems to be much improved from 2002."

"This effort to assess our operations, examine roles and relationships, and review current and future strategic initiatives has been extremely beneficial," said Vice President Linda Johnsrud. "The WASC team brings an external perspective that enables us to take a fresh look at the issues and make changes that improve our accountability and effectiveness."

The Commission specifically acknowledged the Board of Regents for the progress made since the last review in 2002, particularly in improving board functioning, governance effectiveness, and the clear direction provided to the University. Chair of the Regents, Kitty Lagareta commented, "Since coming onto the Board of Regents in 2003, it has been a great privilege to serve with regents who have only one agenda and that is ensuring that the University of Hawaiʻi is the best that it can be for the people of Hawaiʻi. The regents have done a lot of heavy lifting over the past four years on some very tough issues including the University‘s leadership, a significant tuition increase, improving infrastructure and facilities through public-private partnerships, and ensuring that our university system is meeting the higher education needs of all of our students and our state. It has been a great pleasure working with President McClain and other leaders in the university system, and we are very gratified that the commission has so strongly acknowledged the progress we have made together."

The commission also endorsed UH‘s efforts, as part of its strategic planning, to set enrollment goals for each campus and its participation in a national initiative to significantly increase retention and degree-completion rates. The visiting team recommended continued attention be given to maintaining and refining such processes.

The commission plans to follow up on the progress in these areas in future visits.

A copy of the report the university prepared for the commission, a letter from WASC President and Executive Director Ralph A. Wolff to UH President David McClain, as well as a copy of the March 2007 Special Visit team report, can be found at http://www.hawaii.edu/offices/app/aa/.

For more information, visit: http://www.hawaii.edu/offices/app/aa/