Greenwood Retirement Catches Visiting Accreditation Officials By Surprise

Officials representing the Western Association of Schools and Colleges — the University of Hawaii's accrediting body — were in town the past few days conducting a follow-up review of the university's handling of the Wonder Blunder and other legislative developments.

But the officials, who arrived Tuesday, also ended up having to add another task to their agenda: discussion of UH President M.R.C. Greenwood's retirement.

Her departure, announced Monday, caught the WASC team off-guard, according to WASC President Ralph Wolff, who’s heading back to California today.

"When we scheduled the review, it was to prior to President Greenwood announcing her retirement," Wolff told Civil Beat. "That changed the focus of the visit as well."

Wolff and his colleague had to pack a lot in to their two-day visit.

They looked at the steps the university has taken to address the concerns raised in the report put together by the Wonder Blunder task force — a follow-up to findings from a special visit WASC paid to Hawaii last September. They looked at whether any legislation passed this year threatened to significantly infringe on the university’s autonomy, thus putting its accreditation in jeopardy. And then they looked at the UH administration and Board of Regents' plans to move forward following Greenwood's departure. 

Wolff didn’t elaborate much on the team’s conclusions but said it plans to start drafting a special report detailing its findings and providing some recommendations. WASC’s Senior Colleges and Universities accrediting commission is in June expected to review the report, Wolff said. And a finalized version of the report will be available to the public in July.

But Wolff said it looks like accreditation for the university’s several campuses will remain in tact, in part because most of the bills that would’ve cracked down on university governance died earlier this year. 

WASC was “very concerned” about “potential legislation that could infringe or interfere with the appropriate level of autonomy of the university … but nearly all of them did not get enacted,” Wolff said.

He also said that the report would review some of the provisos attached to this year’s university budget.

— Alia Wong

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