UPDATED 7/29/14 5:40 p.m.

University of Hawaii President David Lassner released a statement today defending the secrecy that’s shrouded the truth about Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple’s employment.

News surfaced this past weekend that Apple, who oversees the university’s flagship campus, is being dismissed from his post three years before his employment agreement is set to expire.

Lassner May 2014

David Lassner at a public forum in May.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Rumors are circulating as to why exactly he’s facing a possible termination, including theories that he ruffled too many feathers at the university’s Cancer Center or that his contentious efforts to cut spending on campus made him unpopular among too many top administrators.

The university has refused to confirm the news, drawing criticism from faculty members and students who are lambasting UH for refusing to release any information to the public.

Tom Apple UH Manoa Chancellor

Dr. Tom Apple, the University of Hawaii at Manoa chancellor.

University of Hawaii at Manoa

Lassner defended the university’s handling of the matter and lamented that it’s become a “public spectacle,” noting that “when a change in leadership is necessary, it is best accomplished with as much dignity as the circumstances permit.” He went on to highlight the university’s efforts to recover its budget and boost morale on campus.

UPDATE: Jerry Hiatt, Apple’s attorney, responded to Lassner’s statement in an email to Civil Beat this afternoon: “Tom Apple would simply like to state that he greatly appreciates the overwhelming outpouring of support he has received from UH faculty, students and community leaders who believe that a ‘change in leadership’ is not necessary.”

Here’s Lassner’s statement in full:

As a matter of policy and in accordance with Hawaii public records law, university personnel matters are confidential and we abide by that commitment to confidentiality out of respect for our employees. Experience teaches that personnel issues are best addressed in private, and when a change in leadership is necessary, it is best accomplished with as much dignity as the circumstances permit.

It is my job as President to hold the executives who report to me accountable for their performance and the effectiveness of their leadership. At UH, this is a holistic process that spans the full range of the executive’s duties and responsibilities, not a reaction to specific incidents. I have maintained confidentiality both to provide the chancellor the privacy and dignity that any of us would want for ourselves in a difficult personnel situation, as well as to attempt to avoid disruption to the university’s critical work of teaching, learning, scholarship and service.

Unfortunately, many statements are circulating and the privacy I had hoped for has been compromised with a mix of truths and rumors from many sources. I regret that my attempt at maintaining privacy and dignity has been perceived by some as lacking transparency and accountability. And I am truly sorry this has become a public spectacle.

UH Manoa is Hawaii’s only research university and the flagship campus of our UH System. I am committed to fully supporting our UH Manoa students, who work every day to develop the knowledge and skills for success in their careers and as contributing citizens in our communities. I am committed to supporting our superb UH Manoa faculty members, who teach and mentor students every day and engage in scholarship to advance human knowledge and address the challenges and opportunities facing our communities. And I am committed to supporting our hardworking UH Manoa staff and administrators who every day balance the complexity of multiple missions and expectations from internal communities and external stakeholders.

At this time we all need to focus on polishing our crown jewel in the new financial environment faced by UH and public higher education across the country. The financial conditions that have developed at UH Manoa over the past two years must be addressed with thoughtful leadership and deep collaboration. I am committed to embracing this broader challenge with effective campus leadership in a considered, open and collegial manner with the faculty, students, and staff of the UH Manoa campus and our stakeholders across the State of Hawaii.

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