To understand why the Board of Regents must not appoint a retired Army General as president of the University of Hawaii, one needs to understand the basic concept of a university, and then look at UH in the ’60s, and at what the UH system must grapple with in the near future.

The core value of a university is the free expression of ideas. A university offers a place where all creative ideas are put on the table and argued vigorously, and the best are supported and adopted.

In the ’60s, UH Manoa was alive with anti-war activity. There were frequent rallies and demonstrations all with the message that the Vietnam War was based on lies, that it was an immoral war, and we must bring the boys home. The ROTC building was set afire.

Frank Wiercinski, speaking soon after he became a finalist for the presidency of the University of Hawaii.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

A young Neil Abercrombie was often in the center of things. He carried his soapbox with him, and would stop wherever he could gather a crowd, to explain the war to all who would listen. Many look back on the ’60s as the university’s finest hour. So many ideas were alive and discussed — protection of the environment, social justice and the plight of blacks, to name a few.

But how would things have fared at UH if a former Army general had been president? Would there have been a tight grip from the beginning, with no anti-war rallies and demonstrations? Would troops have taken over campus following the burning of the ROTC building? What would have become of the free exchange of ideas, the core value of a university?

Today our university is quiet. There seems little reason…

Loading The General Is the Wrong Man for This Moment at UH

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