How Much Is Too Much When It Comes To the UH PR Machine?

I think reasonable-minded citizens can draw the conclusion that the University of Hawaii has gone overboard in hiring public relations people.

Fifty-two of them who spend 100 percent of their work time on “relations” for the school’s 10 campuses. Two who spent 80 percent of their work time. Sixteen more who spend 50 percent of their work time.

It would be easy for me to just head-slap the UH and make alumni feel you never want to contribute another dollar. But that would not be fair because the university thought it was doing a needed job of publicizing its programs, facilities and research breakthroughs.

And I sense that incoming interim president David Lassner knows there is excess, and I’m hoping we’ll see some changes.

We can clearly blame the excess hiring and spending on presidents Evan Dobelle and M.R.C. Greenwood, who faced mounting bad publicity and internal problems and apparently felt throwing more money at more ex-journalist publicists was the solution. The university is spending $1,136,358 for PR staff salaries and still hires piece-work outsiders such as Wally Zimmermann, Howard Dashefsky and Ed Nishioka to puff up projects like the Biological Laboratory and the Nursing School, and Barbara Tanabe to work that Stevie Wonder fiasco.

Have feedback? Suggestions?