The fate of an academic’s job is generally decided by the institution, but Carl-Wilhelm Vogel, a tenured professor at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, could lose his position after more than 20 years at the institution because the state’s legislature has singled out his $343,800 salary as something to cut in this year’s proposed budget.
“In addition to teaching zero classes [and] bringing in zero dollars, he doesn’t hold office hours,” State Senator Donna Kim (D-14), chairperson of the higher education committee, tells Hawaii News Now (HNN) in defense of the line item. The University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center (UHCC) where Vogel works is a research institution that does not offer classes, which is why he does not teach or hold office hours, reports Inside Higher Ed.
Vogel joined UHCC as its director in 1999, holding the position until 2008, Inside Higher Ed reports. According to his faculty page, Vogel has brought in millions of dollars in grants to the university, although his most recent one as the principal investigator, worth more than $5 million, expired in August 2020. He has also filed patents for his use of Cobra Venom Factor to fight cancer and has published more than 90 peer-reviewed papers, including three in 2020.
The university’s faculty union, known as the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA), tells Inside Higher Ed that it has filed a petition objecting to Vogel’s termination and is highly critical of the manner in which his job is threatened. The petition contains some pointed comments toward Senator Kim, accusing her of having an “invidious motive,” and claiming that the attempt on Vogel’s job is part of “her broader strategy to undermine the authority of the regents, the president, and UHPA, inter alia, by regulating the employment of researchers and their wages through legislation,” reports Inside Higher Ed.
“The unions are . . . accusing me of having a vendetta, an agenda. They do that whenever you want to [rein] in costs,” Kim tells HNN.
Governor David Ige has until June 21 to sign or veto the budget as presented, HNN reports.
In the past, the legislature has eliminated vacant positions from state institutions through budget line items, but the termination of a filled, tenured position is “unprecedented,” university spokesperson Daniel Meisenzahl tells Inside Higher Ed. “The University of Hawai‘i continues to work with the Legislature, the faculty union and the governor to better understand how this happened and prevent it from happening in the future,” he adds.