Correction: This editorial originally reported whether University of Oklahoma regents plan a presidential search. The editorial has been corrected.
We were pleased to hear interim University of Oklahoma President Joe Harroz Jr. say he isn’t interested in competing for the permanent job if the process isn’t transparent and inclusive — and that he has told the OU regents as much.
Harroz, OU’s law dean since 2010 and its acting chief executive since 2 a.m. Friday, visited with the Tulsa World editorial board Monday. He’s an amiable man who doesn’t always answer difficult questions directly, but clearly understands the challenges ahead for the school and its leadership.
He outlined a program that includes maintaining academic excellence while striving for sustainable finances and sound management; assuring a diverse, safe environment on campus; creating rapid growth in research programs, and establishing the OU Health Sciences Center as Oklahoma City’s hospital of choice.
It’s not a sharp departure from the agenda of outgoing President James Gallogly. Their contrast is in means, not ends.
Gallogly was corporate, direct and very self-assured. Harroz is charming, engaging if elusive and self-effacing at times.
If the regents aren’t happy with the way things turned out for Gallogly, who resigned this month after only 10 months on the job, they might want to consider the process that led to his hiring. It was anything but transparent.
After a successful run as law dean, Harroz was a finalist in the closed-door process that led to Gallogly’s hiring. Harroz says he won’t be a part of a similar effort this time around. He embraces the idea of town hall meetings for presidential finalists, with all OU stakeholders invited to participate. That’s the sort of transparency and inclusivity the school needs right now, he said.
Actually, it’s the kind of transparency that school has always needed — but has never practiced — if it wanted a president with backing in the university community when things get hard.
The OU regents have named Harroz the school’s interim president for 15 months. The school plans for a presidential search after that. Does that mean the interim president is on his way to the school’s permanent leadership after a trial run? If so, the regents should say so. That’s part of being transparent.