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OU students and community members gathered outside the OU Board of Regents meeting Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, to protest the remarks of regent Kirk Humphreys. (William W. Savage III)
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Dozens of students filled the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents meeting this afternoon, holding signs requesting the resignation of board member Kirk Humphreys for his recent remarks equating homosexuality to pedophilia. Humphreys did not attend the meeting, and no board member mentioned the controversy during it.

“I think they should have at least reiterated the statements they had issued,” said Troy Stevenson, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma. “We didn’t really get any answers. I think [people in attendance] deserved to hear something other than ‘happy holidays.’ I think they saw the seriousness of the students and faculty and staff.”

After Tuesday’s meeting, OU Board of Regents Chairman Clay Bennett referred comment to a statement he had released for the board in the past 24 hours.

“The Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma is charged with the honorable duty of care and loyalty to our beloved institution,” Bennett’s statement said. “We take great pride in the value of the many diverse perspectives, backgrounds and experiences of our students, faculty and professional staff. The Board disagrees with the recent public statements made by Regent Kirk Humphreys regarding homosexuality and we reiterate our commitment to fairness and inclusion throughout the University community.”

OU President David Boren spoke briefly with media, noting he does not control the board’s decision on whether to allow public comment in a room full of concerned community members.

“They’ve issued a statement, so I think that’s what happened,” Boren said. “I think that everyone has made their comments, so at this point in time there’s nothing to do but wait and see how people react.”

Chiefly, the public will wait to see how Humphreys reacts. Boren said the decision about the former Oklahoma City mayor’s future on the Board of Regents is his own to make.

“He solely determines that,” Boren said. “Under the law, only the regent himself will make that decision.”

Regent and former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating said he believes the discussion is ongoing.

“I think it’s still a matter under debate and discussion,” Keating said. “I think all people in the mix (are discussing). Kirk is not here. He’s out of the country.”

‘I was shocked and disappointed’

board of regents
Dozens of OU students and alumni gathered outside of the OU Board of Regents meeting Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, to protest controversial remarks made by board member Kirk Humphreys. (William W. Savage III)

Several current OU students expressed disbelief and disgust with Humphreys’ comments, which came during Sunday’s episode of the KFOR-TV political debate show Flashpoint.

“I just don’t feel like Kirk Humphreys is still able to represent the OU community after his statements because so much of the OU family is the LGBTQ+ community, and he’s shown he can’t represent them effectively,” said OU nutritional sciences sophomore Claire Funk who organized Tuesday’s gathering at the board meeting.

Funk said she felt “disgust” upon hearing Humphreys’ comments on KFOR’s policy debate show called Flashpoint.

“Those kinds of statements tend to incite violence against the LGBTQ+ community, which can be obviously inherently dangerous,” she said.

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Funk’s friend, Conner Hildenbrand, agreed.

“Like a lot of students and alumni, I was shocked and disappointed to hear that people who are supposed to be representing us have those type of thoughts,” said Hildenbrand, a human relations senior at OU. “It’s unfortunate, but I think it was a call to action for a lot of us.”

Boren reiterated the perspective he had offered in a public statement earlier this week.

“I feel very strongly. We have worked very hard to create a community at the University of Oklahoma where people respect each other, where people are civil to each other,” Boren said. “So we remain firmly committed to that kind of community, and no one person or comments from any one person can change our basic commitment to the kind of community we have built at the university.”

Humphreys issued a statement Monday evening to The Oklahoman apologizing for the “lack of clarity” in his remarks:

I regret that my comments on FlashPoint regarding homosexuality were not clear and led some people to believe that I was equating homosexuality with pedophilia. That was not my intention or desire. I apologize for my lack of clarity and realize this has resulted in a strong reaction by some and has hurt people’s feelings.

For clarification, my moral stance about homosexuality is that it is against the teachings of scripture. Although I know this upsets some people, it is my belief.

In America we have the right to believe as we choose and to freely express that belief. For those that I have hurt, I’m sorry. For those who do not share my beliefs, I will defend your right to have a deeply held belief even if yours is different than mine.

Humphreys’ son, Blair, later issued a statement calling his father’s remarks “hurtful and unfair,” according to the Associated Press. Blair Humphreys is the managing director of a large Oklahoma City development project called the Wheeler District. He previously was employed by the OU College of Architecture.

Hans Butzer, dean of the OU College of Architecture, gave a presentation to the Board of Regents on Tuesday, discussing accomplishments and growth within his departments. Following that presentation, the board approved more than two dozen actions, including one related to university athletics.

“Congratulations, Joe, on another successful season for the Sooners,” Board of Regents Chairman Clay Bennett said to athletic director Joe Castiglione. “And congratulations to Baker (Mayfield).”

OU President David Boren, right, shakes the hand of OU Board of Regents Chairman Clay Bennett on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. (William W. Savage III)

‘We’re demanding his resignation’

Stevenson had said before Tuesday’s meeting that he believed Humphreys should resign.

“We’re demanding his resignation. It’s unacceptable. What he said was shocking,” Stevenson said. “People have the right to say what they want. They have the right to believe what they want. But they don’t have the right to say that and represent the state’s flagship university or their largest energy company. He sits on too many positions on too many boards to be flagrantly showing discriminatory language and intent toward and entire community. His non-apology was unacceptable.”

Humphreys also serves on OG&E’s board of directors, and he holds a position on the board of John Rex Charter School in Oklahoma City.

“The comments from Kirk Humphreys go against our school district’s values of inclusivity and equality. We believe there is strength in our diversity,” OKCPS Board Chairwoman Paula Lewis said in a statement Tuesday. “To insinuate that anyone in the LGBTQ community is the same as a pedophile or sexual predator just because of their orientation or identity is unacceptable. I ask that Mr. Humphreys resign from the John Rex Charter Elementary Board. This type of rhetoric has no place in our school district and we need to hold our leaders in this community to a higher standard.”

(Correction: This story was updated at 8:55 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 12, to correct the spelling of Blair Humphreys’ name. It was updated again at 11:41 a.m., Wednesday, Dec. 13, to note that Kirk Humphreys is a member of OG&E’s board of directors. NonDoc regrets the errors.)