The University of Oklahoma Board of Regents named College of Law Dean Joe Harroz as OU’s interim president “for at least 15 months” just after 2:00 a.m. Friday following almost six hours in an executive session that started Thursday night.
The choice raises additional questions about the board’s handling of sexual misconduct investigations surrounding former President David Boren and former Vice President Tripp Hall. Harroz served as Boren’s legal counsel for five years in the U.S. Senate and as general counsel to the university — and Boren — from 1996 to 2008.
“The regents were well aware of Joe’s capabilities from the thorough vetting done by the presidential search committee last year. It was through that process we were reminded how contagious his passion and enthusiasm are and how seriously he takes accountability and responsibility,” Chairwoman Leslie Rainbolt-Forbes read in a statement to media. “In his eight years as dean of the OU College of Law, Joe has proven himself an effective leader and administrator with a collaborative leadership style.”
Harroz will replace Jim Gallogly, a former oil executive who was appointed by the regents in the spring of 2018. He assumed office July 1, 2018, and announced his retirement Sunday evening after a tumultuous year. Gallogly signed a contract authorized by the Board of Regents to hire the international law firm Jones Day for the investigation of financial issues at OU and at least one complaint of sexual misconduct by Boren.
“Unfortunately, a false narrative has been created that the explanation of the university’s financial condition, the disclosures of improper gift reporting, and changes to various people serving in the administration were somehow intended to diminish the legacy of our past president,” Gallogly said in his exit announcement. “That false narrative is now also being used to question the motives and propriety of the ongoing investigation of alleged misconduct by person(s) yet to be disclosed by the university.”
Gallogly also noted that the Jones Day report is complete and that federal law provides Boren the right to appeal its findings, adding that “the sitting president of the university is normally a part of the Title IX appeals process.”
Asked early Friday if the board had concerns about Harroz’s close ties to Boren and his potential involvement in the Title IX review, Rainbolt-Forbes said the board would be “handling” that process.
“We are planning that the regents will be in charge,” she said after being asked to clarify whether Harroz would be involved.
Harroz did not attend the Thursday-Friday meeting, but regents said he will be eligible for selection as a permanent president.
Background on Joe Harroz
According to his biography on the OU College of Law site, Harroz served as legislative director and legal counsel to Boren when he was a U.S. senator in Washington, D.C.
In 1994, Boren was named OU president and Harroz became the university’s vice president for executive affairs.
In 1996, Harroz became OU’s general counsel, “serving as chief legal counsel to the president, the OU Board of Regents and the five campuses they oversee,” according to his bio, which notes his 12-year tenure in the position was the longest in OU history.
Between 2008 and 2010, Harroz served as president of Graymark Healthcare in Oklahoma City. He was named dean of the College of Law in 2010, replacing Andy Coats.
In April on the TV show Flash Point, Coats commented about the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation interview into Boren, saying “it’s time to shut it down.”
Boren, Hall accusers react to Harroz appointment
Jess Eddy, who has publicly accused Boren and Hall of sexual battery, attended Thursday’s meeting and said in a statement that he was “in disbelief” at Harroz’s selection.
“I cannot believe the regents think it’s OK to appoint Joe as interim president at a time like this when they’re investigating David Boren for sexual misconduct,” Eddy said. “To put a man who legally represented Boren for decades in that position, which will oversee the Title IX appeals process, is just beyond me. These regents are compromised, unequivocally compromised.”
Levi Hilliard, a current university employee who has alleged sexual misconduct by Hall, echoed Eddy.
“It’s just insulting that they think this will set well with me or the victims of David Boren and Tripp Hall, or with the OU community,” Hilliard said.
Background on recent OU presidency changes
Boren assumed the OU presidency in 1994, following President Richard Van Horn. Boren served through the 2018 spring semester when Gallogly succeeded him.
The OU Daily has a timeline of Gallogly’s first six months in office.
Student body president issues letter to regents
Shortly after Thursday’s meeting began, current OU Student Government Association President Adran Gibbs released an open letter to the Board of Regents: