With the caveat that federal Title IX rules must be followed and a state criminal investigation is ongoing, U.S. Sen. James Lankford and former Gov. Frank Keating both believe the University of Oklahoma should ultimately release more information about allegations of sexual misconduct against former President David Boren.
Speaking Friday in separate conversations, Lankford and Keating each said the public deserves transparency from Oklahoma’s largest public university.
“They’ve got to get it behind them,” Lankford said. “If the facts never come out, if you never really get a dot at the end of that sentence, then it always hangs over the university in recruiting and everything else. And we can’t have that.”
Keating, a former FBI agent and U.S. attorney who serves on the OU Board of Regents, emphasized that the board already took action to terminate Boren’s professorship and relationship with the university. Keating said Jones Day, a law firm OU paid more than $1 million to investigate Boren and the misreporting of donor information, made that recommendation to regents.
Under subpoena, the university provided Jones Day’s official report to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation for its criminal inquiries into Boren and former OU Vice President Tripp Hall. The only four-page portion of the report seen by the public so far references “six witnesses” who alleged “sexual advances” by Boren.
“I think it’s the universal feeling of the regents that when this is all over and to the extent it is possible, there will be an airing of what happened,” Keating said. “We are all in favor of it. I don’t think there is any question about that.”
But Keating said OU regents will have to be careful to follow federal law that governs sexual misconduct allegations at universities, colloquially called the Title IX process. He said it’s his understanding that a Title IX investigation is confidential, so determining what information can be released publicly will be delicate.
“If that can be done, I will certainly be in favor of it,” Keating said.
Lankford agreed, referencing the report released Thursday by the Catholic Archdiocese of OKC.
“Something like that for the University of Oklahoma would be helpful,” Lankford said. “Just like the report that was put out on the Catholic Church, I think there will have to be a report that will have to go public for this, and then there will have to be an [account] of what actually happened and what the university is doing based on that. I think that’s helpful longterm.”
Lankford said the Oklahoma Legislature has a role to play in oversight of the university.
“The state legislators would be the ones to drive that. I’m a spectator like the other 4 million Oklahomans. I don’t have a role in that. Our state Legislature does,” Lankford said. “But I do know when you’re resolving a complicated and hard public relations issue, it doesn’t help for it all to be done in secret. At some point, some part of it has to come out so people know what happened.”
McBride: ‘Give the people some kind of closure’
State legislators are paying attention. In September, House education appropriation leaders Rep. Mark McBride (R-Moore) and Rep. Toni Hasenbeck (R-Elgin) attended September’s OU Board of Regents meeting, held in the David L. Boren Auditorium of the National Weather Center located on David L. Boren Boulevard in Norman.
Monday, McBride said he agreed with the comments of Lankford and Keating because the university receives substantial state appropriations.
“I do feel like OU or the regents have a duty to come and at least inform the Legislature about what happened,” McBride said.
The public would appear to agree with Lankford, Keating and McBride. According to a SoonerPoll survey conducted in July, 58.8 percent of respondents said “OU should release more” information about its Boren investigation. Only 22.8 percent said “OU has released enough.”
“It’s not just that they need to tell the Legislature,” McBride said. “They will need to give the people some kind of closure as to what has gone on.”
In his role as an OU regent, Keating has personally reviewed the Jones Day report, and Friday he said he was interviewed by the OSBI for its investigation into Boren.
“The allegations in the Jones Day report were very aggressive,” Keating said.
Boren and Hall have both denied wrongdoing.