"It's like a burden has been lifted from my shoulders," one member of the OU faculty told a Transcript reporter last week.
That's how the OU community widely feels — at least, based on public and private comments — with the appointment of Joseph Harroz Jr. as the interim president of the University of Oklahoma. The former OU College of Law Dean was a finalist during the presidential search last year, when the OU board of regents selected energy executive James Gallogly.
Less than a year later, Gallogly is out, and Harroz has 15 months to stabilize a university that's now had three presidents in the span of 12 months after having one for a quarter of a century. He certainly seems like the man to do the job, and we applaud the regents for making the right choice, even if it was 10 months too late. In his first day, Harroz met with faculty and students and demonstrated warmth and the ability to connect with members of the OU community, an ability his predecessor never seemed to develop.
While OU will conduct a national search for a new president, it definitely feels like Harroz has an excellent opportunity to establish himself as the frontrunner for the full-time gig. A man with experience in national politics, the private sector and higher education, Harroz is someone well-known and well-liked at OU. The descendant of an immigrant from Lebanon, he has an excellent opportunity to turn OU back in the right direction by putting students first allowing faculty and staff to focus on education and research, rather than when the next shoe is going to drop. Newer members of his administration like Dr. David Surratt are already establishing themselves as student advocates and dedicated educators.
There is one glaring concern about his appointment, one pointed out by Jess Eddy, who has accused David Boren of sexual misconduct. Harroz, who worked for Boren in Washington D.C. and for more than a decade at OU, would normally be part of a review process for OU's ongoing Title IX investigation into the matter. Harroz has said he will not be involved in the process, but there's certainly an appearance of a conflict of interest. The university and Harroz will have to commit to being transparent and open about the Title IX process, and OU has been anything but open about it's Title IX processes.
We're excited to see what Harroz can do, both in the interim and potentially in the long-term, at OU. It feels like a new day in Norman.