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Harroz named 15th OU president: Input of faculty, staff will be key in lieu of presidential search committee, expert says

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Interim OU President Joseph Harroz speaks during the regents' meeting in Bizzell Memorial Library on March 10.

The OU Board of Regents selected interim President Joseph Harroz as permanent president without the formation of a new presidential search committee, a decision that could lead to issues of trust during his presidency. 

Judith Wilde, chief operating officer and professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University in Virginia, has researched the selection of university presidents across the country. Wilde said the selection of Harroz could have positive and negative implications. 

Wilde said Harroz is acceptable to the Board of Regents, and at most universities — like at OU — the regents have the ultimate power to hire and fire the president. Still, Wilde said the appointment of a president without input from a publicly formed search committee of constituents could be damaging to the idea of shared governance at OU. 

“Shared governance is a key tenet within universities as a whole, meaning governance is shared, not just between the (Board of Regents) and the president, but between the president and those who work at the university — probably most specifically the faculty and administrators, but throughout the university,” Wilde said. 

Chair of the OU Board of Regents Gary Pierson said during the meeting the regents considered holding a national search "very carefully" but ultimately decided that simply selecting Harroz would be preferred. Pierson also said faculty, staff and students were consulted in Harroz's selection, but he did not specify how these groups were contacted or which members of these constituencies gave their input. 

Harroz was also one of three final candidates in the national search for OU's 14th president, Pierson said, which resulted in the selection of former OU President James Gallogly. Over 100 applications and nominations for that search were narrowed down to seven by the search committee, and finally three by the regent.

"We think that we've put a lot of thought in this, we've considered all perspectives and we haven't taken this lightly," Pierson said. "We've said it once today, and we've said it a dozen times, this is the most important decision we could make at OU."

Allowing constituents to have say in a presidential search process creates more trust for the person ultimately appointed to the position, Wilde said. 

“If (stakeholders) have a chance to provide input to the board — whether or not there’s a form of search — if they have at least had a chance to provide input, I would think that would give him a better standing with the community — particularly now with a caveat — not only do they have a chance to provide some input, but that input is listened to,” Wilde said.

Pierson said he understands that there may be some criticism in the decision to appoint Harroz without a search committee, but that he feels it was the correct decision. 

"Any criticisms about that, the level of seriousness at which we take this will be wrong," Pierson said. "We couldn't have taken it more seriously." 

Ari Fife is the OU Daily summer editor-in-chief and a sophomore journalism major minoring in international studies and political science. Previously, she served as a senior news reporter and was an SGA beat reporter.

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