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Interim OU President Joseph Harroz holds public meeting, fields student questions

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Newly appointed interim president of OU and former Dean of OU Law Joseph Harroz speaks with SGA President Adran Gibbs May 17.

Interim OU President Joseph Harroz held a meet-and-greet Friday afternoon after he was selected for the position early Friday morning by the OU Board of Regents.

Dozens of students packed into the University Club at the Oklahoma Memorial Union, crowding around Harroz as he paced the floor and fielded questions from the crowd.

Students at the event raised questions about administrative transparency and student inclusion in making university decisions. Some said they felt they were absent from those discussions during former OU President James Gallogly’s tenure and the secretive search that led to his hiring.

Harroz’s selection came less than 48 hours after a group of OU students, faculty and activists held an event Wednesday outside Evans Hall to voice their discontent with the university and demand the Board of Regents increase transparency in a potential presidential search.

“Student voices — not only is it essential, it’s the fun behind this,” Harroz said. “It’s the joy every one of us should get from being in a university. The first and last question should be ‘Is it good for our students?’”

Students also asked how the university would respond to racist incidents, such as the ones that occured on campus in the spring semester, during his time in the position.

“Any time there is racism that takes place ... we have to be clear in our values and who we are,” Harroz said, “so that when it happens, we don’t simply sit back and then say, ‘We’re against that.’”

During Gallogly’s presidency, some members of the OU community criticized the rhetoric Gallogly used when responding to racism on campus, saying it was not firm enough to deter further incidents.

“If you don’t name things the way they should be named, people are going to think that offensive things are just a joke, just a flaw that they had,” international area studies junior Eduardo Campbell told The Daily in April. “My issue was the fact that I didn’t feel any commitment in those responses. I didn’t feel like things were taken seriously.”

Harroz said he would like to see the university start off each year with training for students and faculty regarding racial issues and how to respond to them, though he did not give specifics on what type of program he may implement.

It is important for the university to make its stance on racism apparent even before incidents occur, Harroz said.

“We have to be able to create a culture and a community with students leading it,” Harroz said.

After Harroz was named OU’s interim president, Jess Eddy, former OU student and employee who has accused former OU President David Boren of sexual harassment, expressed concern for the future of the ongoing investigation into the allegations against Boren.

“I’m in disbelief. I cannot believe the regents think it’s okay to appoint (Harroz) 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.”

Harroz said he would do what he could to remove himself from the ongoing investigation.

“It’s a very important question, and one thing the board (of regents) made very clear last night is that I will not be involved with anything going on with that investigation,” Harroz said. “The simple answer is to stay out of it — the board is going to handle this, and (I’m) not going to be a part of it.”

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