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OU amid coronavirus: Board of Regents discusses enrollment, lost revenue, plans for 2020 fall semester

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Gary Pierson and Joseph Harroz

Gary Pierson and Joseph Harroz during the OU Board of Regents meeting May 8.

The OU Board of Regents met Friday to hear from interim President Joseph Harroz on how COVID-19 has affected the university’s revenue, instruction, housing and athletics and to discuss and vote on agenda items including modifying OU’s College of Law admission requirements and dean appointments.

The meeting, which was held in-person in the Oklahoma Memorial Union’s Molly Shi Boren Ballroom, could be viewed on a live YouTube stream.

The OU Board of Regents then heard from Harroz. Harroz’s report covered the university’s lost revenue due to COVID-19, enrollment numbers for the summer and fall semesters, how the university will be implementing new measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and the potential for athletics in the fall semester.

According to Harroz, OU Norman lost $4.2 million for FY 2020, and the OU Health Sciences Center lost $10.5 million due to loss of patient revenue from the lack of elective procedures. 

“How do we size and address the problem for the coming fiscal year?” Harroz said during the meeting. “Sizing this problem is difficult because there are so many variables attached to it.” 

Harroz said he’s been in discussion with university officials about the potential for cuts and furloughs that “might be necessary,” but a final decision has not been made.

Harroz said he was hopeful about enrollment numbers for the summer and fall semesters. According to Harroz, summer enrollment is up 20 percent from last summer.

Freshman commitment for the fall semester is down 2 to 3 percent at this time, which Harroz said is “much better” than the national average of freshman commitments down by 15 percent. Upperclassmen retention for this period is down 5 to 6 percent.

Harroz said the university will implement measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 on campus through the implementation of multiple task forces, including instructional and housing task forces.

According to Harroz, the instructional task force is exploring relocating classes to larger classrooms, expanding class schedules to cover more hours of the day, requiring personal protective equipment, increasing time between classes to allow for social distancing and encouraging flexible course design. 

Harroz said, at the recommendation of the housing task force, the university will use 300 single dorms in the towers to allow for social distancing. Harroz also said the university is adding $1.5 million to its Welcome Home scholarships.

Harroz said the university’s Clean and Green initiative will also be used to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus. Harroz said the initiative includes electrostatic spraying and changing out all bathroom fixtures on campus to allow for touch-free use.

“It is expensive, but it is worth every penny of it,” Harroz said.

Harroz also addressed the potential for OU athletics to return for the fall semester. Harroz said the “belief right now” is there will be university athletics in the fall.

“We do not control our destiny with athletics,” Harroz said. “There are so many specifics to work through and it is not clear on just how it will occur.”

The OU Board of Regents then moved to discuss OU’s consent items, which were all passed unanimously without discussion. Afterward, the OU Board of Regents moved to discuss OU’s action items, including modifying the College of Law admission process to accept GRE scores — the college currently accepts only LSAT scores — and refinancing bonds, all of which were passed unanimously.

The OU Board of Regents also voted to appoint Martha Banz to be dean of the College of Professional and Continuing Studies and Corey Phelps to be dean of the Price College of Business.

The OU Board of Regents went into executive session shortly after 2 p.m. and returned at 4 p.m to adjourn. According to the agenda, items that could have been discussed in the executive session include confidential communications between The OU Board of Regents and its attorney concerning claims involving pending research or financial investigations, real estate operations, personal claims and negligence claims.

The OU Board of Regents were also expected to conduct a routine, periodic review of interim President Harroz, discuss “confidential trade secret information” and address the 10 pending lawsuits against the university in the executive session.

The OU Board of Regents will discuss the “personnel performance of Interim President and potential action concerning the hiring and employment of the President of the University of Oklahoma,” tomorrow at its 8:30 a.m. meeting, according to the agenda.

 

Beth Wallis is a senior journalism major and political science minor, and news managing editor for The Daily. Previously, she worked as a junior news reporter covering university research.

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