OU’s Board of Regents is wrapping up the presidential search process the same way it began: in covert proceedings.
The regents met March 9 and 10 at the Robert M. Bird Library on OU’s Health Sciences Center campus, where they spent more than 12 hours in executive session deliberating and interviewing potential candidates to succeed OU President David Boren.
A reporter from The Daily who was attempting to cover the meeting was prevented from fully doing so by OU police officers, who restricted access to a hallway from which it appeared potential candidates were entering and leaving the building. The officer informed the reporter that “the university does not want you back here” before contacting his supervisor to assess the situation.
The two officers determined that the hallway should be off-limits because it is normally locked and had only been unlocked by staff members for purposes specific to the regents’ meeting.
The hallway provided a hidden entry point for candidates by connecting the regents’ meeting room with a back entrance, outside of which there was a black SUV parked at several times throughout the day.
Before being led out of the hallway, the reporter witnessed an unidentified female who appeared to be a potential candidate leaving the premises.
Regents chair Clayton Bennett said he knew nothing about the secrecy surrounding candidate arrivals and departures from the meeting, but he confirmed that six interviews took place in person between March 9 and 10.
“I know nothing about that,” Bennett said. “All I know was I was here to interview the candidates, and they arrived on time. Not involved in getting them here — I don’t know.”
The search for OU’s next president has been shrouded in secrecy since members of the presidential search committee signed a confidentiality agreement not to reveal any information about candidates. This secrecy has sparked backlash from OU faculty members, including OU’s Faculty Senate executive committee, which recently sent an open letter to the regents pushing for transparency and public access to finalists.
Bennett said the board interviewed seven candidates in total, six in person and one via Skype, and will now take time to make a decision regarding OU’s next president.
“We’ve had two extraordinary days,” Bennett said. “Incredible candidates. We were honored by the engagement, and we’re continuing our deliberations, so we’re going to work.”
Bennett said that he does not have a time frame for when the decision will be made, but that the board will take as much time as it needs to make the right decision.
On March 10, the regents scheduled a special meeting for March 13 to “discuss” candidates, but they canceled it hours later.
“We have a lot of work to do, a lot of deliberation, a lot of assessment, so we don’t have a time frame,” Bennett said. “We’ve chosen to take the time we need to make the right decision.”