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OU chief focuses on inclusion

The University of Oklahoma's interim president wants to improve inclusion efforts during his tenure, which follows several racist incidents on campus and calls for improved diversity initiatives.

“Step One is to recognize and be honest,” said Joseph Harroz, Jr., who was named interim president on Friday. “We need to make sure people know what we actually have and that’s an incredible vibrant and caring community and that those examples that popped up are the worst of us and they aren’t us.”

Harroz, 52, said one of the first steps should be to acknowledge the university has struggled with inclusion.

“It’s not about hoping the next incident doesn’t occur, but being honest, forthright and being proactive in making sure we communicate and that we are clear and that we have programs that help us understand each other and that we make it our strength,” Harroz said.

Harroz, who spoke with The Oklahoman on Monday, said his first few days on the job have included meetings with students and faculty to hear concerns and wishes for the future of the university.

On Monday, Harroz met with the diversity council on campus before meetings in Oklahoma City and with faculty and staff at the University of Oklahoma Tulsa.

Plucked away from his spot as dean at the OU College of Law, Harroz has been given 15 months as interim president before an official search for the university’s 15th president is to start.

Harroz doesn’t plan on wasting a second.

"It's critical," Harroz said of his 15-month window. "we have so many things that have to happen right now that we can’t lose time on."

Harroz follows James Gallogly, who last week stepped down as president following 10 months in office.

Gallogly was hired last year following the retirement of David Boren, who is being investigated for sexual misconduct by an OU-hired law firm.

Harroz worked as Boren’s legislative director and legal counsel when Boren was a U.S. senator. In 1996, he was named general counsel of the University of Oklahoma, serving as chief legal counsel to Boren and the OU board of regents for 12 years.

OU hired the Jones Day law firm in November, and the OU regents and Gallogly have heard the findings from the investigation but have not released any more information.

Boren, 78, who also served as Oklahoma's governor, has denied wrongdoing.

Harroz said he won’t be involved with the Jones Day investigation and that the OU regents will have the final say on the matter.

“My job is to make sure I focus forward and move the institution forward,” he said. “I will have no involvement or engagement on that at any level.”

A finalist for the job in the last search, Harroz said he's excited the OU regents gave him a runway of 15 months as interim.

He believes he can continue to help stabilize the university's finances, which was a focus of Gallogly before his retirement.

Harroz wants to continue OU's dedication toward doubling research efforts and hopes to expand the university's digital education efforts to compete in a "new world" of higher education.

Harroz believes success on those fronts could possibly put him in line to accept the permanent presidential position.

"I really want what’s best," he said. "This job’s complicated and hard.

"Do I hope it’s me? I hope it is because I hope that I’m making a difference and I’m hoping that I enjoy it and people recognize that I can help."

Related Photos
Joe Harroz, interim president at the University of Oklahoma, (OU), Monday, May 20, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]

Joe Harroz, interim president at the University of Oklahoma, (OU), Monday, May 20, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-50a05a256a4582331e0bd7f688594c29.jpg" alt="Photo - Joe Harroz, interim president at the University of Oklahoma, (OU), Monday, May 20, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]" title="Joe Harroz, interim president at the University of Oklahoma, (OU), Monday, May 20, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Joe Harroz, interim president at the University of Oklahoma, (OU), Monday, May 20, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-f5c1fef8c8685f2d681f43685510ed13.jpg" alt="Photo - Joe Harroz, interim president at the University of Oklahoma, (OU), Monday, May 20, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" Joe Harroz, interim president at the University of Oklahoma, (OU), Monday, May 20, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Joe Harroz, interim president at the University of Oklahoma, (OU), Monday, May 20, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Adam Kemp

Adam Kemp is the Higher Education reporter for The Oklahoman and Newsok.com. Kemp grew up in Oklahoma City before attending Oklahoma State University. Kemp has interned for the Oklahoman, the Oklahoma Gazette and covered Oklahoma State Football... Read more ›

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