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Harroz a good pick for OU

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Joe Harroz
Joe Harroz

Joeseph Harroz sought the job of University of Oklahoma president last year and would love to get after his 15 months as interim president expires. For now, though, he has work to do.

Harroz, OU’s law school dean the past nine years, wants to address concerns that the Norman campus lacks diversity and tolerance, and he wants to continue efforts in place to strengthen OU in the long term.

In an interview with The Oklahoman three days after being chosen by OU’s regents to succeed Jim Gallogly, who retired after just 10 months as president, Harroz acknowledged, “We absolutely had a rough year. We’ve been in the headlines on race way too much.”

The most-publicized incident was a video posted in January of two female students in blackface. That prompted a “Rally to Stop Racism” and harsh criticism of Gallogy’s handling of the incident.

Harroz, 52, said he believes what’s happened at OU is reflective of society, which seems as polarized as ever and people with opposing views having little to no interest in listening to the other side.

Part of a university’s role, as Harroz sees it, is to foster an atmosphere where different viewpoints are thoughtfully considered and respected, and where empathy is part of the equation.

“Right now, society is teaching us the opposite,” he said, “and part of our goal as a university is to help create tolerance — which is not the same thing as not holding your own views.”

Harroz listed four chief priorities he plans to focus on. One is to continue to pursue efficiencies and improve OU’s financial standing, which were areas where Gallogly’s made significant, and necessary, strides. He noted that the university’s shareholders — students and taxpayers — deserve the most possible bang for their buck.

Another priority is to make diversity a strength of the university. A third is to double the amount of research conducted at OU. And, he wants to broaden digital offerings to expand opportunities and meet the continuing disruption in education.

Harroz says he stresses three points to the many groups he has met with in recent days: OU cannot, and won’t, ignore the problems it faces; people shouldn’t forget that OU is “a stunning university … a great public university,” and there is much going on that will make the university better than ever.

The latter point is one reason why Harroz believes the regents were wise to set a 15-month minimum for his tenure. “We have so many things that have to happen right now that we can’t lose time on,” he said.

As for the full-time gig, Harroz said he wants what’s best for OU but hopes he gets the job “because I hope that I’m making a difference, and I’m hoping that I enjoy it and people recognize that I can help.”

If first impressions mean anything, then the regents made a strong choice in naming the dynamic and optimistic Harroz to assume this important job. We wish him good luck.

The Oklahoman Editorial Board

The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Kelly Dyer Fry, Publisher, Editor and Vice President of News; Owen Canfield, Opinion Editor; and Ray Carter, Chief Editorial Writer.. To submit a letter to the editor, go to this page or email... Read more ›

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