NORMAN, Okla. - Former Oklahoma governor Frank Keating is standing by comments made at a Tulsa meeting, suggesting the University of Oklahoma should not admit students who need remedial classes.
"We shouldn’t, in my judgement, take people who are not ready for college," Keating told News 4 on Thursday.
Keating said he was invited to a meeting Wednesday at OU-Tulsa regarding urgent challenges in Oklahoma and "civility in politics".
"The fact is children are not doing as well as they should, our math and reading scores are not satisfactory. As a matter of fact, they’ve gone down," Keating told us in a follow-up interview Thursday. "A third of the students at OU who come through the door need to be re-mediated. That has to be paid for. That is a waste of time for the state to play any role in spending taxpayer money for that. If young people are not ready for OU, then they’re not ready for OU. They should go to a community college or a junior college to get ready and then apply and come to the university."
His comments are now at the center of social media backlash, drawing criticism from some state lawmakers.
"This is a bad idea. A student who is remedial in one subject may be brilliant in another. Also, it just seems elitist and cold," tweeted Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City.
Echoing similar sentiments, Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman said he felt the comments were inequitable.
"He’s [Keating] got a good heart. I’ve met him before. He’s got a good conservative principles, I just think it’s extremely misguided," Rep. Rosecrants said.
Rosecrants, who graduated from OU, recalled earning a 27 on the ACT and said he, too, needed remedial math help even after attending Oklahoma City Community College ('OCCC').
"I got a 15 in math. I got a 34 in the English part, and then I got a 30, 32 in the reading part so look, there you already see it. I’m going to need help in a certain area and then in other areas, I am extremely intelligent in and that’s the way most children and people are," he said.
Rosecrants, who was also a teacher with Oklahoma City Public Schools, said this is something he has seen among his former students.
"Not every kid learns at the same speed. I mean, I had kids at Roosevelt Middle School…I had a class with 42 kids, 27 IEP’s but it’s not just special needs kids. Some of them couldn’t read, some of them just couldn’t speak the English language very well or whatever else," he recalled. "Talk about remedial? I had to do remedial classes within a class even."
Keating said his comments have nothing to do with rejecting "diamonds in the rough", as characterized by some.
"If you want to double the research budget of the university, if you want to make academics much stronger and harder then to permit somebody to come to university of Oklahoma or any place who is not ready, the only way they’ll be ready is if they cant get in. In other words, if I couldn’t get into the University of Oklahoma, I would go back to my school and say 'how come you didn’t make me ready for the OU experience? Why is it that I have to take a course twice?'" he explained. "We need to look at what do we need to do to make college desirable but to tell the common school system, the public school education system that the students are not ready. Therefore, you better toughen up the curricula and demand excellence."
Keating said he has only brought up the idea "in passing" to the new OU president James Gallogly and others.
"OU has a holistic admissions system that considers a range of strengths that will allow students to succeed. Demand to attend OU is strong, and admission is highly competitive. We are proud to bring together students from all backgrounds from all across the state. President Gallogly has had a very brief discussion with Regent Keating about his views on remediation. He knows that opposing views also exist and thus he would like to take the opportunity to discuss the subject with others on campus and with the other Regents," a statement from the university read.