Controversy is swirling around Governor Kevin Stitt’s pick for the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents. He chose Eric Stevenson, a top executive at Nationwide Insurance who lives in Ohio – and plans to stay in Ohio.
Lawmakers we talked to said they wanted to see someone chosen who lives here and would be active on campus.
Stitt said he wanted someone with a strong business background.
It is the first appointment to the Board of Regents from out of state in nearly three decades.
Right resume, wrong zip code – that’s what some lawmakers are saying about Stevenson.
Stevenson said he’s not moving back to Oklahoma; he’ll just fly back and forth for meetings.
“This is another guy who falls in line with what the administration wants, and that is ‘We’re looking at the bottom line at OU’ and not at the development of students as citizens and individuals,” Sen. George Young said.
Young and other members of the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus sent the governor their recommendations weeks ago. All of them live in Oklahoma.
“We sent a list of individuals who we thought would be very amenable not only to the administration but actually have an idea of what’s happening on campus,” Young said.
Stitt instead chose Stevenson, a corporate executive who lives in Columbus, Ohio. He’s from Wagoner, Oklahoma and graduated from OU, but he hasn’t lived here in years – and won’t anytime soon.
“I didn’t care that he lived in Columbus, Ohio. It would be better if he lived in Norman… but he’s the right guy for the job,” Stitt said.
Young said there’s just something about having a physical presence in the community and seeing what’s happening on campus, where videos of racist chants and a student in black face made national news.
“If there is something happening on that campus, someone would be around and know and understand what’s going on. They would have a better response to it,” Young said.
The governor’s office sent this statement to KFOR on Tuesday:
“Eric was raised in Wagoner, Oklahoma where his family still lives today. He graduated from OU, worked at Xerox in OKC right out of college, and while his successful career has moved Eric and his family outside of the state, his passion for his university and for Oklahoma is undeniable. The governor has ended politics as usual through his appointment process, recruiting the very best and brightest to make Oklahoma top ten. The governor interviewed more than a dozen people to come to this decision, and it is very disappointing to see political games being played by Rep. Lowe with this highly-qualified appointment.” – Donelle Harder, spokesperson
Stevenson must be confirmed by the Senate.